Faith and fear are the most stupendous forces in this world, but faith is greater than fear. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the four times-elect US President, successfully steered America out of the two darkest crises of the 20th century, i.e. World War II and the Great Depression, by stating: “The only thing we have to fear is the fear itself.” Unruffled by the fears of these soul-crushing challenges, faith in his vision and the resilience of the American character, he was able to put the country on the path to dizzying heights and a superpower destined to choreograph the contours of the world map.

Likewise, the Muslims of the subcontinent were lucky to have a leader like Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who fearlessly fought against the machinations of the British-Hindu leadership with an unshakable faith in his cause, fermented the fragmented Muslim community into a nation and won them a homeland on ideological basis. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough to consolidate the gains of independence and build Pakistan in accordance with his vision. Later, the political leaders who succeeded him proved unworthy of carrying his mission forward. They pushed Pakistan into an unending spin through their criminal digression from the path envisioned by the Quaid and promoted the culture of graft and entitlement that they perpetuated with a missionary zeal, further accentuated by the intervention of the military adventurers, who adopted self-serving policies in complete disregard of national interests. The cumulative effect of the shenanigans of the politicians and the khakis is that Pakistan today is half of what it was at the time of independence, and even that part faces an existentialist threat. The nation is gripped by fear about its survival, as an independent entity. Also, it has lost faith in the system of governance; indeed, it is a dangerous state of affairs.

Pakistan today needs a leader with indomitable character, like Quaid-i-Azam, and imbued with the incendiary spark of the Bhuttos, to beat this fear factor and rebuild the faith of the nation in its destiny. After Quaid-i-Azam, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who became the leader of teeming millions, gave them voice and hope, lifted the country’s morale after the Dhaka debacle, laid the foundation for a nuclear Pakistan, gave the country a consensus Constitution and constitutional democracy, restored its prestige in the comity of nations through his bold foreign policy, united the Muslim Ummah and manoeuvred millions of jobs for skilled and non-skilled Pakistanis overseas, particularly in the Middle Eastern countries, which has become the biggest source of foreign exchange for Pakistan.

Unfortunately, Bhutto’s efforts for the welfare of Pakistan sent shudders through the imperialists’ spine; they saw him as a threat to their interests and thus had him eliminated through a military dictator whom they used to do their bidding in Afghanistan in the wake of Soviet invasion, a measure that still continues to haunt us. Musharraf, too, pursued Zia’s policies and pushed the country into the so-called war on terror, which has become a major factor in raising the existentialist threat to Pakistan. His daughter, Benazir Bhutto, fought the non-democratic forces with a manly flavour that strengthened her credentials, as a politician of international stature and endeared her well to the downtrodden within the country. But unfortunately, like her father, she also fell victim to the forces of evil.

Nevertheless, Imran Khan is a welcome addition to the country’s political landscape. However, characterising him as ‘game-changer’ by media commentators and political observers seems to be an over exaggeration of the facts. There is no doubt that he is attracting big crowds in his rallies that indicate his growing popularity and a ranting expression for change by people, but that does not mean that the change has taken place. Imran lacks the charisma and appeal of Bhutto, and his situation is not comparable to the political ambience when the former emerged on the political horizon. His chances of sweeping the elections, like Bhutto, and then implementing his agenda seem to be a distant possibility. Imran has also been hinting at the possibility of making alliance with other political parties. Even if he is able to weave an alliance with the religious and rightist parties and win the elections, Imran will not be able to have his way because the alliances of parties with diametrically different political agendas have always been short-lived and counterproductive.

Another very important and perhaps the most crucial factor in the present political system is that it is geared to the perpetuation of feudalism and serving the interests of the elite. Nearly, 250 National Assembly seats belong to the rural and tribal areas, where the feudals, nawabs and sardars have almost captive constituencies. So, any party that desires to win the elections cannot achieve its objective without their support. With their unassailable presence in the Assembly they blackmail the party leadership, protect their vested interests fiercely and as a result, the vicious circle of politics of graft and entitlement continues to roll on. They are very clever and change their loyalties with the change of wind and keep returning to the Assemblies under different banners. Against this backdrop, they have started jumping on Imran's bandwagon. The very fact that these time servers are being welcomed in PTI’s fold clearly indicates that the tussle is not for changing the system. It is a typical power politics.

Another very cogent and perhaps a million dollar question is: Can Imran bring a change that ensures across-the-board accountability and corrects the civilian-military imbalance?

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: ashpak10@gmail.com