Talking about Imran again

Published in Daly Times on May 11th 2014

In 2011, I penned a column in this paper on Imran Khan: ‘Imran Khan: why I’m a believer’ (Daily Times, November 1, 2011), linking him to the greats like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Iqbal for giving us then what seemed like hope. Digital technology has made a tomb of that tribute.

Three reasons were what I provided for looking to this man as a saviour: first, he brought with him unfettered credibility, which was directly linked to our foreign direct investment (FDI), our reserves and our economic health. Innumerable transactions flowing to Pakistan’s greenfield projects were stopped in their tracks when corruption and facilitation fee was totalled at the end; with him at the top we would have none of that, I had professed.

Second, he had effectively found the balance that Islam needed to have in our politics. Having captured the youth’s promise in the October rally of the same year, he had provided what seemed then to be the modern alternative to the extreme jihadist narrative and projected a more modern leadership that could lead this Muslim majority nation to meet the world somewhere in the future.

And, finally, if the first two did not sound farfetched enough, I had gone on to add that he had a humanitarian agenda in his reform quest. I, of course, was moved by a quantum because he mentioned and discussed the plight of household servants in his momentous Lahore rally where I was a flag-waving participant that very year. This mention had brought with it not just the promise of better rights for domestic servants but also that of a stand against other elitist agendas that systemically marginalised this class and pushed them against the wall.

Let us slice this column to the present moment using a director’s cut and realise that, first, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf-led government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is marred by corruption charges; second, that there is no balance in the religio-political discourse — instead there has been frankly an extremely dangerous narrative in the attempt to project those who have associated violence and violence alone with the peaceful message of Islam as our ‘brothers’ — and thirdly, to my knowledge, nothing to my knowledge has been done to aid the marginalised working class.

Also, now as this column is run, we have another Imran Khan-led rally that promises to choke the city’s main artery on Jinnah Avenue. This one is not promising; it is perplexing for many reasons, but the greatest one is that it has an anti-media agenda. This is the antithesis of anything progressive and forward looking. No progress will ever be made trying to bring down media houses that allegedly did the party a personal wrong. Other reasons are because agitation politics is the last thing this country needs as it crawls its way out of a first transition in its history from a democracy to a democracy.

Confusing it is also because this apparent protest is against the voting process of the elections that brought him to power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It makes no sense why this is happening a year later and why, also, he is in power while he is protesting. Tragic it is because there is a significant lack of direction in the entire protest. Again, the last thing this country needs as it tries to fight a formidable terrorist force is to be spun around. Where is the national, humanitarian agenda in that? Above all, this protest itself is a mounting threat to the state because of the security concerns that the city is unable to face as was apparent with Sikander’s episode on the same avenue: that was just one man with two hands and a weapon.

There is no arguing with the fact that elections have to be free and fair. With international observers giving a clear verdict that, by and large, our elections were free and fair, this street theatre is really not the best way to go about improving things. Also, would parliament not be the best place to start? In the meantime, if some tech whiz figures out how to help me erase my words of 2011 from the internet on ‘why I am a believer’, please let me know. I am having great trouble eating them.

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