The recent election victory of Imran Khan in Pakistan opens the door for myriad possibilities, as the Revd Evelyn R Bhajan, explores.
Pakistan has been the focus of global attention in the last few days, as everyone waited expectantly for the 2018 election results. In a masterstroke, Imran Khan and his party Tehrik-e-Insaaf have emerged successful, obtaining 116 seats in the National Assembly. Despite trials and opposition, and after a long haul of 22 years, Khan’s vision of creating a “Naya [new] Pakistan” seems a possibility. While his victory has raised all sorts of questions, and there is talk of lack of equality and forming a coalition government, he is well on his way to Islamabad. This is another first, and indeed a historic moment for Pakistan, where a cricketer turned politician will be the next Prime Minister.
In his victory speech to the nation, Khan clearly described that he drew his inspiration from the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and envisioned a Pakistan modelled after the city of Medina, where for the first time, humanitarianism formed the basis of a state. Khan aims to build a Pakistan where responsibility and accountability go hand in hand with privilege, all Pakistani citizens receive equal rights and the dignity of the underprivileged is reinstated. I believe these are all noble aspirations, and as a Pakistani Christian woman, I look forward to that day. Yet the million-dollar question is can Pakistan really become a welfare state and can Khan be the revolutionary leader who brings about this transformation?
Pakistan faces several challenges and conflicts on the national and local levels. There is the issue of international borders and Pakistan’s relation with Iran, Afghanistan and India. Still reeling from the effects of British colonialism even after seventy-one years of independence, it continues to face neo-colonialism combined with structures that benefit a few feudal and capitalist elites. While Muslims constitute the majority, adherents of other religions form three percent of the total population. Yet, not only has the Pakistani national identity been politicised and defined by Islam, but there is growing religious militancy. Moreover, misuse of the blasphemy law and unchecked vigilantism further challenge social cohesion. In the midst of these conflicts and a rhetoric of hate, violence and division, how does one even begin to talk about “tabdeeli” (change)?
If the Charter of Medina, which served as an example of non-violent conflict resolution, is to be taken as a guide, two of its key characteristics require serious consideration. Firstly, the role of Muhammad as mediator. Regarded and respected as “Sadiq” and “Amin” by friends and foes alike, he was instrumental in establishing peace among the warring factions. Secondly, war was denounced and respect and acceptance led to the formation of a pluralistic society.
The previous governments have repeatedly broken the trust of all Pakistani citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Therefore, Khan who campaigned against corruption and dynastic politics, now has the immense responsibility of winning their trust back. This can only be done by maintaining integrity and transparency in all interactions and dialogues. In terms of promoting a culture of peace it is imperative that the divisive issues and their underlying root causes are re-examined, a healthy dialogue is initiated between all the stakeholders involved in the conflicts, and ultimately, the rule of law is upheld to combat all forms of violence.
Good governance is important, but it need not stop there. In voting for Khan, Pakistanis have also rejected power politics and dishonesty. Therefore, it is now a shared responsibility of every Pakistani citizen to live up to the challenge. Revolution doesn’t happen overnight, but once the seeds of change are sown, it cannot be stopped either. Let us all hope for and work towards a new and better Pakistan!