Like India, Pakistan too needs on Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Can Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) be one? The answer is certainly. On April 25, 1996 when the founding fathers of PTI decided to start their Tehreek it was perceived and designed as an AAP primarily for those individuals who have been longing for change since the very creation of the country. It can never function as a “Khas Aadmi Party” (KAP) as it will be a gross violation of its basic culture and approach.

The name of Comrade Ahsan Rashid, one of the most outstanding founders of PTI comes to mind, when the Aam Aadmi approach is being discussed. Till his death in November 2014 he was the undisputed champion of progressive thought within the party. He played a pivotal role in the success of the Historic Lahore Jalsa of October 2011, which launched the movement. After the Karachi Jalsa of December 25, 2011 he hosted a very generous dinner. There was an interesting mix of the ‘Aam’ and the ‘Khas’ at the table. After that event Comrade Ahsan started to lose his foothold in the movement that he had started with the Kaptaan for the uplift of the down trodden in the country.

Every AAP has to scramble for resources. Establishment launched parties do not face such impediments. They are born with a silver spoon in their mouth. The Muslim League House on Davis Road Lahore was inherited by PML-N it then came under the occupation of PML-Q. No worries of rent or expenses… it is all taken care of. In contrast, when PTI decided to establish its Punjab office it had to raise funds for the rent and then pay the bills. Contributions were requested to keep the office running. In order to survive the AAP has to have a very basic living standard low on resources but high on spirits, which then differentiates it from “Khabba Parties”.

Once in power the “Khabba Parties” then build up their party resources for long term sustain ability. Parties like PML-N, MQM, PML-Q, APML, PPP have established endowments to take care of their needs. PPP in the sixties and seventies was an infant, a struggling party led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB). He used to travel by trains and regular flights. There were crowds to see him off and then receive him. As a student activist I had the chance to meet him several times at the Airport and Railway Station. It created affinity between the leader and the led. Gandhi took it a step further and traveled third class to be with the masses.

Most leading political parties have created their own niche. PML-N is a party of interests where everyone generates wealth through favourable business and trade. PPP is a party of resistance; it focuses on the rights of the downtrodden segments of the society, and at times even at the cost of damaging national institutions. Jamaat-e-Islami believes in religious fanaticism and gets financial support from the right wing. Perhaps PTI qualifies to be the only AAP of Pakistan that believes in strengthening state institutions while cutting through vested interests, status quo and regressive politics.

All attempts at making PTI a “Khas Aadmi” party will not bear fruit. By using facilities of the corporate world or traveling in motorcades of expensive cars the Kaptaan and his handful of ‘Khas’ friends do not sit well with the rank and file of the party. The Aam Aadmi feels detached and pushed to the back. Despite his feudal background, ZAB communicated and mingled with the common man. In the end he too landed in the control of the ‘Khas Aadmi’ group and his once progressive Peoples Party lost its edge. Today the party is nowhere. Asif Zardari controls it.

Aam Aadmi has simple issues. His children need education and health covers, not flyovers and signal free passages. ZAB termed it ‘Rot, Kapra aur Makan’ which the party was unable to deliver. Finally, the Benazir Income Support Fund was initiated in the fourth stint in power by a party formed to deliver Masawat. Today it has become a ‘Dilasa Party’ (promises only).

After the fall of the fourth Khaki dictator there is a new class of unwanted political dead weights. These establishment politicians were first elected through manipulated electoral exercise and then allowed to make a killing. Throughout the lawyers movement they stood firmly with the usurper and went in for re-election on the belief that they would be elected again through the same flawed process. Shaukat Aziz in his last address as the Prime Minister bid farewell to his cabinet with the parting words that, we will be soon taking oath together again, but it did not happen. Benazir’s assassination changed the political scenario.

These establishment politicians are political dead weights. The only party that can accommodate them is perhaps Pervez Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League where they can get together to protect their ill-gotten wealth but certainly they do not belong to an AAP as they are ‘Khas’.

By design and culture PTI is an AAP. It has learnt to survive on spirits instead of doled out resources of the ‘Khas’. Aid always comes with strings, it may shorten the struggle or may make it look more palatable but delivery always suffers when the ‘Kaptaan’ started flirting with the ‘Khas’ he promised that they will play by the rules of the ‘Aam’. Old habits die hard, ‘Khas’ have their own agenda as their political survival is at stake. Rigging, manipulation, influence peddling, buying/selling is normal for them. Perhaps the proverb that everything is fair in love and war was coined by a group of ‘Khas’ to keep the ‘Aam’ ordinary for ever. It is time to re-evaluate this flirtation with those who have done nothing for the common man. Giving not taking has been the norm in PTI. Such high standards set by party founders like Comrade Ahsan Rashid never change.