Despite the fact that Imran Khan is the most credible politician of our time, his impact has been contained by a handful of political bounty hunters. After the mammoth public gatherings at Lahore on October 30, 2011 and December 25, 2011 at Karachi, political oldies joined Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) in droves. It was widely believed that they will be led by the Kaptaan and will follow the party policies painfully framed over the years by comrades and soldiers of change. Due to the visible change of direction after their inclusion a pertinent question has been raised; is the Kaptaan leading or is being led by these opportunists who have a track record of jumping parties?

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) started the movement for change in the sixties by launching his Pakistan People’s Party in 1967. Till then politics was controlled by GHQ and it’s hatched political figures. ZAB challenged this myth and introduced the concept of Peoples Power or ‘Awami Taqat’ as he termed it. In West Pakistan he touched every home. The black, red and green flags were all over. Even families were divided, youth/females on one side and older men on the other. Within a short span of three years he won 81 out of 138 seats in the 1970 free and fair elections. Initially ZAB was not taken seriously, but by 1977 he surrounded himself by political opportunists who not only caused his downfall but also betrayed him when he needed their support even then he remained a leader till the end. On April 04, 1979 when he was served with the death warrant he refused to be taken on the stature and walked to the gallows with his head high. His funeral was not big, but his legacy is everlasting.

His daughter Benazir Bhutto though not as able but a leader quite like him, resilient and bold. She was imprisoned and exiled but came back to hero’s welcome each time. In her last return in 2007 her motorcade was attached, over fifty people were killed, she survived and remained un-deterred. Joined the anti-Musharraf Lawyers movement and promised restoration of judges. There were persistent threats to her life but she kept going. Finally on Dec 27, 2007 she was assassinated after a public gathering at Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi. It was the same venue where the first Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan was gunned down. Thus both father and daughter met their end in the same city.

By contrast Nawaz Sharif was propelled into leadership by Zia-ul-Haq. Compromise or ‘Muk Muka’ has been the hallmark of their politics.

When he was deposed by Musharraf in 1999, the family pleaded with the Khakis and went into self exile for a period of ten years under a deal which they continually denied. Benazir paved way for their return. In the second long march during the lawyers movement Mian Sahib was to lead from Lahore while other leaders were holed in Islamabad. People and police were all over. Salman Taseer as Governor had planned a crackdown. While we were being gassed and lathi charged on the Mall, Mian Sahib waited for the crowds to break the Police cardon. While the Bhutto’s always led from the front as they had contact with the masses, Sharif’s believe in being propelled by the people by and play safe, chivalry and sacrifice is unknown to them. The track record of the Khakis in politics is even worse. One assassination attempt at Peshawar and Ayub Khan was gone. He was never seen again in public and eventually handed over power to Army Chief and went home.

Musharraf’s conduct has also been pathetic. He has used all tricks of the trade to avoid not face persecution. Hiding behind hospitals and the Khakis has been his approach. It is indeed interesting that out of the four dictators only Yahya Khan had a good career rest should have not made it to the top. Ayub was reprimanded several times. Father of the nation super seeded him yet he got promoted. Zia was not fit to be an officer according to his boss General Gul Hassan, yet he managed to move up the ladder. According to his own account, Musharraf just barely survived court martial, the 1971 war saved him.

After proving his leadership credentials in the cricket ground Kaptaan has sought political leadership through struggle and hard work. Like PPP, PTI is the second party not launched by GHQ. From its formation in April 1996 till Dec 2011 the party was contamination free, led by the clean and credible Kaptaan and followed by soldiers of change and comrades. Then reality set in. The so called electables appeared on the scene to manipulate the party its leader and its workers. In 1970 when ZAB knocked them out he remarked that not even Dr. Christian Barnard can bring them back to life. In 1977 when he tried to revive their political future he ended up on the gallows instead.

A leader has to chart untested waters. He has to embark on paths never traversed before. Oldies can only pull him back and retard his advance. Kaptaan has to be different, where his candidates and approach has to be fresh, otherwise it will be more of the same. Legacy of Bhutto lives on. His party has won five elections a record unmatched till today (1970, 1977, 1988, 1997, and 2007). Even after Zardari’s heroics, the party still rules his home province of Sindh. It is not a matter of good or bad. Old is old and it has to make room for the new.

ZAB, Benazir stand out as leaders while Ayub, Yahya, Zia, Musharraf, Nawaz and their team members are a blot on leadership. Kaptan has a chance to make a difference by moving ahead leaving behind the tried and failed ankle weights to rot and rust. His honesty and credibility is his asset which is being tarnished by a handful of power seeking and GHQ propelled politicians. It is a test of his leadership whether he will follow the old script or create his own. Here, only time will tell.