The question is superfluous. Imran already has. The question is untenable as it implies a sweeping electoral victory to be the ultimate victory. This notion of victory conveniently ignores Imran’s victory in shaping up the groundswell, in unleashing forces that would ultimately drive the electoral change in Pakistan. Imran won the world cup for us, the perfect end of a brilliant career. But before that he had to transform a clutch of talented rebels into a fighting whole. That was perhaps the real victory.
Imran spent the last decade and a half in political wilderness, rudderless as cynics put it. It is not an apt description. Rather he was busy chipping away at the political constructs and idols, challenging our choices and our rationales. He had been busy breathing life into a numb electorate. He was persistent, dogged in his pursuit and setting in motion changes that now threaten to irrevocably change the political landscape of Pakistan. This is victory by all definitions.
We expect a lot of Imran. We expect him to be courting angels, we expect him to be the Houdini who can make all our problems disappear. That he sincerely wishes to meet our lofty expectations is hardly a matter of doubt. Let’s love him for his sincerity, a rarity in our leaders. Pakistan at this moment does not magicians or geniuses. Nincompoops neither. It needs will and sincere intent. It needs a leader who can command respect and belief and Imran’s greatest strength is the trust he inspires in his supporters. From the world cup to the cancer hospital, his odyssey has been a study in persistence and single minded devotion to his dreams. That God also went out of his way to bring him luck only added to Imran’s charisma. He is often sniggered at for being inept in the art of Pakistani politics. This is ironic as Pakistani politics more than anything else mirror incompetence, duplicity and greed. That Imran is not from the same stock, his so called ineptness in Pakistani politics is refreshingly comforting.
Imran’s kiss of life to a dead middle class is perhaps the most significant change he has wrought. The rallies in both Karachi and Lahore were attended by professionals, women and children who came driven by their love for and belief in Imran. Pakistan demographics paint a very youthful picture. More than half of our population is between 15 and 40 and utterly disillusioned with what Pakistan is. The remaining half, the better half especially in urban areas is already in love with Imran. Women, girls interviewed in the PTI rallies in Karachi and Lahore were effusive in their unequivocal allegiance to the new political force.
I was there at the 23rd March rally in Lahore. My first ever and there were many others like me who got baptized to the excitement infecting the youth. It was a spellbinding experience to see so many waving, chanting in unison for a better Pakistan. For few hours, we lived, breathed in that better Pakistan of our dreams. So vivid was his conviction, so lucid were his promises. As wind and rain lashed our faces, as the sky roared and winked, we stood rooted to the ground imbibing the excitement, the hope, the pleasure of being part of something monumental.
Pakistan is in the midst of an epoch tug-of-war. Extremists, liberals, moderates all thrown in together in the boiling cauldron that our society is. It is a frightening milieu and the rot is deep and widespread. But there are signs of convalescence. Imran is one of them. No less significant are an active Judiciary, curious Media and a middle class shaking off political slumber. I foresee a bumpy journey ahead and yes, chaos too will hitch a ride. But I am hopeful. Pakistan has begun to change.