On the day this week’s column gets into print, the entire nation would be sitting on the edge of their seats and glued to television sets to see if salvation was at hand for Jinnah’s Pakistan. By this time, much of the unofficial results are expected to be in and a fairly clear picture of where parties stand may be becoming apparent. There would be happy anticipation in some homes, whereas others would be lost in gloom. This would, perhaps, also be the time for the nation to sit back and retrospect on what has been lost or gained, depending on who they had chosen to lead them for the next five years.

Reflection on the events and strategies adopted by various political players would also raise some intriguing questions. Why did PPP adopt a low profile as regards, what has been universally acknowledged as, a key element in any election campaign - public meetings? Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, the feisty former party spokesperson from Sialkot, indirectly attributed this to the threat of terrorism and inadequate security arrangements. There is, however, an increasing street based feeling that while the threat of attacks on PPP public meetings was real, the party had, perhaps, acquiesced to the painful realisation that it could not successfully toe the winning line this time. Bazaar wisdom is now saying that the former rulers were seeking solace in the failure of the new government to clean up the mess created by their predecessors and, consequently, create conditions for a PPP comeback.

Assuming the above hypothesis to be true, one cannot, but shake one’s head. Bhutto’s party, which once generated a phenomenal wave of popularity because of its leadership charisma and the attractive slogan of ‘roti, kapra and makaan’, appeared to have naively ignored the symptoms of change, much like the French monarch, who when told that the people were revolting because they had no bread to eat said that if bread was scarce, why did they not eat cake? This mindset, which was PPP’s blind spot stemmed from the fact that the party structure was autocratic and feudal in nature, in spite of vociferous denials to the contrary.

Another equally critical element was the apparent reluctance of the young ‘Party Chairman’ to give up his jet set lifestyle and involve himself in the tiresome, trying and often risky routine of practical politics. As polling day approached, there was an almost obscene mushrooming of PPP flags, banners and posters. It appeared that the party was using cloth and paper in a desperate bid to compensate for its lack of direct ‘mass public contact’.

While many diehard jiyalas continued to loyally adhere to the green, black and red flag, the PPP vote bank was severely dented by PTI. My interaction with many families that were traditional supporters of the party revealed that this change of heart did, indeed, take place.

The PML-N’s strategy from the time that its leadership returned from their controversial exile had been to sit out the five-year term and let poor governance by the PPP guarantee victory to Mr Nawaz Sharif. In doing so, the PML-N appeared to have made the cardinal mistake of underestimating PTI. The PPP media campaign to discredit the Sharif Brothers by levying, what could best be described as personal attacks, may have eroded the PML-N’s vote bank and indirectly assisted Imran Khan.

While Imran’s public meetings generated a turnout and fervour seen perhaps only in the days leading up to August 14, 1947, PTI appeared to have begun their campaign a little late. This generated a bit of concern for PTI supporters as most of the party candidates were new and unknown to voters. It was at this point that the mammoth public meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan, where 80,000 elected party office bearers took oath (and made history) and Khan Sahib’s emotion charged speech raised campaign pitch to the required level. It was generally agreed that if voter turnout was somewhere around 50 percent or even above, PTI would coast home.

Providence stepped in and took a hand when the PTI Chairman had a tumble from the forklift that was conveying him and his bodyguards to the top of the container stage in Ghalib Market Lahore. The accident, for that was what it was, had all the elements of a tragedy and could have ended in the loss of lives, but Imran only suffered some injuries and to great national relief appeared on television from his hospital bed to give a historic two-minute statement that earned him a lasting place in the people’s hearts and a great surge of support. As a media person, I know that the last 70 hours of any political campaign are crucial and require that the party leadership stay in the news for as much time as possible. Imran’s accident provided that window in a most comprehensive manner.

What Pakistanis can now do is to sit back and wait for all unofficial results to come in. This would raise another interesting question, considering that Imran Khan may win enough seats, would he like to change his stated stance and accept a coalition partnership to make the government? Conventional wisdom dictates that he must do this as such a move would give him a platform to (in part) do what he has been striving for, during the last 17 years.

At the provincial legislature level Khan Sahib has (according to many people) a fifty-fifty chance of success, while in KPK his probability to win is much higher. Even if PTI wins a ‘Province’, it can implement its vision therein to create a model for everyone to see and emulate.

Nonetheless, Pakistan will know in another 24 hours, which way it is headed - on the same corruption-beaten track that has taken to the brink of the abyss or on a new road to peace, justice and prosperity.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.