As we approach Independence Day, cries of ‘azadi’, ‘revolution’ and ‘naya Pakistan’ are filling the air with greater fervour than ever before.

Clearly, many Pakistanis are fed up of the rotten system we have now and want change. But change to what, exactly? Barack Obama promised change during his election campaign, and look what his supporters got instead: more of the same.

The reality is that breaking with a system that has been in place for a long time requires great political will and lots of pain. When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto launched his campaign in 1970, he had a clear blueprint for his socialist revolution. One may disagree with his programme — and certainly his nationalisation policies were a huge disaster — but he made his goal very clear.

If Imran were to replace the PM, how would he eradicate graft?
Similarly, the extremists battling the Pakistani state have provided us with a model of the kind of tribal society they want to impose, inspired by their version of the early Islamic period. Again, one may reject this aspiration, but at least there is no ambiguity about what the Taliban and their offshoots want.

However, there is no such clarity in the message Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri are conveying to their followers. They both want an end to corruption, Nawaz Sharif’s exit, no more power cuts, and jobs for millions of unemployed Pakistanis.

So far, so good. Let’s start with corruption. If, for example, Imran Khan were to replace Nawaz Sharif tomorrow, how would he eradicate graft? I know he promised to do so in 90 days, but over a year has passed since his Tehreek-i-Insaf took over power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and I am unconvinced that he has delivered on his promise.

To cleanse the country of corruption is a challenge of a different magnitude. Irrespective of who is in charge, it will be the same bureaucratic machinery that will continue running the country. Battalions of honest, efficient babus and cops are not about to parachute into Pakistan anytime soon.

Over the years, our civil service and our police force have become more dishonest and incompetent. So if you go to the local thanedar or patwari and tell him the Great Khan has said no more kickbacks, I can only wish you good luck.

Next, jobs. During his election campaign, I heard Imran Khan telling a rally he would provide jobs to all of Pakistan’s unemployed youth. Considering that nearly four million young people are joining the employment market every year to add to those already unemployed, I wonder exactly how he’ll do that.

Then there’s the intensifying problem of Pakistan’s electricity shortage. The last government suffered an electoral drubbing for its failure to eliminate, or even reduce, load-shedding. Nawaz Sharif has not done much better.

On more than one occasion, Imran Khan promised to use Pakistan’s rivers to generate power. I wonder if any of his many advisers have informed him about the cost and time necessary to build a dam that would produce a meaningful amount of electricity?

Apart from the years and the billions of dollars needed, both KP and Sindh have made their opposition to damming and diverting rivers for any large hydro-electric project upriver clear. Only Punjab supports it, but then its land would not be inundated, and its canals would not run dry.

One issue hardly discussed in this context is the question of unpaid utility bills. Khawaja Asif, the country’s energy czar, informed us not long ago that 93pc of electricity bills in parts of KP were unpaid, and yet people there were demonstrating against power cuts. If individuals, businesses and government departments don’t pay up, electricity companies will never have enough money to buy oil and gas, invest in the supply network, or build new plants.

So what are the contours of this brave new world being promised by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri? Actually, almost anything would be better than what we have now. When I wrote recently suggesting that Nawaz Sharif ought to be allowed to complete his term as he hadn’t done all that badly, I was rebuked by several readers.

But given the drift and lack of focus this government is exhibiting, I don’t blame people for demanding change, especially when they are suffering in a hot summer, unable to run their electric fans.

However, while Imran Khan’s ‘long march’ (how sick and tired I am of this overworked cliché!) may destabilise this government, I doubt it will suddenly get our electric appliances to work. As we have seen again and again, each dispensation seems worse than the preceding one.

Imran Khan has promised us a blueprint for the future on Aug 14. I wonder what rabbit he will pull out of his hat. But if he really plans to solve the country’s problems in 90 days, as he has promised so many times, he will need a magic wand that doesn’t need to be charged by the national electricity grid.