There has perhaps been none more suitable claimant to the ‘prime minister-in-waiting’ tag than this 65-year-old aspirant for power, that particular sherwani at the ready.
But then, Imran Khan has also been a man working assiduously to earn this distinction. His influence on the 2018 election, whichever way the contest may swing, cannot be overestimated.
The general poll this time is all about him — and those opposing him in various parts of the country. The post-election period will also feature him and his legacy as one of the most significant forces driving this country forward.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporter in 2018 is excited, assertive, intimidating, in a combative mode, all by design.
The saying goes that this kind of energy is the hallmark of a reformist — if not downright revolutionary — entity which must trample upon the old and the unwanted.
Those who opt for change must consider impatience a virtue, and a few fistfights along the way the smallest price to pay for change.
Come election time, however, their leader must find ways of channeling this simmering ‘ideological’ mass into an efficient electoral vehicle, in the presence of the old ‘electable’ souls he has collected in the party in order to improve its chances to reform the very system they feed.
Imran is the latest in the long line of those willing to commit the crime of perpetuating the system just once. According to his own script, he is going to repent after that and remove all the ills that afflict his country and its people.
The mantra is attractive. Imran is most definitely going to get a whirlwind of votes and may ultimately be able to justify the swagger in his walk and barefoot, baresoul pilgrimages to the land of blessings.
He has a part by him but remains the single biggest reason why there is going to be a contest between him and those who have perfected the habit of ruling this country.
In that way, Imran has already contributed more than was ever expected of him.
Imran has established himself as a man with an untarnished reputation in the eyes of the public, particularly when it comes to financial corruption. In 2014, he led protests in Islamabad for 126 days non-stop against alleged rigging during the 2013 elections and called for Nawaz Sharif to resign. He called the protests off following a terrorist attack targeting schoolchildren in Peshawar’s Army Public School. Later on, when the Panama Papers surfaced, Imran again called for the then premier's resignation.
Imran has consistently opposed US drone strikes and also led a march to South Waziristan in 2012 to protest the attacks.
He has also continually opposed military operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and has instead called for dialogue with militants.
The PTI chairman has shown opposition to foreign aid in the past and has favoured reforming the country’s tax system and abolishing the feudal system.
Often criticised as being ‘politically naïve’ and stubborn, Imran Khan has also been termed as ‘pro-Taliban’. In a recent interview on BBC’s HARDtalk, Khan expressed his admiration for the jirga system prevalent in the tribal areas, and imposed by the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan.
Generally regarded as a ‘clean’ politician, Imran often proclaims to be a firm believer in establishing a merit-based system, upholding rule of law and establishing a system of justice.
The PTI chairman also calls for national unity and abolish the politics of ethnicity.
Khan has also been accused on a few occasions for conspiring with the establishment in order to oust Nawaz Sharif who was elected prime minister following the election in 2013.
However, recently, Imran accused the army of helping the PML-N win the 2013 elections and paving the way for Nawaz Sharif to become prime minister for a third time.