Nobody in their wildest dreams can claim to control Arvind Kejriwal. But Imran Khan is being called Pakistan army’s ‘puppet’.
Soon after Aam Aadmi Party swept Delhi, I was in Dubai to attend a seminar and met Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s Mian Mehmood-ur-Rasheed, the leader of the opposition in the provincial assembly of Punjab. A senior leader in Imran Khan’s party, he was curious to know the reason for our massive success. I told him that people in India were angry with traditional dirty politics and wanted a change.
“In Pakistan, we have been looking at the AAP with inspiration,” he said, “but we made the mistake of admitting old traditional politicians, defectors and rejects of other parties. Therefore, we lost our uniqueness.”
Today, the PTI has swept the election in Pakistan and Imran Khan is set to be the prime minister. Questions are being asked if Imran Khan is the Arvind Kejriwal of Pakistan.
Positioning himself as an honest crusader against corruption, Khan had even said that he was an outsider like Arvind Kejriwal. To his credit, he created a party from nowhere and challenged Pakistan’s deeply entrenched ‘establishment’. It was easy for some to see the PTI as a prototype of the AAP here in India.
Chairman Imran Khan meeting Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi of Aam Admi Party pic.twitter.com/1TTlr0ZKwK
— PTI Lahore Official (@PTIOfficialLHR) March 20, 2016
When the PTI formed the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it took path-breaking initiatives in health and education sectors like the AAP government did in Delhi.
Unfortunately, the comparison ends there. Today Imran Khan is not the same man. He has become the establishment.
The 2018 elections could be a turning point in Pakistan’s history. These elections can be seen as the beginning of the decimation of the two political parties, which had dominated the politics of Pakistan for more than three decades. Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is disintegrating, and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is facing an existential crisis. Both had to bear the wrath of the army. Sharif was the original blue-eyed boy of the army who was roped in by General Zia-ul-Haq. But times have changed and now Imran Khan has taken his place.
There are already serious allegations that the army has rigged the 2018 elections in favour of Khan, and that the Supreme Court and the Election Commission contributed. Prestigious media groups like Daily Jang and Dawn were forced to tone down their criticism of Khan. Independent and fearless TV channels were left with no option but to kneel. It is no surprise that Khan is called the ‘puppet’ of the army.
But, nobody in their wildest dreams can claim to control Arvind Kejriwal. Since winning the elections, he, his government and his party have been subjected to all kinds of threats, intimidation, coercion, humiliation, insult, arrests, allegation, misinformation and propaganda. But Kejriwal and his team have refused to bow down. In fact, the establishment does not know how to handle him. He is branded an anarchist and a Naxalite. But he will always be a rebel.
Despite his Oxford-education, Imran Khan has collaborated with obscurantist forces and religious fanatics to win. He has rubbished feminism as a Western concept, supported blasphemy law, favoured the continuance of the second amendment that declares Ahmadiyya as un-Islamic, flirted with the Taliban, asked for support from extremist elements like the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and the anti-Shia Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. His proximity to the Taliban was so pronounced that he was once called Taliban Khan.
In contrast, Kejriwal has always opposed communal, obscurantist and extremist forces.
Khan started his career as a politician raising issues of accountability and transparency in governance like Kejriwal. His advocacy of clean politics made him the darling of the middle class and youth. He was seen in Pakistan as a breath of fresh air but the rigours of politics have changed him. Now he is more comfortable with electable candidates.
Khan the cricketer has finally turned into a politician. Kejriwal is still a raw activist. He still loves to fight and for people’s issues, he can sit on a dharna in the L-G’s office. He knows that a new India can be built by bringing accountability and transparency to the system, and corruption can be rid only through modern, liberal politics.
Khan can become the Prime Minister but then he won’t be the reformer that Pakistan has been waiting for. This is why he is not Pakistan’s Arvind Kejriwal.
Ashutosh is the spokesperson of Aam Aadmi Party.