Crushed by inflation, tired of terrorism, sick of corruption and on the verge of a revolution seeking an end to growing inequality, we are a nation that not only seeks but needs change. I have been told that Imran Khan and his PTI are the change we seek. The millions that have thronged to his rallies are supposed to be proof that the people of Pakistan are ready to shun the old paradigm of politics and step into a more inclusive, democratic, less corrupt, less autocratic and more efficient era of politics and governance. One change that Imran Khan brings is that he has motivated young people to participate in the political process. You now see the denim clad, ipod wielding scions of educated families shouting themselves hoarse at PTI rallies. Yesterday, Imran Khan announced a campaign to focus on recruiting young Pakistanis for PTI and introducing a transparent system of selecting party leadership. This is wonderful in theory yet this announcement merely ads up to the elusive list of changes that PTI promises but fails to unveil much like its economic plan or counter terrorism strategy. Inclusion of disenchanted youth into politics is a positive change. But is it the change we need especially if it is superficial? The question we should be asking ourselves is has PTI managed to change the political mindset of these new recruits or given them a platform for meaningful inclusion in shaping the party?Not really. The ardent PTI supporter has shunned the comfort of their couch but has yet to shun the traditional thinking that one man can change Pakistan. While PTI has changed the age of people participating in politics; it has done nothing to dismantle the belief that has crippled the development of political parties in Pakistan. Relying on cricket metaphors, the PTI is guilty of selling to young Pakistanis the idea that one man can change the country in 90 days. The change I seek and the change Pakistan needs is a more involved and discerning electorate that will hold parties (not individuals) accountable for lack of internal democracy, that will hold local candidates (and not the grand leader)responsible for delivering results and will understand that one man at the top does not a political party make. The unilateral control of individuals and dynasties on political parties has prevented them from maturing, developing mechanisms of accountability and rewarding members who serve their constituencies well. The PTI is selling to us the same old politics with a change of face at the top. The party is built around the cult of personality of one man. And Pakistani youth is lapping up the rhetoric without questioning. What change or paradigm shift does PTI bring to Pakistani politics other than the man at the top? Ask any young PTI supporter who they will vote for in the next election and they will say Imran Khan. Ask why they will vote for PTI and they will say because of Imran Khan. Ask them what they think of the recent poor choice of tried and tested and not-so-great-politicians into party ranks and they will say it is ok because the top man is Imran Khan. The younger generation clinging to the belief that one man can change Pakistan is the belief we need to dismantle.
Changing the face at the top is not important. Changing the paradigm where leaders are not beyond reproach and are answerable and accountable to the public is the change we need. Allotment of party tickets based on service to the constituency is what new Pakistani voters should be demanding. This change is unlikely to be driven by any one political party but it can be driven by the millions of Pakistanis who have become of voting age. The change we need and the change we should seek is a smarter, more informed electorate that demands accountability from political leadership and other institutions. And until and unless PTI can either show this difference through their actions or help young Pakistanis realize this duty and equip them to ask these questions and provide answers, they are not the change I seek.