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‘I’ and JI: Imran’s rally, his allies

March 27, 2013

THOSE looking for a party to end the individuals’ hold on Pakistan politics must have been disappointed by Imran Khan’s address to a big rally in Lahore on March 23. And those who had seen in him the promise of an independent, refreshing (even progressive) thrust for change are not too pleased with his closeness with the Jamaat-i-Islami.

No, Imran Khan at the Minar last Saturday was no carbon copy of the cricket captain who spoke at Melbourne on March 25, 1992; it couldn’t have been so, given the change in scope. Then, while lifting the World Cup, he had allowed his person and his personal cause to hog the limelight, at the cost of his team. Now, as the leader of a party with a much bigger task ahead, there was still just too much of ‘I’ in his speech. This was a long introduction to Imran Khan to those who needed no introduction to his religious views and his honesty, to those who instead needed him to spell out his plans for the future; his party’s manifesto.

If it was the rain which prevented Imran Khan from divulging his political plan at the rally, at least some part of his poll strategy was revealed after his meeting the following day with the JI chief, Syed Munawar Hasan. Not everyone was pleased to know that, after its shows of strength, the PTI still has to talk seat adjustments with the JI.

Mr Khan has been close to the JI, but even with all the emphasis on religion in his discourse, the move to ally himself with the Jamaat is difficult to understand in political terms. Imran Khan’s distinction lies in him being free from past afflictions. A partnership with a party that has been pretty much part of the system, even if it is one that is ideologically compatible with PTI, could detract from this appeal. It could help the JI get some of its candidates elected but could also cost the PTI some potential voters.