Standing in the center of Manto Park, looking at all the excitement around me among the kids, the youth, elders, the females and males alike and the sea of red-green flags in full mast, observing the desperately-waiting crowd of more than one hundred thousand and the flying cameramen who were confusing the political gathering with some film-making set, the media persons standing upright straight for last four hours or so and continuously taking photographs of enchanting and enthusiastic “tigers”, probably that’s what they call themselves, and when he came on the dice, atmosphere became even more electrifying, his each and every word was cheered at by the gathering with a never-ending series of slogans, claps and flag-waiving, I started to wonder what an all-round personality Khan truly is.
I mean, pause for a moment here and take a look at his past. In cricket, he was a world-class player in all the three areas of game along with captaincy. He established himself as one of the best all-rounders ever in cricket history with a never-broken-so-far record to his name- lowest average for a bowler in Test History in a calendar year with 50 or more wickets. Khan after Ian Botham has the record of reaching 3000 runs and 300 wickets in least Tests and has the second-highest batting average in Tests playing at Number 6. No doubt, Khan was a tremendous cricketer with all those skipper’s skills that led an under-dog team to a world title.
In London Clubs, Khan had an image of himself established as a playboy, which he although has repeatedly denied and maintains that he remained distant from alcohol and activities not suitable to a Muslim. Well, no one can escape or avoid the charisma of Khan’s persona which is one of the reasons that paved way to establish Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital through fund-raising he did across the globe. On this field, he came up with a strategy so far unmatched in Pakistan. Although PML N alleged that hospital funds were misused for years but within a week or so, the hospital administration came up with clean hands.
Khan started his political career in 1996 and formed a new party by the name of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan’s Justice Movement). In politics however, Khan couldn’t establish himself as a serious contender for quite a long period that stretches over almost 14 years. PTI couldn’t win even a single seat in 1997 elections and in 2002 elections, it could grasp the sole seat of its chairman Imran Khan from Mianwali. The party boycotted the elections in 2008 and was often termed as “Tonga” party by its adversaries. However, over the recent past, the scenario changed dramatically and PTI has emerged as game-changer and Khan as the most popular leader among masses as suggested by independent surveys and polls. Khan has been able to attract massive crowds to his political show-offs, which is once again unmatched to any other political leader at the moment.
Khuda ny Insan k Hath m do chezain di hain, aik niyat aur dusri Koshish… Kamyabi WO deta hai….
On the same footing, Imran has a sounding effect on the ratings of a TV talk-show he is invited to. His presence in the show gives a NOS to the show’s rating due to his charisma, apparently arguments-based conversation, his unique speaking style and the recent upheaval in his political popularity. On this point, he is far ahead of all the major politicians of the country but of course after Faisal Raza Abadi, Firdous Ashiq Awan, etc.
Yet another unique and unprecedented step Khan has taken is the initiative for the intra-party elections. In this part of the world, which is dominated by dynastic politics, the promise of holding elections within the party and then fulfilling it is nothing less than a revolutionary step. That urges me to write a proverb I learnt during my childhood days- Charity begins at home.
But now let’s see the other side of the story. Khan is heavily criticized by his opponents on various grounds especially on his inaction over his own sayings, that is to say, the disparity between his words and actions. It seems exaggerated but Khan’s opponents have termed him as the Master of U-Turn. Khan’s political views and his directions remained vague for good part of his political career, however it seems that he has now decided to start unveiling them with the passage of time.
A healthy and well-founded criticism on Khan is that he promises to eradicate corruption and bring a new set of “clean” politicians while with the rise of his popularity, time witnessed a torrent of corrupt politicians (not proven although, at least they were corrupt in the words of Khan himself) and supporters of Musharraf’s regime into his party. Khan in reply says that you cannot stop anybody from joining a political party and Allah can show guidance to anybody at any time. And I agree with him. But I have serious concerns over the fact that with the inclusion of new big names, the old loyalists of the party were sidelined. Moreover, yes, you cannot stop anybody from joining you, but then I have a question. How come a person changed so much whom you couldn’t consider of appointing a peon, that you have yourself formed alliance with his single-seat party.
There are also serious questions over the PTI as a party. Political observers believe it’s the flamboyant and attractive personality of Imran that draws millions of Youth into rallies like Pied Pieper drew the child of Hamelin. Place Khan for a moment out of PTI for any reasons, will the youth be coming with same zeal and eagerness and in same numbers for Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Javed Hashmi…? PTI is more like Pakistan Tehreek-e-Imran rather than Insaf.
I have heard Khan on scores of occasions live and hundreds of time on-screen. In most of his speeches, he goes on with the same things- Shaukat Khanum, Namal University, Cricket World Cup and his cricketing terms. The point is not to criticize these achievements which are of course much greater to be even questioned about, but running the country is a different and a much more complex matter. You can’t oversimplify the stuff by saying that I would eradicate corruption in 19 days and terrorism in 90 days. Any average person can say such things but what we expect from you is more like a real designed plan and strategy to assert your claims.
Another criticism on the surge of popularity he and his party received following Lahore and Karachi Jalsa is the alleged support given to PTI by the hidden hands of Intelligence Agencies. However, he bounces back with a convincing reply at Aiwan-e-Iqbal, Lahore, “If it is proved that I have taken a single rupee from any agency, I would quit politics forever”. Just for comment’s sake, he was very careful in choosing his words; if it is proved that… Just as a matter of comment, nothing serious on this point. Khan in many interviews and speeches has repeatedly given the example of Turkish Lira (currency) and Turkey’s progress. He reiterates that a decade before 15 Lac
Turkish Lira had been equal to 1 dollar. But then an honest leader came and now, 1.5 Turkish Lira is equal to 1 dollar. I don’t have much objection over the inexact values of exchange rates. But my serious objection is over the active concealment Khan makes on this point. He does not reveal that Turkish Parliament passed a law in 2003 which removed 6 zeroes from its original currency. Thus what was once 15 lac lira automatically became 1.5 lira. It was implemented on January 1, 2005 and today, one dollar makes 1.81 Turkish Liras.
Well, one thing is certain, when you are talking about Khan, you need to have a large deposit of words and time because I feel, a lot of the subject is yet to be covered. Political observers believe that Khan has a vote bank much lesser than his apparent popularity but whatever they believe and whatever Khan’s opponents say about him, he has emerged on the popular political scenario of country with a much better policy than all the other big players, and due to Khan, many big names cannot sleep 24/7. Once the chairman of “Tonga” party in his opponent’s words, IK is the most popular leader of the country today. Finally, let alone the mistakes or errors committed by him, since to err is human, it looks, while he talks about a new Pakistan, that the voice is coming right from the inside of his heart with real passion, sincerity and goodwill it carries with.