Lately, seeing the crowd around Imran Khan , people are seriously concerned about his team. Can the old, tried and failed individuals who now share the stage with the Kaptaan help or hurt his chances of success? It is believed that once a comrade, always a comrade but is the reverse true? Once a soldier of the status quo, always a champion of the status quo?
The status-quo invariably leads to stagnation and decline. Change is an essential ingredient of progress. Accountability and activism ensures containment of vested interests. Unfortunately in the absence of the above mechanisms, activists are contained. Dissent comes with a heavy price tag, conformance and compromise leads to short term individual gains usually at the cost of institutional degradation.
The PTI was formed on April 25, 1996 at Lahore by a handful of like-minded individuals. Since then, it has been a persistent struggle for recognition as a national force for change. Despite electoral setbacks, there have been no ideological shifts.
The mammoth jalsa at Minar-e-Pakistan on October 30, 2011, launched the movement with honest, credible leadership at the top and a committed rank and file to fight it out. Minar-e-Quaid witnessed another grand rally on December 25, 2011 but by this time the faces on the stage had changed. The so called electables joined the party in droves, pushing out the comrades of change with whom the movement was started and built. They were introduced as political players who were electable despite their tainted past and floundering future.
The funeral of Comrade Ahsan Rashid on November 25, 2014 was attended by the ideological party workers together with the Kaptaan. While the services of Ahsan Sahib were eulogized the negative influence of the status-quo politicians was criticized. There were statements that the party had been taken over by the sugar and land mafia while some talked about their influence over the Kaptaan.
With Imran leading the charge, the rank and file of party is totally committed, with no intermediacies in between. It is widely believed that the “Lota Union” within the party will gyrate in their traditional ways, but only time will tell.
Organizational culture is almost impossible to change. PTI has a culture of giving, built on the solid foundations of change. The influence of the Lota Union is only visible on the stage, not in the party rank and file. The Kaptaan is trying to manage a balancing act. The lack of resources within the party has been met with the inclusion of the “influentials.” When the party comes into power, the leadership of the Kaptaan will be put to the test. So far, he has a reputation for ruthless merit with total honesty of purpose. The party has done its homework and is in a position to deliver change through the comrades in its rank and file. The so called electables have only brought their resources which may not be needed once the party is in power. It is the popularity of the Kaptaan and the commitment of the workers that will finally count.
In the seventies, as chairman of his party, ZAB tried to walk a fine line. His balancing act was difficult. The ideologues gradually parted ways. Lotas and status-quo politicians started controlling the party. By the 1977 elections, despite the Chairman on top, the party had lost its progressive character. Party tickets were allotted to individuals who had contested and lost against PPP’s unknown progressives. Finally when ZAB was toppled, there was no one in the party to fight for his life except the Bhutto women, Nusrat and Benazir. The uncles had moved on to greener pastures. Yasin Wattoo even joined Zia’s cabinet. Benazir had to cleanse the party of electables to build on her father’s legacy.
Compared to the Kaptaan, ZAB was more seasoned but intellectually dishonest. He used the progressives and the ideologues to come into power but then got rid of them. Kaptaan seems to be going in the opposite direction, but he is flirting with the electables to win elections and bring change. The combination is both challenging and interesting. Will his character and credibility prevail over their guile? Only time will tell.
The resources of the electables are being put to good use by the Chairman. He can address a rally in Karachi and then get to his Dharna at D-Chowk Islamabad. In any new development, the marketing department has an important role to play but at the end of the day, the workers on the ground have to deliver a marketable product. In the current struggle, the product is a “Naya Pakistan”.
Khan is positioned to play the most important innings of his life. The future of 200 million, mostly deprived individuals, rests on his shoulders. His captain’s knock will be the deciding factor. Pad up Kaptaan, and pick up your bat; the pitch has been laid for an electoral contest, the party workers are solidly behind you, let the marketing wing enjoy the photo sessions while you deliver. ‘Siasi Incorporated’ have no future within the PTI. Change is inevitable, everything else is negotiable and as the nation watches, the Kaptaan will deliver it.

The writer is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. He can be contacted at fmaliks@hotmail.com