That Aleem Khan is controversial – under shadow of corruption allegations, NAB settlements in his past – is not disputable, which makes him less than ideal for PTI to put forward as a candidate. Particularly in a seat that IK contested from & that symbolizes and has come to stand for a struggle against the corruption that permeates politics in our country.
Where impunity is strengthened by the “nothing has been proven” argument, despite corruption being widely reported & known. Where technical & procedural intricacies of the law magically transform corruption into “irregularity” and the biggest criminals laugh all the way to the bank.
Especially after a victory, of sorts, that has helped PTI recover ground lost after the judicial commission’s report.
On the flip side, there is the argument that if there was merit in the allegations against him, the Sharif regimes in Lahore and Islamabad would have come down on Aleem Khan like a ton of bricks. Add that to his commitment to the party, the resources he would bring to an important campaign and the support he has from within the leadership, and you can understand why IK picked him. For all the right practical reasons.
Let’s play this out. The election takes place, Aleem Khan fights a vigorous campaign and wins. The narrative will be about PTI being no different from all the others in the Power Bazaar status quo. If he loses, critics will say the choice of candidate was a sell-out that voters rejected. It’s a lose-lose for PTI.
What if IK picked another candidate? Someone more grass-roots, perhaps, or someone who wasn’t your typical political power-player. A young professional, say, or a poet or professor, a housewife, or even a small businessman or farmer. Someone who represented “tabdeeli”, who was clearly anti status quo.
If the candidate won, it would be huge! A clear win for “change” that would breathe new life into the movement. A clear message to the status quo, that they are history. On the other hand, if he or she lost, PTI would have the moral high ground of having stuck to its principles. Even his worst critics would be forced to give IK the credit for not caving to big money and influence. In other words, a win-win.
Let’s face it, PTI’s chances of winning NA-122 with PMLN in control of the entire administrative machinery are slim. Moderate, at best. If the odds are you’re going to lose in any case, why not at least retain the moral high ground?
As it stands, though, Aleem Khan is the candidate. I hope that decision doesn’t become another mistake IK has to look back on to learn from.