It’s been half a decade since the landmark jalsa at Minar-e-Pakistan when PTI’s leader, Imran Khan, raised the battle cry of “Tabdeeli”. After a many a twist and turn, Dharnas, court battles, and victories, many might wonder if Imran Khan has lost steam. Do Khan and his team have the same sense of urgency to bring about the transformation that the vast majority of the nation desperately desires? Does the movement have the same passionate potency in demanding Tabdeeli? Has the permanent disqualification of Nawaz Sharif from politics satiated Imran Khan to dampen his earlier resolve? Was it just a personal crusade against the Sharifs, and not really a call for deep surgery of the body politics in how the nation is governed for the betterment of the people?
Let’s be clear, the removal of Sharif from the office was a monumental moment that Khan could not help but savour. It would be inhuman to imagine that anyone who has struggled as long and as much he has, not to relish the herculean efforts to see finally bearing fruit. It is also true that much Tabdeeli has been achieved through PTI’s tenacious determination to achieve its agenda. It has mobilised the courts to respond to the people’s clarion call for accountability, especially with respect to high office holders and elected officials. Where there was once passive acceptance of the worst excesses by the powerful, today many of the once mighty face the full force of the accountability process. Few elected members of national and provincial assemblies dare assume that their status somehow precludes them from facing the law. The realisation by elected official of the peril that misuse of authority, financial or otherwise, might entail is one of the greatest Tabdeelis brought about by PTI. Many in power may decry this transformational change, but the people generally welcome as the first step of many towards better governance.
PTI’s single-handed campaign against the rigging of that most sacred right of citizens, which is the vote, has been much criticised by the chattering classes. The Dharnas were impolite affairs and not standard parliamentary politics, but that particular struggle did result in Judicial Commission that has highlighted many of the flaws in the electoral process. The incremental change brought about because of that struggle has made it much less likely for mass scale manipulation of the election process. The election commission has been put on notice. It has responded to the challenge by improving its processes of monitoring the ballot casting and counting. This has gone some way towards better securing the sanctity of the vote and validity of the mandate of the people. The upcoming elections will demonstrate how much this particular Tabdeeli has been embedded in the genetic code of the nation’s polity.
Not all Tabdeeli has the quality of operatic drama about it, and not all change necessarily need be tumultuous. There is much that has to be done in the realm of the prosaic, such as, a focus on an effective administration whose imperative is clearly defined to incrementally improve the daily lives of citizens. While PTI’s chairman has been concentrating his efforts in bringing major governance changes at the center, the PTI government in KP has done much to bring about Tabdeeli in the daily lives of people, for example, the administrative changes in KP police resulted in a significant improvement in the law and order situation in the province. PILDAT has ranked KP’s policing performance as the best in Pakistan on almost every metric. The tree planting ‘tsunami’ has meant over a billion trees have been added to the ecosystem, which will greatly help mitigate the environmental crises that the PTI government had inherited. Similar changes are being instituted in education and health.
Much Tabdeeli has come to pass in the last half-decade since the Minar-e-Pakistan event, and PTI can take credit for that. But the central question remains is the call for Tabdeeli still as potent for PTI, Imran Khan and its ardent followers as when the movement first started? The 29th April Jalsa, once again at Minar-e-Pakistan, will once again loudly demonstrate that yes it ever more potent and the urgency is even more intense. Here once again we will witness the vows of Tabdeeli renewed.
Pakistan desperately needs a sea-change in its governance. There’s the almost desperate necessity in the needs of the youth for more education/training and thus better employment prospects. In building power plants and metro buses does not lie the road to the betterment of prospects of this restless youth. A concerted effort to address the needs of the masses in terms of health, education, and justice gets ever more pressing with each passing day. A dire need to improve the productivity of the people so that Pakistan is competitive in the global market is imperative to stop the economy from imploding. A better and equitable taxation system to minimize crippling external borrowing this is the Tabdeeli imperative of the hour. It can be emphatically stated that the passion of Tabdeeli has not faded, but that fire of hope burns as brightly as it did half a decade ago.
The writer is the head of International Media Affairs, Central Media Department, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).