The ruling junta is accused of not just callousness towards resolving domestic issues but also sacrificing Pakistan’s longstanding stance on Kashmir at the altar of securing personal gains. The latest example is Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani supporting nay seconding the extension of the tenure of Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamlesh Sharma of India, at the end of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOG) Summit in Perth.

By S. M. Hali

Imran Khan’s mammoth rally over the weekend has the pundits reeling with predictions of his having finally arrived at the political arena in a big way. It is reminiscent of Julius Caesar’s famous words in 47 BC, when he sent a short but powerful message “Veni Vidi Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) to the Roman Senate after his quick and decisive victory over Pharnaces II of Pontus in the city of Zela now in Turkey. The massive turnout and the response to Imran’s call must have surprised both Imran and his political opponents. The jury is still out on the verdict whether Imran will be able to convert political triumph into electoral victory but his task is cut out to garner support of the youth and bringing them to the polling booths in the next general elections. The world has seen the power of social media and the exuberance of the youth in launching the Arab spring. I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with Wael Ghonim and some of the youth, who had revolutionized Egypt, bringing down the totalitarian regime of Hosni Mubarak. It was fascinating to hear of their experiences including the massive crackdown on them in an effort to stem the rot. The resolute Egyptian youth, which included females, did not demur from the task and succeeded albeit after sacrifices of life and limbs. The youth that is backing Imran Khan is also fully capable of a similar revolution in Pakistan by mobilizing social media resources; however it would be prudent to bring about the change without resorting to civil disobedience and street violence for the time being.

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The people of Pakistan are so exasperated with the current leadership and their lack of interest in either good governance or a will to resolve their myriad problems which range from energy shortage to lawlessness, high rates of inflation and unemployment, aggravated by wanton acts of terror that a majority of them are willing to give up their traditional loyalties to political cadres and give Imran a chance to make good his promise to solve their problems. The ruling junta is accused of not just callousness towards resolving domestic issues but also sacrificing Pakistan’s longstanding stance on Kashmir at the altar of securing personal gains. The latest example is Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani supporting nay seconding the extension of the tenure of Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamlesh Sharma of India, at the end of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOG) Summit in Perth. Prime Minister Gilani could have exacted his pound of flesh through a quid pro quo arrangement of seeking a promise towards the resolution of the long standing Kashmir issue in exchange for Pakistan’s support. Such visionary thinking requires a statesman. Gilani should have remembered the not so distant opposition of India to Pakistan’s membership of the World Trade Organization. Indian support for Pakistan’s UN Security Council membership does not carry weight because Pakistan had supported India’s entry to the same forum last year.

Imran Khan has made a great beginning but he needs to adhere to his principles of offering party membership only to clean and honest leadership and resist the temptation of securing the entry of big Whigs even if they have shady backgrounds or carry a baggage of sleaze and graft. The politicians sitting on the fence would now be focusing on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf after its latest performance. Its critics would claim that a single swallow does not make summer; hence the party will have to repeat its success in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta and Rawalpindi to silence the doubting Thomases. The detractors of Imran are already burning the midnight oil in conjuring conspiracy theories of Pakistan Army supporting Imran and trying to topple the current political dispensation in the government. Snide comments regarding the sudden onslaught of media stories pertaining to the wrongdoings of the current government: the alleged secret memo from President Zardari to President Obama pertaining to the Pakistan Army’s bid to take over the reins of government after the May 2 Abbotabad incident and the fresh allegations of corruption are a case in point.

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If Imran is desirous of converting his appeal to the masses into success, he will have to go bravely and audaciously but also tread carefully. No political alliances should be made before elections and if he needs to form coalitions, extreme care and thought should be given to it to ensure no one becomes a mill stone around his neck.

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