Last week a friend asked an interesting question, “Will PTI be able to organise itself as a political party like PML-N?” Coming from a learned individual who has both administrative and political background I was taken aback, in answer, I posed a counter question “Is PML-N a political party?” He remained silent with a completely blank look. At this stage I ventured to explain essential requirements for a political outfit.

A political party requires an ideology to rally support and motivate its workers. Despite repeated attempts I have not been able to decipher the ideology of this brand of Muslim League. For a better understanding, I circulated amongst the heavy weights of this political outfit looking for an answer to a simple question “Is there anyone in the party whose assets had not increased after coming into politics.” No one could come up with a single name. There are several such individuals in PPP but not even one in PML-N to my knowledge.

Except for the Zardari detour PPP has always been an ideological party as such it has been able to weather several storms. PML-N was launched as a party of interests, led by businessmen whose only expertise was in making money. Wealth generation and building personal assets was always on the agenda. Toxicity in politics is a direct contribution of this political outfit.

It is rumoured that former Lt. Gen Hameed Gul the Chief architect of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) of which PML-N was an important component advised Mian Sharif to declare and freeze his assets before assuming public office. Elder Sharif replied then what will be the purpose of this effort if there are no gains. Assets of Sharif Group kept growing while the economy of the country drowned. Then there were infernos in which property records of the city were destroyed to grab expensive real estate.

While I fully support across the board accountability of all individuals who entered the assemblies after 1985 but PML-N stands out as the perfect outfit to initiate this scrutiny. All elected members of the party should be asked to list their assets before and after they entered politics. Some of them have since sought refuge in other parties but they should be all included for in depth cleansing. Investors in politics have to be weeded out.

Recently the smoking guns of PML-N have become silent these who used to roar in the assembly and the GT Road have become speechless, why? The answer is simple they have been shown the files in which their misdeeds have been recorded and stored. Air Marshal Asghar Khan after his bumpy political innings said that the agencies know more about us than we ourselves. If these files are made public, the political arena can be reformed overnight.

Important lessons should have been learnt. Political parties without ideology eventually perish. Politics cannot and should not be converted into businesses. Public office holders have to watch for conflict of interest. One cannot be beneficiary of his own position as has been the case in Pakistan.

In 1967, Bhutto launched PPP as a progressive party that stood for a new economic order. Till the Zardari detour the party remained a political force. The comrades within the party worked for the uplift of the downtrodden segments of the society. The party stood for wealth redistribution not generation for individuals at the helm. During its last stint in power (2008-2013) when the line was crossed the party lost its support. From a potent national political outfit it has been reduced to a provincial political entity.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) is another political party based on an ideology which has limited political appeal. While it continues to survive its popularity remains limited. There are efforts to re-align their approach to politics. Like JI, the PPP under Bilawal is trying to recapture its lost political turf by sticking to its progressive ideology on which the party was launched.

PTI was also launched as a party of change which sought justice and rule of law. There was a Shadow Cabinet and four think tanks to formulate a framework for a welfare state on the lines of Riyasat-e-Madina.

The party is in power after 22 years of political struggle. After Bhutto and his party, Kaptaan has emerged as a popular leader with solid following of the youth. Kaptaan has presented his 100 days scorecard on November 29, 2018. In which he also announced his road map and team to carry the movement forward. If the party moves away from its ideology, it too will be haunted like PML-N. Nations must learn from their history. Bhutto’s PPP has survived but under serious threat due to departure from its ideology. While Bhutto’s party struggles to win back its support by reverting back to its ideological approach, PTI has to keep its course to deliver and then survive as a political force to be reckoned with. The nation anxiously await a Kaptaan’s knock from the most successful Captain on the green cricket pitch, he now has to play on the political turf for which he needs proper guidance and support.


The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.