LAHORE: The stunning success of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in its electoral debut in Delhi assembly polls has caught the imagination of Pakistanis. Pakistan’s notorious political culture of patronage and kinship from which stem chronic corruption and caste-driven politics has the ordinary citizens yearning for change. The AAP is seen as a potential model, which can be replicated in Pakistan to challenge far more entrenched feudal-elitist politics, dominated by a few families.
“Most people I met in Lahore seemed to be interested to know about AAP’s success and how it managed it within a year,” said Chandigarh-based poet Sehajpreet Singh Mangat, who was here to attend an international peace conference under the banner of the World Punjabi Congress. “The Pakistani middle class in particular is yearning for a similar change.”
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s success as a rare middle class party has been confined to the country’s Urdu-speaking people in Sindh. Further, its use of muscle power and political violence has made it an anathema for many. Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) threatened to challenge traditional politics in the elections this year without much success. Usual pitfalls like election fraud and biradari (caste) politics frustrated the PTI’s attempts to revolutionize the country’s polity.
But now proponents of clean politics in Pakistan hope the AAP model’s success rubs off on this side of the border despite greater odds. “There is light at the end of the tunnel for India’s common man under the AAP. This is food for thought in Pakistan also,” said Karachi-based Rafi Hyder in his letter carried in The Dawn.
Newspapers in Pakistan have written editorials on AAP’s victory and front-paged its significance while influential TV channels have carried special packages besides primetime debates on the fledgling party that has changed the political discourse in India.
The AAP has predictably drawn parallels with the PTI and its focus on corruption. “This (AAP’s success) is not at all dissimilar to what happened in the general elections in Pakistan. Whether or not the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has been able to live up to its promise post-polls, its voter appeal by and large lay in its ability to portray itself as a saviour, above the traditional parties and as a clean alternative,” the Dawn editorialised. “This third-party intervention, in both India and Pakistan, already signifies a change.”
Columnist Farooq Sulehria echoed the Dawn editorial and wrote the two parties are a product of the ‘TV-isation’ of politics. “Both parties have won support from the middle class – always happy to conveniently ‘engage’ through TV,” he wrote in his column in The News.
He found similarities in their ‘neoliberal economic agenda’ as well. “Imran Khan, for instance, has no problem with either privatisation or international financial institutions. Class question, distribution of wealth, power configuration and other such structural issues do not bother the PTI. Likewise, the AAP does not consider neoliberalism any problem.”