What does Imran Khan want? Beyond the aggressive, even hostile propagation of the change that he so frequently spoke about, can one grasp the basic essence of his belief system? Have his critics been right in branding him as confused and lacking direction about his aims? While his angry speeches gave away only a glimpse of what he wants, in the form of some vague terms such as ‘Naya Pakistan’, ‘tabdeeli’, ‘accountability’, his autobiography offers some tangible answers. Published in 2011, Khan writes in a heartfelt manner about his journey with the Pakistani identity and how the social construction of this identity has been shaky and plagued with imprints of western superiority due to imperialism. For a Pakistani, it has bred on a deeply ingrained inferiority complex systematically imparted by our then colonial masters that has been transferring through generations.  At the very outset, Khan’s case for a ‘Naya Pakistan’ rests on the revival of our sense of national identity and self esteem which from his own account is inextricably linked to our religion, indigenous culture and traditions.

Colonialism was calculated. It was targeted. It was measured. It aimed to subjugate the governed by eroding their pride, their sense of identity and self worth. This could best be achieved by targeting their culture. As Khan rightly notes, ‘Waiters and attendants were made to wear the clothes of Mughal army officers and the Mughal aristocracy, while the officers of the symbols of British power, the army, the police and the civil service, wore the dress of the colonials’.

In his victory speech after the 2018 elections, Khan spoke about the evident change that would be visible in the first one hundred days. Fast forward one hundred days, has he kept on to his promise?  This article will focus on PTI’s performance for the revival and preservation of the Pakistani culture in Punjab. In this regard, PTI’s key areas have been legislative and policy interventions, development schemes and various performance and activities that have been held in Punjab in these one hundred days.

The legislative and policy interventions include the Punjab Culture Policy 2018, Press Laws and the Advertisement Policy 2018. The Punjab Culture Policy 2018 has in its aim to build collective identity and social cohesion, to provide a counter-narrative against rising intolerance and violence and to attract economic investment. The government plans to achieve this through strengthening institutional frameworks and governance structure with provision of resources to support the growth and promotion of the culture sector in Punjab. To regulate publications of various natures and printing press, a bill titled, “Press, Newspaper, News Agencies and Books Registration Act 2018’ has also been prepared. Further, a revised Advertisement Policy 2018 has been proposed as the existing advertisement policy was silent on the precise definition and categorization of national and regional newspapers and devoid of mechanism to cater online and social media. The pre-qualification mechanism will now be available to the advertising agencies/media houses.

In furtherance of the Punjab Cultural Policy, there have been certain development schemes including the establishment of Al-Hamra School of Performing Arts by The Lahore Council where a four year bachelor’s degree program in performing arts is also going to be introduced. The Bhakkar Arts Council is being established by constructing a purpose built auditorium. It will organize art festivals, exhibitions and facilitate professional development services to existing art organizations. Further, an upgradation plan for the improvement of the Open Air Theatre, Bagh-e-Jinnah and Lahore Museum in line with international standards has been prepared.

Notwithstanding the above milestones, PTI’s performance could have been greatly bolstered by the political acumen of Jahangir Khan Tareen during this time, who was a driving force behind much of PTI’s ideology and where it stands today. He had formulated policy papers regarding health, education, energy and local government and considerable gains could have been made from his contribution in shaping the government’s current policy and future direction. Therefore, his disqualification from holding office, not owing to money laundering but due to unintentional omissions and minor technical interpretations resulted in an irreparable loss to the work force of PTI, and ultimately to Khan’s vision of ‘Naya Pakistan’.

In a terror struck society where a sense of cultural identity has been restricted to elaborate wedding festivities alone, the aforementioned initiatives taken by PTI within these hundred days gives some sense of direction as to where PTI is headed to inculcate a sense of national identity and cohesion via cultural tools. Steps such as the establishment of the Bhakkar Arts Council appear to provide space for both inclusivity and diversity within the Punjabi culture thereby providing means for social and cultural integration.  Where our claim to fame in front of the international audience has traditionally always been cricket and the strength of our armed forces, a strong identification with our cultural roots can greatly help in re-inventing the Pakistani identity which the PTI has shown to have on its core agenda till now.