In its seven decades of political transitions, Pakistan has witnessed governments backed by different political ideologies, offering diverse political programs, sometimes radically different from their predecessors. The nation has witnessed several diametrically opposed political programs ranging from the bureaucratic regime of Ghulam Muhammad and modernization pursued by Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s dictatorial regime to the Islamic socialism opted by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the religious autocracy in the manifestation of coup d’etat by General Zia-ul-Haq.
Late in the 20th century, Pakistan saw the rise and fall of the relatively feminist government of Benazir Bhutto to the pro-industrialist government of Nawaz Sharif, and then neo-liberalism vigorously pursued by General Musharraf.
The aftermath of the 11th general election in Pakistan saw the emergence of a new political program offering a contrasting socio-economic vision of state and society compared to previous governments. The election of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan largely endowed its electoral victory to the burgeoning demographic change in the youth.
However, despite its ascendancy to the helm of affairs on Federal and three provincial levels as a coalition partner with the largest seats, the multitude of issues pertaining to foreign affairs, border management, internal security and economic revival may distort the Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) attention to the pressing issue of party reorganization and intellectual development within.
Historically, the intellectual developing among youth has been a challenge to the state as its orientation since inception has been toward securitization of the state and society and it has been imperative for the successive governments either democratically elected or dictatorial regimes to maintain this crucial social equilibrium for the prime necessity of instituting law and order.
It was in Ayub Khan’s era when both leftist and rightist student unions were on the go. Field Marshal faced strenuous antagonism from leftist student organizations like National Student Federation (NSF) as they strongly challenged the foundational basis of his dictatorship.
This resistance by NSF motivated the decision of powers-that-be to create hurdle for intellectual development of students by not only banning the unions but also disturbing the equilibrium among the disciplines as importance was given primarily to the studying of engineering, natural and physical sciences than social sciences.
Since then there have been two active and one passive school of thought in the Pakistani society. The two active schools are the conservatives, who won the battle by taking opportunity of the aforementioned policy, and the modernists mostly socialists, who could not keep themselves from propagating and advocating their leftist ideologies. A large faction of our society, that is most of the time silent is the passive school in this particular context. Unfortunately, our society comprises of a larger part of this passive one.
The nation has witnessed several diametrically opposed political programs ranging from the bureaucratic regime of Ghulam Muhammad and modernization pursued by Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s dictatorial regime to the Islamic socialism opted by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the religious autocracy in the manifestation of coup d’etat by General Zia-ul-Haq.
Aforementioned state policy continued despite changes in government as no leader sought to lighten up the spirit for critical thought and challenged government’s policies. Resultantly, we are experiencing a generation of young populace mostly comprising of the above-mentioned passive school of thought, deprived of critically examining matters of pivotal importance and cultivating ingenious thoughts on critical problems. They are hyper, but less revolutionary, have more access to information but less intellectual, aware of current affairs but less sentient of history. They deem themselves as a celebrity by posting their pictures on social media. These brand conscious people are happy to embrace the suave of Imran Khan by talking more about his appealing personality rather than his ideology.
Imran Khan predicted them as a potential voter of PTI and Imran Khan waited for their ability to cast the vote during the past 22 years of his political struggle. In 2013’s general election, their presence was observed first time. Gradually in recent election their presence has turned this election into a Middle class’s revolution. However, now 67 years-aged, Imran Khan does not have the luxury of time to resolve multi-dimensional crises confronting his party.
Unfortunately, He never gave attention to the ideological development of the party. In fact, it was very much needed due to the ideological deficiency in the society as a whole and especially in his potential voters. Few years ago, prominent socialist icon and former Secretary General of PTI late Mairaj Muhammad Khan, left the party. He listed many reasons for his departure including the support of General Musharraf in referendum and the disorganization of the party, as well as explicitly criticized Imran Khan for his paradox in ideology; either he is leftist or rightist, conservative or modernists.
Although Imran Khan invested a lot in mobilizing social media and his political supporters are very active on this medium, their critics implicitly show their ideological confusion and deficiency. They are not only unable to face criticism of their political actions from the opposition parties but also act as a pressure group for their own party. Numbers of events are testament of this; before the July election when they opposed the entry of morally corrupt leaders in the party like Farooq Bandiyal, to the present situation created after the economic advisory council formation.
From now on Imran Khan has to take avant-garde initiative to turn out as an international iconic leadership from this pressure group which is very difficult with less intellectual top brass leadership as PTI has. Before taking oath to the premiership, Imran khan emphasized on reconstructing the party. He seemed aware of the importance of the party’s structure with good governance to retain for a prolonged period in the battle field. But with the passage of time, as they indulge in solving governance related issues it seems that he is ignoring the gravity of this issue.
He is supposed to reshape the party by taking practical and immediate steps; these steps should be depicted by his words and actions. He pointed out brain drain in his first speech in the parliament but he did not mention the point that many youngsters and social scientists also left the country due to intellectual deficiency in the fabric of the society.
He seemed conscious about the Madarsa going students, to be brought in the mainstream. He pledged in his first address to the nation to bring them in the mainstream by giving them positions in military and bureaucracy and avoided the notion of their myopic view about the society and its structure.
Even, in his speech in GHQ, he recalled his mission for the children of farmers and labors, to send them in schools and universities so they could be ‘doctors, engineers and military officials’ but he forgot to mention that they can also be scholars and social scientists. Additionally, he raises the point that if he had not been a cricketer, he would have joined military.
Pakistan is blessed to have a 64% youth bulge. To be a young country, we are supposed to have new ideas to resolve our socio-economic and political crises. However, UNDP National Youth Perception Survey 2015 is telling bleak story: 94% of this youth does not have access to the library. So it easily depicts the quality of higher education and research in new areas of study.
Now, the ball is in the government’s court. It has all the power to use media; especially TV and radio. They can easily use this as an effective tool for the intellectual development. For example; back in 1970’s Bhutto used PTV to provoke liberal values in the society and then in 1980’s Zia Ul Haq’s Islamization lead paradigm shift in themes of Dramas and current affairs program did the same.
One can understand that after the opposition of 22 years it is not easy for PTI to comprehend its role as a ruling party. Now it is not just an opposition party or pressure group. It will be judged upon its performance after five years whether or not to retain its position in the political arena of Pakistan. As Imran khan is looking very conscious towards organization building of the party, he ought to realize the intellectual development of workers and the ideological building of the party, if he wants to see his party in for long time in political battle meadow next to the dynastic politics his competitor; PPP and PMLN.