Our outgoing rulers were very fond of asserting that democracy was the best revenge. However, they forgot that the revenge can be taken not only by their party against dictators or assassins, but also by the people against them for gross misgovernance. Everyone felt the PPP would be out of government, but few had predicted a complete whitewash.

The great benefit of the just-concluded elections has been two-fold: firstly, the polls were held at the right time, setting the precedent of the government completing its full term. Secondly, the ouster of the government has brought home to the masses their power, and the realization that if rulers misbehave, they can be shunted out, nay pulverized, at elections. A lesson once bought is twice taught, and so it is not likely to be forgotten by future rulers.

This is a good occasion to pay tribute to the Election Commission for a job fairly well done. A lot more could and should have been done, but hopefully lessons have been learnt and, with the benefit of experience gained this time, in future defaulters of all types will be dealt with firmly. The media, including the dozens of TV channels, deserves all praise for creating public awareness of national issues as never before and assuring a huge turnout.

At the time of Mr. Zardari’s election as president, it could have been predicted that with the legal cases against him, he would indulge in a running battle with the apex court; and this is what actually happened. Because of his holding the offices of the president and (co)chairman of the ruling party, his power was so all-pervasive that none of his functionaries could do anything but acquiesce, prime ministers actually laying down their political lives at his feet. Two factors have hit the PPP really hard: the day-long loadshedding which destroyed industry resulting in relocation of factories abroad, throwing millions out of job; and rampant and unbelievable corruption at each and every level. The masses have inflicted humiliating electoral defeats on the majority of stalwarts of the PPP team for misgovernance.  They should have realized that the mills of God grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine.

Imran Khan is the new kid on the block, his time out in the cold being finally over, and well-deservedly. He owes half of his popularity to his cricket and hospital-and-university building, and the other half to poor governance by his predecessors. He has galvanized the disillusioned youth of his country, and given them hope. It is not a coincidence that his maximum support is derived from the educated middle and upper middle classes of the biggest cities.

Imran’s popularity in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa(KP) is in no small measure due to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, which has been providing world-class cancer care to large numbers of people from KP; and they have not forgotten. Future rulers will have to remember that to attract votes they will have to show some merit, some achievement. It will not be enough to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth, or to belong to a well-entrenched party.

Imran Khan is getting the rulership of KP. Now is his chance to play a direct and active role to deal with this threat to the country’s survival, which has already cost the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians. It will not be an easy task, but there is no escape from it.

In the 1997 elections, PPP’s seats were reduced from over 100 to just 16, mainly because of public perception of Mr. Zardari’s corruption. This time has been a repeat of the same. The billions spent on full-page advertisements in all papers and on all channels have not saved the party from annihilation.

The PPP has been punished very heavily on account of Mr. Zardari in these two elections; it is reduced to a shell of itself. If the party is to survive, the PPP elders, if any have been left, have to seriously consider whether it can be run as a gaddinashini any longer without disintegrating, or whether it needs change at the top. And if so, who can be brought forwards to repair the damage, pacify the disillusioned jyalas, and lead the party out of its state of shell-shock. This may be easier said than done, seeing that PPP is a hereditary hierarchy.

Mian Nawaz Sharif has got the mandate once again. He talked about coexistence with Vajpayee at Lahore in 1999, but the effort was sabotaged by Kargil. In his third reincarnation he is talking of the importance of a solution of the country’s economic woes, for which he is willing to trade with India. This sounds like a plausible policy.

The elections have been relatively non-violent from the standard in this country today. Peaceful transfer of power is taking place. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

The writer is a former principal of the King Edward Medical College, and former president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Pakistan.