‘It always seems impossible until it’s done’ (quote by Nelson Mandela)
Be contemptuous, apathetic or zealous about Imran Khan– chances are, you have been impressed by his recent presence on the Pakistani political scene.
What’s going on?
Something is definitely stirring.
Khan has always possessed the savoir-faire to use the media effectively, but since his rally in Lahore, he has inundated the media. Not wanting to be a political romantic fool I took a step back to assess my emotive state to understand whether there were real grounds for my jubilant reaction.
PTI’s untested leader
Khan has not been tested as a leader of Pakistan – precisely because he hasn’t had the opportunity yet.
But if Imran Khan is untested, does logic dictate that we continue to work with those who have been tested (repeatedly) and failed (by miles)? Pakistan as a nation has been flung back and forth akin to a ball in a dodge ball game between two elitist factions – with the Army in the middle seizing the ball ever so often to exhibit its supremacy. The citizens in the bleachers have passively watched on without cheering.
A government’s legitimacy is rooted in its ability to deliver goods and services to the people it represents. On this front, the usual players have failed to deliver every time.
Without being in power, Khan has already delivered an impressive array of welfare services to the common man and been essentially ‘tested’.
The entire nation witnessed Khan’s efforts to realise the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. Let us recall the enormity of the task that Pakistanis accomplished as a team under the leadership of Khan as a philanthropist.
Khan had a grand vision. He mobilised Pakistanis to complete an ambitious project demonstrating exemplary leadership and determination. The Namal Education Foundation is another example. These accomplishments alone place him ahead of politicians who have delivered zilch evidence of their willingness or capability to serve a nation. We can hardly expect them to lead Pakistan out of its most challenging time in history.
Imran Khan– everything but a politician
Pakistan has no dearth of politicians. The need of this distressed hour is not another politician, but a leader who is cognizant of the most pressing issues today.
Pakistan is desperate, even for a miniscule crack, in the window of opportunity to commence the process of change. The resilience and tenacity, which Khan possesses, is a prerequisite to swim against the intimidating tide of the Pakistani status quo. Imran Khan can lead that transformation, even if it’s sluggish and imperfect.
PTI has no coherent policies and is a one man show
Imran Khan is undoubtedly the face of PTI – just as he was the face of the Shaukat Khanum project or our cricket team in its glory days. We are familiar with the faces of the existing political parties – but that is hardly attributable to their commendable ideas or capability. It is merely a result of their use of dynasty-based political control and a cunning ability to return to frontline politics through manipulation of the feudal system.
While championing anti-corruption, Khan has scoped out salient issues, which plague the country.
He understands the urgency to alleviate the grievances of the alienated people of Baluchistan through local economic development.
He recognises how US drone strikes are causing deep grievances amongst the armed people of the tribal regions which can increase recruitment of locals into terrorist organisations.
He recognises the need to strike a balance of power through deeper ties with neighbours rather than relying on a sole alliance across the globe. A closer relationship with China will boost investment and allow us to adopt best practises to alleviate poverty and corruption.
His anti-corruption campaign prioritises the need to build a tax system, which will collect tax from more than the meagre 2% of Pakistanis who currently pay taxes.
Give us the specifics
Khan’s weakness, however, lies in his lack of articulation on the specifics of how to achieve these outcomes.
For example, Khan needs to a realist and recognise that Pakistan must develop a practicable relationship with the hegemon of the world. Pakistan’s problem of delinquent militants is real. There is merit in his stance to cease-fire as there is likely to be some preferred option for all parties, which is favourable over conflict. This can only be identified through political bargaining.
The question, which remains unanswered, is how will Pakistan align its interests with those of the other parties. Khan has often been heard about his plans to bring peace to the country ‘within 90 days’. How exactly will this be achieved lacks clarity.
So what are his chances?
Can the masses Khan galvanized in Lahore actually translate into votes in the next elections?
A poll conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center in June found Khan to be the most popular political figure in the country. China recently invited Khan to discuss investment and trade opportunities. The military is thought to have backed Khan to be the next president of Pakistan.
According to ILO, 18 to 30 year olds make up 25% of the population, which is promising considering Khan’s appeal with the youth of Pakistan.
At the very least, Imran Khan deserves full acknowledgment for being relentless and for stirring a nation full of passive spectators.
His followers are cautiously optimistic.