Imran Khan was seen stepping up his political campaign during the year. His 24-hour visit to Toronto got him incredible coverage in the Canadian media where he headlined as the potential, future leader of Pakistan. The turnout of his fans (from cricketing days, obviously) was so overwhelming that some media outlets even confused him for a rock star!
Of course, his old love for Taliban came up in many interviews, but it must be said that he has effectively learned to deflect media gunfire and, when talking in public, he is no more the proverbial bull in a china shop. He did, however, create a bit of a sensation when he was escorted off an American Airlines flight to the US by border officials for questioning allegedly because of “his views on the US administration’s use of drone warfare”. That kind of publicity never harmed an aspiring Pakistani leader and Imran got the front covers for another day.
Whether it was politically a better year for him, one can’t say as his public spat with Shireen Mazari took up much gossip space on the internet and the media. The Toronto visit, however, can be said to have given a momentum to his campaign, at least internationally. Though criticised as a Taliban apologist, the headline given by Canada’s foremost national newspaper must have pleased his publicity staff – ‘Hero’s welcome greets the lion of Lahore’, wrote Toronto Star. And Imran played it well. Speaking on the well-rehearsed issue of drone warfare, the overtone was obvious – that he is the best solution for suffering Pakistanis and their disillusionment with the ruling government.
Following the successful exposure in Toronto, his official ‘mass public contact campaign’ kicked off in December from Gujranwala, and he is now aggressively lobbying with the lawyers and women forums. How far this erstwhile Casanova will go cannot be gauged, but this ‘Hero from Pakistan’ sure does wear his 60 years well which was clear in all the pictures across Canadian newspapers.