The past few days have been very interesting ones for me. Interesting because I have been engaging PML-N activists in a bid to discover reasons for their continuing loyalty to Nawaz Sharif in the face of a general public opinion, JIT findings, the Supreme Court decision and the ongoing trial in the Accountability Court. I was intrigued by the results of my interaction, which indicated that a vast majority of the disqualified PM’s coterie of ministers and supporters genuinely believed that it was only their leader, who had the capacity to lead Pakistan to greater things. This conclusion was all the more surprising since almost all these individuals acknowledged that the former Head of Executive was involved in massive corruption, yet they displayed an unflinching resolve to follow him. My amazement was multiplied, when the sample group tended to look the other way, whenever confronted with Nawaz Sharif’s soft approach towards states known for their hostility towards Pakistan. I could only link this behavior to two things. One, that perhaps the people I was talking to, were direct or indirect beneficiaries or second that they had developed a mindset based on a dislike of alternate political contenders to the Chief Executive’s Office to the extent that they are not ready to believe anything adverse against their leader. I subsequently realised that since the beneficiary factor was applicable to only a few, it was antagonism towards the alternate choice i.e. PTI or PPP that was playing a vital role towards reinforcing the pro Nawaz notion. I also concluded that the PML-N think tank had astutely realised this phenomenon and had embarked on a strategy to demonise Imran Khan and PPP Leadership. Neutral political psychologists will agree that whenever such a notion takes root, there is but a short time, when personalities are elevated to the level of deities. This is a state of mind, where reason and reality are ignored, particularly when such ‘devotion’ is fueled by the very person, who is being raised to the high pedestal.
There is however a serious downside or danger when this happens. Swept along by sentiment and perhaps a delusionary belief that his or her success is unstoppable, the ‘deified’ individual ceases to take into account consequences and thresholds, ultimately finding him or herself in dire trouble with no space to retreat. This is exactly what is occurring in the case of Mr. Nawaz Sharif and his ministers, as their vitriolic outbursts against national institutions become more and more reckless and direct.
A permanent handle in the PML-N list of threads, is KPK under four years of PTI rule. Not willing to rely on anti-PTI speeches, hearsay and reports that may have come from individuals with a biased outlook, I decided to travel around KPK and verify both PML-N and PTI claims. To increase objectivity, I began with areas considered to be politically hostile to Imran Khan.
Billitang is a lovely, serene village about ten 10 kilometers ahead of Gumbat on the road towards Kohat. My enquiries revealed that the Government Dispensary there was not only adequately stocked with medicines, but contrary to previous practice, where no medical officer was available even during day, there was now a competent doctor present on a 24/7 basis. I also discovered that English was being taught in rural government schools and incompetent teachers were either being retrained or had been screened out after testing. While this may have caused ripples amongst incompetent teaching staff, the parents I spoke to were very satisfied on the change.
I found small level contractors around Bannu eager to tell me that they could now compete with their big rivals since the contract awarding system had been put on line and made transparent. This had also effectively reduced corruption and nepotism, bringing a sense of security to entrepreneurs. I was particularly keen to see if anything had been done to the land revenue system with particular reference to the most critical (and corrupt) link – the ‘Patwari’. To see things for myself, I accompanied a friend to the land revenue office as an observer, while he got his land registered in the records. I was amazed at the speed and efficiency of the staff including the ‘Patwari’, who refused even a cup of tea from us.
I returned to the Federal Capital pondering over my experience and wondering at the brazenfaced criticism that is levelled by PML N leadership at the changes brought about in KPK. My humble advice to these critics is to travel to that province and see for themselves how the impossible is being made possible.
The writer is a freelance columnist.