As a nation we may cry for change but looking at our behaviour, we don’t really seem to actually want it. We are so deeply embedded in our comfort zone ruled by dynasties and corrupt politicians that when someone different comes along, we can’t wait to mock them on our Facebook statuses and pinpoint the first thing we see wrong in them.
Those topping the Imran Khan hate-list couldn’t stop typing their sarcasm last night about how he held a concert at his Lahore rally. Yeah. He did. Altaf does it. Shahbaz does it. Zardari may hope to one day do it but none of them have so far managed to get crowds singing with them. Imran Khan did – and not while he blared his version of Jalib or a parody of Parday may rehnay do… instead he managed to get onboard people who can actually help him create some kind of unity amongst the crowds – how can that go against him?
How do you even ridicule such an energetic crowd of thousands when compared to the bored and jaded crowd sitting at other political rallies clutching photographs of leaders who aren’t even in front of them?
Imran Khan did not indulge in the usual blame-game we are normally spectators to when it comes to political rallies. Do we really enjoy the tradition of dwelling over the past and discrediting opponents so much that we can’t take a minute to enjoy the fact that for a change we didn’t have to listen to a lecture about who all were responsible for Pakistan’s failures?
So his charisma and cricket career adds to his appeal – good for him. Would we prefer if he had a criminal past or was a part of the feudal elite? For once, we have someone who is not relying on his family lineage or taking pride in the fact that he spent an X number of years in prison. It may not be enough to make him a great candidate for premiership but it is enough for some to be proud of him – let those people have this moment.
The minorities and women also have a right to welcome this moment as Khan promised to protect their rights, which is as crucial as the other point he mentioned: Balochistan. Bringing Balochistan into mainstream politics may not be the easiest task he takes up, but given he gets the chance to do that and then succeed – well that’s what you call a victory.
His policies may be all over the place… or not even in place yet but Imran Khan has managed to do something none of the other leaders have so far – wake people up. Forget the rural voters who are promised a plate of biryani for their vote. I am talking about people such as your siblings, your neighbours and co-workers. He has managed to wake them up, register themselves and get excited to vote for the very first time. How far Imran Khan manages to go, who knows, but making even quarter of this nation optimistic about the future is a very big achievement already.
More than ever before, we see parallels being drawn here with what Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto created decades ago. The dreams, the hopes and the energy. The youth that Imran Khan has woken up may be as naïve as the rural men who ZAB had woken up once but then again dreamers are always naïve.
Where Imran Khan must differ from ZAB is by learning how to accommodate and facilitate a difference of opinions. He must realise that India is not the enemy and living by the hate rhetoric will not get us very far.
Speaking very clearly on foreign policy, Khan stated that his party does indeed want relations and friendship with the US – BUT, on the basis of equality. He doesn’t want to be America’s puppet – how is that a bad thing? We won’t get dollars, true, but we may manage to get some respect. He doesn’t want to fight America’s war – what’s wrong with that? Last time I checked, we were pretty desperate to claim our sovereignty, which is impossible when our government itself allows the US to drop its missiles inside our territory. But then if that doesn’t happen – who will fight the monsters we created that are blowing people up? Imran Khan thinks dialogue is the solution – so you don’t agree, sure. But it’s not as if military action has so far achieved too many results either – if anything some claim that it is breeding terrorism – but then again, everyone has an expert opinion these days on how to get rid of militancy, if anything Khan is entitled to his – especially when he has the courage to say all this without an entourage of feudal guards around him or a bullet-proof podium to protect him.
The writer is the Deputy Editor at Dawn.com
Shyema Sajjad is a former Dawn staffer.
She tweets @ShyemaSajjad
The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.