While the rallies of Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), in Lahore, have provoked a debate about the arrival of Imran Khan, not enough attention has been given to the fact that these rallies marked the beginning of the next election campaign. This has not escaped the attention of politicians, though, who have gone into the mode of at least discussing future alliances, though the actual formation will take place around election time. Another dimension of the rally is the extent to which it established the PTI as an electable party, and with this is bound up the question of how far the PTI is contributing to the fragmentation of the political forces that already exist. Looking first at the electioneering aspect, the PTI established credibility. It showed that it could bring in a large crowd from all over the province. True, that will not win it any elections, but the show it put on was likely to win over candidates. Its previous election outings have shown that it could not attract winning candidates as the PPP or the PML have done, people who would have vote banks of their own, and who would need a strong party votes to provide them victory. In the next election, the PTI may well win candidates. It is also possible that it may win over members of the PML-Q Unification Bloc. Though they might not be the individuals to get PTI tickets, it is possible that they will have relatives who can contest on the PTI ticket. That assumes, of course, that the PTIs present stance against corruption survives the impact of the arrival of typical Pakistani politicians, who are in it not because of any desire to serve the masses, but because they want to operate the levers of a patronage network. The assumption behind this is that the PML-N and the PTI are competing for the same class of voters, primarily in the urban areas. These are people against corruption. Corruption is an issue primarily for the middle class and the urban, and is the reason why they are disengaged from politics. The PTI is living a little dangerously with the support among the youth, because they form an important part of the support base and will be wanting jobs, which the party will have to provide if in government, or promise if not. However, the corruption issue, while limiting the partys choice of candidates, even alliances, gives an indication of where Imran Khan and the PTI are drawing their support. They are appealing to the same voter, who accepts the system left by the British, probably, because he profited from it and reached places that would otherwise not have been open to him. But who also wants to retain his Muslim character. This is the person who was the backbone of the All-India Muslim League (AIML) when Pakistan was created. The AIML, being a national movement rather than a mere political party, also included that modernising element, which wanted Muslims to enjoy the benefits the British were seen as having. This element was also part of the Muslim League, but it went to the PPP when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came out of Ayub Khans Convention League to form his own PPP. The PPP was a leftist party, but it always contained an element of religiosity. When it jettisoned its leftism to accommodate the 'Pajero party, as it is still called, because socialism simply did not work and because the USA had to be pleased, it became an anti-clerical party, even though its main opposition was not clerical. This desire to be modern, while retaining the trappings of religion, was also to be seen in another institution - the military - and this may well have been the reason for the acceptance of military rule. Certainly, Imrans links to the military were brought up by the PML-N after the rallies this weekend, and it is scarcely a secret that he sought to ride on the back of the military into power. The military, for a number of reasons, is not only seen as moderniser, but also has played in politics throughout the countrys existence. It is, perhaps, symptomatic that both Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif held office under military regimes. The appeal of Imran Khan is not that powerful. The task is an immense one, which swallowed up those who tackled it before, and is not limited to ending corruption, but providing good governance as well. Indeed, previous tolerance of corruption is based on the premise that it was necessary for good and efficient governance. His qualifications for the task are his captaincy of Pakistan (during which it won the World Cup) and his building of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, as well as his youthful good looks, which were more apparent when he entered politics with the PTIs founding in 1996, and when he was 44, than now, when he is approaching 60. Not just his looks are fading, but also his appeal as a winning captain. After all, those with a meaningful memory of that World Cup win had to be at least seven, which means they are now 25. A lot of the young people supporting Imran are doing so without having witnessed that World Cup victory, more because they oppose traditional politicians, such as the PPP and the PML-N, than because they are closely acquainted with the PTI programme. Just as the PPP was originally a party of rebellion, so is the PTI today. But whereas the PPP campaigned on the latest Western ideology of leftism, the PTI wants an Islamic identity, and this is what has caused both the PPP and the PML-N to believe that it will cut into PML-N votes. The PML-N as it stands has inherited the 1947 Leaguer who now constitutes the anti-PPP vote, and is opposed to the anarchy and disorder it represents. The PPP voter is not just against authority, or in favour of the PPPs socialism, but also likes the disorderly style. The PTI, by having pop musicians perform at the rally, did not just do something politically expected, but also appealed to the PPP voter. The PTI, by doing the things that appeal to the PPP voter, while working in the PML-N stronghold, seems to be doing something that the PPP itself apparently cannot do, which is fight it in the urban centres of Punjab. At the same time, the PPP seems to be depending on the MQM for the urban centres of Sindh, which was symbolised by the rally in Karachi, while Imran was having his. That indicates how much the PPP has given up. It began as a party strong in the urban area, though it never was strong in Karachi. Now it seems to be concentrating on areas where it has a proven track record of winning, rural Sindh and South Punjab. Imran would have been in politics for nearly 20 years, by the time of the next election. Compared to the last person to have taken the country (then West Pakistan) by storm, Bhutto, he has not made much progress, perhaps, because while Bhutto could stake his claim in a politically empty arena, Imran found two already established parties occupying the space he wanted. One rally may well be no indication of what is to come, but though Imrans shoulders may be broad, the PPP should not rely on them to do what it cannot. Also, the PPP should remember that Imran wants to replace it was well as the PML-N, and would not want to play the role in Punjab that the MQM seems content to play in Sindh, of being a sort of urban adjunct of the PPP. The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as Executive Editor of TheNation. Email: maniazi@nation.com.pk