Over the past nearly four months, PTI has built a mass movement that is rooted squarely in the middle, and, increasingly in the lower middle class of the country. While, PTI’s economic and political ideology is centrist, and in some ways they still have not shaken of the vestiges of colonialism (Imran Khan continues to look to western “democracies” as a model – including, at times, references to supposed low levels of corruption, and a professional police force etc. – much of which are myths projected on the “third world” by a variety of propaganda media outlets). But still, PTI – Imran Khan – the movement – is very much rooted in Pakistani culture in the widest inclusive sense.
So, no, they are not quite Islamic, and they are not left – probably not even social democrats, and they are bringing about not so much of a cultural change, but providing a political space for a Pakistani culture – that, for too long, has either been belittled by the liberal elites, or slammed by the so-called fake “Islamists” whose agenda was/is more in line with the imperialists.
Therein lies the success of PTI – Imran Khan – in being able to harness what is quintessentially Pakistani.
One of the most important aspects of the movements in Pakistan led by Imran Khan, and the political party PTI has been a strong critique of family politics – and an emphasis on merit as the criteria for electoral politics, not family connections, and/or clans. Unfortunately, as could be expected, the incredible rise of Imran Khan and PTI’s popularity is now leading to some of the same old useless faces to jump ship from the other less popular parties to PTI. The video below is an announcement of the leaving of a branch of the Leghari political family from PPP and joining PTI.
It remains to be seen if Imran Khan and PTI’s leadership remain true to their words, or, if as a result of being near taking power – they too will succumb to family politics. And if so, will the middle – class supporters of PTI and Imran Khan take a stand for the principles that have been articulated by Imran Khan daily for the past over 60 days now?
In an interview, Zartaj Gul, an important representative of this middle class was strident in her stance that those coming to PTI would have to abide by PTI’s principles… let’s see how this unfolds. Below is the section of a press conference (Urdu) – called to address the concerns around the stampede in Multan – where the Leghari announcement was made. For Urdu speakers, note how the extensive family background of the individuals’ are recited.
Imran Khan has been giving daily (sometimes twice or three times daily) speeches at the location of the sit-in (dharna) in Islamabad, this is in addition to almost daily TV and newspaper interviews. The talks are, for the most part, centered around the issue of the rigging of elections, and necessity of change in the political/electoral system so that free/fair elections can be held in the country. But he also talks considerably about the necessity of social-cultural-economic changes necessary in Pakistan – and need for the nation to “wake up.”
Given Imran Khan’s background, he tends to idealize western “democracies” – as a model. This is erroneous on his part, and sometimes his idealizing of those “democracies” suggests an incomplete view of just how bankrupt western political systems are also. It would be more useful, if the movement begins to also look at other models, in particular the Latin American nations – whose economic and social conditions were similar to that of Pakistan, but in the past decade or two have made remarkable strides under popular social-democratic governments.
During his talk on September 30th – Imran Khan correctly talked about how debt – and in particular how the IMF is strangling Pakistan, and he recommends people read the book by John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hitman.
For those interested in this issue – I’d also recommend that folks listen to President Cristina Fernandez’s speech to the United Nations, where she directly addresses the issue of debt, and economic speculation, based on her own country, Argentina’s experience.
Zartaj Gul – a 28 year old woman, a novice in politics, ran for a National Assembly seat in a region of Pakistan dominated by family politics, she did not win, but came third… a remarkable achievement for a first time run. Essentially, in many areas of Pakistan, political seats, so-call parlimentary representation, are considered family heirlooms. This may have been all fine and well – when the middle class was under the domination and patronage of the elites. This has significantly changed over the past few years (for a variety of reason) – many have found their voice and hopes and aspiration in Imran Khan. I’ll be writing more on this change – but I would like to suggest that Pakistan’s population probably breaks down something like this: 2-3% top super top elite – both rural and urban/industrial elites -i.e. top of the pyramid, maybe about 25-30% (maybe less – but not more) middle class – the rest, likely around 70%, are working/peasant class.
The movement that Imran Khan is leading is primarily composed of 25-30% of the country, but I wold also suggest that this class is complex – although middle-class, they are not all that far from the working class of the country – culturally or even economically – more on this in another post…
A movement has been going on in Pakistan for the past 45 days or so… this is the latest massive rally against how Pakistan has been made into a family business, specifically targeting the current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The movement is led by Imran Khan, who has an 18 year long political involvement history in the country, and before that was the captain of Pakistan’s cricket team. While there are many valid questions about this movement, something that is undeniable is how the Azadi Thereek (or Freedom Movement) has captured the imagination of a significant sector of the middle and lower middle class of the country. More in the next few days… as I re-start this blog. The rally below took place earlier today (Sunday, 9/27/2014 in the city of Lahore, estimates suggest that nearly 4-500,000 people attended. A massive rally by any accounts.