Rameeza Majid Nizami

It’s the end of the year and with the inexplicable excitement and anticipation of a new year, Pakistan’s charming optimism at seeing a new beginning every time there is the slightest opportunity, has plenty of inspiration. Mian Nawaz Sharif has stepped out onto the field in anticipation of the looming elections. Crowds continue to swoon over Kaptaan Imran Khan. Loyalists to the PPP applaud their resilience and their efforts to ‘make the best of a bad situation’.

A few hours to go to 2012 and Mian Nawaz Sharif roared in Gujranwala to a massive crowd. “This is how it’s done, son,” appears to be his message to Imran Khan. His long established party delivered, with the necessary muscle and resources to pull in more people to supplement the crowds already in attendance. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s personal charm and appeal for his supporters appears to be as strong as ever, even with the embarrassing defections of people such as Javed Hashmi to PTI, internal disputes within the party and the conspicuous absence of his Chief Minister brother, Shahbaz Sharif.

The PML-N following, in comparison to the PPP jiyalas, is a relatively business-like lot. Among them is the conviction that the PML-N is best placed to ‘deliver’. Where PPP’s jiyalas ascribe almost prophetic reverence to the Bhuttos, the Sharifs enjoy no such veneration. This does not mean that the PML-N is any less dynastic though, as witnessed by the latest debutantes in the party cadres: Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Salman Shahbaz Sharif. Mian Nawaz Sharif, despite his relatively sluggish political activity, as far as his own party is concerned, is still the one to watch in Punjab.

Imran Khan’s magnetic appeal continues to hypnotise potential voters across the country. After another successful jalsa in Karachi, albeit still without any concrete policy proposals offered or manifesto unveiled, the consensus emerging about Imran Khan centres around the perception that he is the best-intentioned among the choices a voter has. His inexperience counts as a pro and a con and similarly, the induction of seasoned politicians into his party has received praise and criticism, in equal measure. While his need for well-known names and faces is evident, there is also a view that if the PTI brand is really that potent and the promise of change in traditional politics has as many takers as the Khan claims, any candidate he appoints should count that as his main asset instead of his status as gaddee nasheen, former MNA or benevolent feudal. So, damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. If, as expected, the PTI manages to take a respectable number of seats in the general elections, Imran Khan will make his presence felt in the Assembly, certainly, and that will be a welcome addition. To expect a clean sweep at this point, especially with traditional politics alive and well as seen in Garhi Khuda Buksh and Gujranwala, is more than a little optimistic.

The PPP government continues to bravely limp towards the finish line. Hopefully, it will be the only government to complete a five-year term. Its main accomplishment, at this point in time, is having stayed in power. Despite more than one major crisis, the PPP’s staying in power is a combination of the political genius of President Zardari, the reluctance of anyone else to take the reins when things are such a mess and the resolve of the people of Pakistan to see these five years through. Having learnt through bitter and cyclical experience, that despite its dismal performance thus far, democracy is the only form of governance that Pakistan can tolerate, Pakistanis are waiting patiently to take to the polls.

Thus, the coming year’s entirely legal method of experiencing stimulation, depression and hallucinations, is to eschew drugs in favour of following Pakistani politics, in an election year. Farewell 2011 and welcome 2012! We just can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store!

Email: rnizami@nawaiwaqt.com.pk