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Why I Khan’t ... just yet

November 16, 2011

There is nothing like success or even the prospects of it, which are now all too visible via the wide grin that Imran Khan has been sporting of late. He’s speaking less of the drone attacks and of engaging the Taliban, his pet plank on which he re-launched his political career after the recovery and killing of Osama bin Laden in May by the US navy SEALS in Abbotabad; there’s less anti-America rhetoric and general bitterness in his speech, and more optimism writ on his face. Optimism to be the third, emerging and growing political force that will challenge corrupt politicians and bring them to justice.

IK’s is no more the face of Pakistan’s anger against itself and the world but one that’s cautiously embracing hope and confidence, as more and more known political figures join the PTI, even if the new entrants are certified turncoats. He can explain it, for he is bothered to step out of the city life and urban myths and take cognisance of Pakistan’s rural political culture where the waderas, the sardars, the Khans and the biradari heads are the real vote-getters. Even the MQM is not his bete noire anymore, and he’s willing to go half way to neutralise that party’s rancour against him.

Exuding new hope and confidence, a darling of the media that he’s always been, IK says he believes that the turncoats who may join his party will be on their way to reforming themselves because he, sitting at the top of party leadership, is not corrupt — as if corruption only trickles down from the top. A lot is being said about IK being the latest blue-eyed boy of the military establishment but much of it is being dismissed by his supporters as propaganda by his opponents who risk losing their votes to the PTI. Such speculation, however, is only half the truth because nothing moves in our politics without a wink from the right quarters.

If IK’s rising public support means that for now the military is at the very best neutral in his regard and would not hamper his campaign, that’s a lot of achievement there already. But the assertion on IK’s part that the military pressures only corrupt politicians is a bit immature, because that institution alone is the biggest stakeholder in a stable Pakistan. The military inc., to borrow from Ayesha Siddiqa, needs political stability more than any other arm of the state to carry out its entrenched non-military — read business — transactions with massive stakes in the economy. That is the real strategic depth that the military establishment has built for itself within our own borders.

Whether the political dispensation that safeguards those interests is truly representative is of little concern to the military establishment. Besides, there’s nothing that IK says in terms of his policy on key issues that can upset the generals; much of what he says is actually music to their ears. His embrace of the post-71 myths of the manufactured and establishment-propagated Pakistan Ideology of a welfare Muslim state is complete and abiding. That this ideology is and shall remain elusive because it’s too utopian an idea, is beyond his grasp. His hawkish line on India, despite the expressed desire to better relations, with conditions attached, just completes the picture.

While IK in his massive Lahore rally for the first time spoke of the alienation of the Baloch people, it’s worth noting that he only mentioned the Baloch after telling the crowd that their province had an immense wealth of natural resources which could help steer Pakistan out of troubled economic waters. A more circumspect politician would have been more discreet by at least distancing the two sentences about the wealth of the Baloch and their political alienation and the need to do something about it.

Instead, what he surmised is as follows: the (minority) Baloch should be brought to the mainstream because of their natural resources which are waiting to be exploited. He had no word of sympathy for the increasing plight and alienation of the other (religious) minorities or women of this country, which together form a majority of the population. Ostensibly because they have no such exploitable resources buried under their feet?

Just like the All India Muslim League in 1947, which had no studied blue print to run a state once it was achieved, IK’s revolution for building a new Pakistan has only rhetorical ground to stand on. His battle cry is, ‘if you want justice, come to Tehrik-i-Insaf; just like the League’s was, ‘if you are Muslim, come to Muslim League’. And like the League, IK’s sense of rights and justice is not all inclusive. When he speaks of justice, he’s talking more about bringing the corrupt (politicians alone) to justice rather than upholding justice for all.

This is not the medicine that people like me need to cure, or even manage, their cynicism.

Not just yet.


The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.