Imran Khan is unhappy. He feels frustrated. 126 days of Dharna has not yielded the results he was hoping to secure. His allegations have remained unsubstantiated. He can take credit for the formation of the Judicial Commission to find out if there was a planned or systematic rigging in the 2013 elections. But he failed to establish his case and did not produce convincing evidence.

Imran had pledged to accept the Commission’s findings and withdraw allegations. His acceptance is, however, not unqualified and he has not withdrawn his allegations. His credibility stands dented on this account.

Questions have been raised about his relationship with some retired generals during his Dharna operations. He has denied these charges and asked for a probe of the matter. Can he, however, deny that he gleefully referred to an “Umpires finger” while promising success ofhis programme to pull down the existing elected government. How he relished rushing to meet the army chief late one night when the summons came! This aspect of his Dharna leadership has also adversely affected his image.

Imran has agreed to go back to the elected houses if the PTI members are not deseated. He had in the Dharna days called the elected assemblies “Ja’ali” or counterfeit. Some parties are opposing the move to let PTI’s membership continue. The incumbent ruling party, however, is keen that PTI’s membership remains intact. The matter is expected to be settled within a week or so.

It will be good for democracy and the country if PTI alters its previous approach and brings about desired change through the elected houses. It along with other parties can press for reforms of all sorts. It can also act as a credible monitor of government’s performance, its failings and shortcomings.

One has to acknowledge that PTI under Imran’s leadership has made a tremendous contribution in ensuring that Pakistan has to institute extensive electoral reforms if elections in future are seen to be free, fair and transparent.

The parliamentary committee in this connection is seized of the matter. The press conference held by Ishaq Dar as chairman of the committee has revealed that a lot of work has already been done. Work on as many as 13 constitutional amendments is underway as a part of the electoral reforms agenda. Agreement on most of these has been reached and the drafting taken up.A sub-committee is ironing out differences about some changes particularly regarding direct elections to Senate and women’s seats.

The sub-committee has already completed the review of the six major electoral laws including the Delimitation of Constituencies Act 1974, Electoral Rolls Act 1974, Political Parties Order 2002, Allocations of Symbols Order 2002, Election Commission Order 2002, and Representation of the People Act 1976.

Ishaq Dar said that the parliamentary committee had also asked the sub-committee to examine shortcomings pointed out by the Judicial Commission about the Election Commission of Pakistan and make recommendations to address these deficiencies. Other matters including the feasibility of oversees Pakistanis exercising their right to vote and the question of limiting the number of seats for which a candidate might contest, are also being considered. Some other points raised by the sub-committee pertain to widening the choice for eligibility criterion for the post of the Chief Election Commissioner and the members of the Commission, allowing appointees of technocrats as well serving and retired government servants of grade 22 as CEC and Commission members. The Election Commission is also proposed to be further empowered to take disciplinary action against all those found indulging in wrongdoings during polling. The sub-committee is further considering empowering ECP to declare null and void any election in which less than 1% women voters exercise their right to franchise. The use of latest technology too is under consideration. A demonstration of electronic voting machines and biometric verification identification system has already been arranged. Mention here may also be made of the directive of the Council of Common Interests to hold the deferred national Census in March or April 2016.

The parliamentary committee deserves compliments for the commendable work already done by it. PTI should fully avail of this opportunity to propose further improvements in the composition and working of the Election Commission instead of continuing to run down its past lapses and inadequacies. Let us look forward to a strengthened and operationally more efficient and effective Election Commission of Pakistan and openly give credit for this highly desired change to Imran Khan’s PTI.

In his new role as the leader of an important political party that stands for justice and reform, Imran Khan will have to show a lot more maturity in handling politics and in dealing with his party affairs. He has to unlearn quite a bit and shed his propensity to accept and project ideas and allegations communicated to him without scrutinizing facts and authenticity of the source of information. Along with it he has to curb use (and sometimes abuse) of language unbecoming of a responsible and sensible political leader. Naivety on the part of head of a national party can sometimes be quite costly and should be avoided. Honesty is not good enough.Wisdom and “Hikmat” are equally important.

PTI leadership would be well advised to goad and prod the government to fulfill its promises made in the party manifesto. A few crucial issues may be identified and pursued with vigour on the floor of the house. Top priority concerns like the provision of energy on a large scale and accelerationof recovery of industry, as also tax reform should be a part of the core agenda.

The litmus test of PTI’s credentials is how it runs the KPK government. A few improvements here and there have not created the impression that PTI government in the province is a model for other provinces. In many ways Punjab has done much better and one has to acknowledge Shahbaz Sharif’s dynamic leadership, however, objectionable be his style of governance.

With India remaining hostile, its keeping the borders hot and periodically hurling unproved accusations at its western neighbour with relations with Afghanistan yet to be stabilized, with a war going on against militants within the country and a huge challenge of implementing dozens of projects linked to the China Pakistan Corridor, it is vital that PTI adopts a positive approach towards the government of the day and extends a helping hand to meet the challenges faced by it.

The future can certainly belong to Imran’s PTI if he and it sincerely and humbly take to a long spell of deep introspection, get rid of their past unhealthy habits and use their tremendous asset of popularity to struggle to achieve their hopefully well-thought-out objectives.

 The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.

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