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Born-again Imran, five months later


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IN the beginning, he needed 100 days to save Pakistan. Things have moved faster since and an Imran Khan who is striving to sustain himself as the alternative, today vows to end corruption in nine days after coming to power.

In any case this obsession with fixing deadlines is as pronounced in the case of PTI as any other group vowing fast delivery. It would not be out of place to have a quick look at the party and its leader as they complete the first 150 days of their real existence.

It’s been 150 days since the PTI, a small group of apparently well-meaning, but grumpy, even vain, middle-class reformers low on ideology morphed into a popular party. Finally, they found the numbers to effectively launch the party in the vast expanses by the Minar-i-Pakistan on Oct 30, 2011. The standards to measure Imran changed immediately. Tough questions began to be asked.

The party’s activists have grown not only vociferous but, on evidence, they can be provoked into self-righteous bouts with anyone they feel has asked critical questions of their leader. This could be a very Pakistani trait but then within Pakistan comparisons can be made between the PTI Young Turks and the old brand who are at their politest when they are hissing.

PTI supporters’ attacks on critics are vicious. But there are exceptions as there are queries emanating from some of the recent pronouncements about the PTI by those who can read the signs. “Has the tsunami died down?” wondered a PTI office-bearer who came visiting last week.

He typified a new group of politicians who are not quite sure how to interpret which sign how. They are waiting for the election to provide them with an answer, and should be hopeful that the ongoing PTI drive for membership — quite a dangerous exercise — will give them sufficient numbers to flaunt.

The last time the same PTI official found himself defending Imran’s open-door policy that has, post-October, led to the inclusion of the ‘electables’ from any and every background.

This time he was confronted with the opposite argument: why is it that the PML-N is leading the PTI in the count of those who join a party in anticipation of that party’s success in the next election? The PTI official was too polite to point out the clashing logics and did what all political workers here are expected to do in such circumstances: repose faith in the wisdom of his leader.

The debate is not about whether or not you like Imran Khan. One would be inclined to say that Imran ceased to be a leader of promise many years ago. He picked his own allies — Taliban et al — and left out many potential supporters who would have given his party a totally different image than the Jamaat-offshoot look it proudly sports. But that personal aspect has to be discounted in aid of a fair attempt at estimating PTI’s public appeal.

The tsunami intrigues and attracts all kinds of reactions — from a dissection of the cruel use of a destructive storm to describe a popular upsurge to the grand blunders in unification Imran has committed in the first five months of his new life.

Ultimately, all this talk has to be contextualised in the promise of the Oct 30 jalsa in Lahore. And this is where some of the interpretations have to be dug up from underneath the heap of superlatives that were so urgently lavished on Imran then.

The rally led to the proclamations of Imran’s arrival as the third — or the second or the only — option. Amidst all those cries for change, the battle was deemed to have been already won, especially since everyone was so sure the impatient establishment was backing the party.

The PTI ‘supremo’s’ arrogance was forgotten and he was readily hailed as our best bet at finding the middle-class the much-desired middle path to peace and prosperity.

The impression was strong; the strongest element in it was not the people but the belief that Imran was working on a green signal from the masters. It had to be a quick-fix job that didn’t give Imran’s rivals time to react.

Experienced politicians landed on the PTI bandwagon in a pile, a veritable collection that was threatening enough for Imran’s rivals — the PML-N — to do a bit of quick ally hunting, indulge in a few urgent patch-ups and also to launch a few development schemes on the side.

It is this counterpunch that has led some to write off the PTI, in a hurry, unless they have heard Mr Establishment speak about the change in plans. Yet, like it or not, with a disappointing show here and a big rally there, in the public domain, Imran is there to be reckoned with.

Among the good and bad decisions, the reconciliatory tone towards the MQM at his Karachi jalsa a month after Lahore did greatly compromise his reputation as someone who could take on the mightiest without fear.

He was right to not take part in the by-polls since by-polls here are fought under their own rules. He stood little chance against the nominees of the federal and provincial governments using their resources and the loss would have harmed the PTI.

The general election is crucial. Imran must do well on this last chance or take his seat in the annals next to Asghar Khan. But that eventuality is as yet some distance away.

The PML-N factor is important. N-League is certainly doing damage-control exercise in Punjab, but so far as popular perceptions of development accruing out a clash between two parties go, life in the previously monotonous Punjab is richer for the care it has received from its rulers in this run-up to the election and after the emergence of a new challenger for power in Imran Khan.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (28) Closed

Shahzad Apr 03, 2012 12:00pm
One thing is clear that media today is unanimously hell-bent to defame/depress PTI.
Usman Shahid Apr 03, 2012 12:52pm
Biased you are my friend.
Ijlal Apr 03, 2012 01:33pm
Give PTI a break. They may not be the best, at this time we don't need genious, especially not the evil genious (e.g. PPP, PML (N). This time around my vote is my conscious, ready to break the ethinicty rule (a menace that is destroying Pakistan) and cast for PTI. I can not think of a sane reason to for vote Sharif's or Zardari's / Bhutto's.
khalid saeed Apr 03, 2012 01:40pm
Nothing new in the column, rather a wastage of time and resources. The claim that Imran is a boy of mr establishment is not new, but still requires documented verification, that nobody have ever produced yet.
PhD_Norway Apr 03, 2012 02:18pm
keep bashing Imran Khan, in a way you give us a REASON to work MORE for him.
Saud Apr 03, 2012 02:54pm
Nice round up of the situation, told the way it is. I would like to add that the media was also a tool of the establishment in Imran's overnight rise to stardom. Maybe someday you will have the courage to admit that.
Asif Sheikh Apr 03, 2012 03:49pm
Another status quo writer tried to convince educated class (who can read English atleast) to vote for either NS or AZ or JUI (F) or MQM or ANP otherwise this country will have a bleak future if anyone did a mistake of favoring Imran Khan. Please don't tell us what is wrong in PTI but go and look into mirror for your selection of democracy since 1947.
Amer Sheikh Apr 03, 2012 04:25pm
I am tried of people who are still hooting for People party or PML (N). Open you eyes people Pakistan has been destroyed by all of these politicians. They came into power more then once and destroyed the country. Nothing has been done for the country since it came into being. Please people wake up. We need new faces, new people who have not been in politics in the past. We need people who are clean and can deliver on their promises. Imran Khan is the last hope for Pakistan.
awais awan Apr 03, 2012 04:19pm
i completely second ijlal, its true this time around its not about imran khan or PPP or PML-N or any other, its about our country and the future of our next generation, this system or to n fro thing has to be ended and yes we might not be the one's to do it this time or some time sooner but we definitely will be proud of our own selves that at-least we were one of those who thought about this change and voted for it, for the sake of this country.LONG LIVE PAKISTAN.........
Syed H Apr 03, 2012 05:05pm
Syed H Apr 03, 2012 05:08pm
Couldn't agree more.
Shaukat Apr 03, 2012 05:37pm
I will just say two words "Lafafa Journalist"
Ammar KHan Apr 03, 2012 05:47pm
So... Editors should put in more effort in ensuring that facts are not made up. Imran Khan 'vowing to end corruption in nine days?'. Never really happened, because if anything he said he would 'halve' the corruption in nine days.
Saad Durrani Apr 03, 2012 06:08pm
The columnist sounds confused. The whole write-up is confusing. Yes, I do believe that Imran's party is not putting up a show but it certainly does not mean anything. PTI is going through a round of changes and shake-ups.
Shadix Apr 03, 2012 06:14pm
please produce one good reason that I should vote for Zardari or NS!
Agha Ata Apr 03, 2012 07:12pm
The trouble is that everybody tries and has been trying to be a crystal ball. Why can't everybody wait a little longer and see which way the camel sits? Just be prepared for the unexpected
adeel ahmed Apr 03, 2012 07:56pm
Only PTI under microscope. However, its good that people care about PTI and despite their criticism their vote is for PTI. I bet.
Haris Apr 03, 2012 08:50pm
I don't understand why you put so much effort in trying to prove that PTI is not popular, after all its a decision which people will make in general elections. And my decision is that its better to vote for Imran, Javed Hashmi, Mian Azhar than to vote for Zardari, Rehman Malik or the Sharif family. Everyone is free to make his decision.
Hassan Apr 03, 2012 09:08pm
One thing that everybody is forgetting... those good days everybody saw was because of APML... not PTI... which ask to do justice on everything and then joins the same people who are doing injustices on people of Pakistan...
Jawwad Apr 03, 2012 09:14pm
Agree with you. Total rubbish article. Writer is suggesting PPP and PML are better alternatives than PTI. What a farce. Mr. Writer! Our almost entire society is corrupt and does not want change and wants to maintain the status quo. Imran Khan is no extremist. I am myself liberal and belie in the rule of law. The talibans or extremists are to be put on trial and not killed by drones, otherwise what is the difference between them and us. That is all Great Khan is saying. Read his book please!
Suhail Zubaid-Ahmad Apr 03, 2012 09:20pm
Actually, in my humble opinion, corruption can be completed in one day in Pakistan. Make a list of corrupt politicians, top bureaucrats, top bankers, and top military men, plus second and third tier scoundrels and take them to the court. This very act will create terror in the minds of corrupt people. Once some of the people get indicted and sent to prison, this will send the right message to all the corrupt and not so corrupt people to eschew from their nefarious activities. Only an honest leadership and a free judiciary can do this. We already have free judiciary. All we need is PTI in power.
MA Apr 03, 2012 09:38pm
People, please. The politician from PPP and Nawaz group have destroyed this country. I can not understand why some people of Pakistan still can vote for these two parties. I mean, come on. Have you seen what has happened to Pakistan. Please save your country by vote fro anybody else but these mega-rich politicians.
farooq Apr 03, 2012 10:00pm
Article gets confusing trying to cover too many angles. What exactly are you looking to say...!
Usman Apr 04, 2012 12:08am
PTI haters this article is for you!! Mark my words PTI will sweeep because this party belongs to the Youth of PAKISTAN!!!!
nassem Apr 04, 2012 02:00am
The media as usual is highly critical about someone whose hands are clean and love for country unshakable.Unfortunately, they never come out in full force against the real culprits.
Kashif Apr 04, 2012 06:44am
There is no leader but Imran. It is as simple as that.
fahad Apr 05, 2012 12:08am
Imran has definitely become antifragile.....the more imran bashing is done...the more popular he becomes...its becoming counter productive now.
NASAH (USA) Apr 05, 2012 07:55am
"Writer is suggesting PPP and PML are better alternatives than PTI." So far the PPP and the PML ARE the better alternative because they fight elections while PTI sits home. The proof of the pudding is in the eating not in banging the pan. Fight a bye-election and win it against PPP and PML -- and then brag.