By Mehr F. Husain
16 January 2015
The gruesome Peshawar incident brought Imran Khan's Dharna to an abrupt end, but it brought out the leadership that was much needed.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the leader that the country craved for and began to seek in General Sharif, finally emerged in Prime Minister Sharif, as he spoke in Parliament issuing statements and detailing the national action plan.
Could it be that Nawaz Sharif has finally learned that his policies of keeping the military at bay, ignoring the public as well as the Opposition and trying to bulldoze his way via infrastructure haven't been constructive? It seems so.
Unlike political parties, the military is the only entity who can command complete public support, especially at the current time.
The PML N is criticised for botching up the talks and the PTI is criticised for focusing more on electoral results rather than the KPK province.
With the war raging on civilians, the Government is more than aware of the fact that turning against the military will mean losing public support which could possibly translate into national anti-Government sentiment.
So if the military is successful in physically cleaning out North Waziristan, then Pakistan might as well let justice take its course too, so that the anti-war lobby and human rights activists are also satisfied.
But it is justice as determined by the military. Not the most ideal form of a judiciary, but harsh times demand harsh action and more importantly, PM Sharif knows how pushy the military can be.
Besides, if military courts are set up, hangings are ordered and that provides some form of relief to the people.
Timing is crucial and for that one needs to act accordingly.
Appreciating the power of the public support with the media boom was a crucial lesson for all political entities during the lawyers' movement in 2007.
Prior to that incident, it was the PPP who was known for their pulling power and massive rallies.
The fact that a civilian based movement could have the power to not just reinstate a sacked Chief Justice but also oust a dictator injected a new surge of energy and PM Sharif did well to capitalise on that by siding with the sacked CJ and protesting on the street.
Even more importantly, it illustrated the difference between pulling power and pushing power.
Imran Khan has pulling power. Despite his lacklustre political career, pre the 2013 elections there was no denying the fact that his campaign looked promising — the turnout consisted of those who had probably never cast a vote and even more importantly, in this digital age, Khan and his PTI followers dominated social media.
He literally changed the culture of campaign by injecting it with the use of pop music and even Qawwals, all the while capitalising on his cricket background by peppering his criticism of the opposition, namely PM Sharif, with cricketing analogies.
But while the man himself who promised and still promises change, exhibits the charisma and style causing young men and women to swoon to the point of changing ideologies, the Dharnas he conducted from August till December indicates he does not have the power to push for change that he so obviously craves.
Having said that the electrifying atmosphere pre and during the elections, the turnout and the reduced political apathy amongst the youth are all positive developments that Imran Khan must be credited with.
Having already been ousted from government and the country before, PM Sharif is more than aware of the dangers of being pushed and is keen on staying in power even if he himself does not hold any power.
In order to do so he has had to concede important political ground to the military and make decisions that may be unpopular amongst political opponents and intellectuals.
As for Imran Khan, he may well be a mere annoyance in the grand scheme of things but his pulling power cannot be ignored which is why the recount is necessary.
He has public support, even if it is from a marginal section of society. Of course, the fact that a PM with a majority in Parliament has to give in to opposing forces makes the current Government look politically weak but then again, this is a country which has historically had problems with stability and democracy.
If this Government can achieve some success in the war against terrorism and ensure cleaner elections for the future, the concession to the military and respecting Khan's demands is far better than doing nothing at all.
Mehr F. Husain is a columnist based in Lahore