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Imran Khan: Change Has Taken Place

By Dr Shabir Choudhry

29 December, 2011

Imran Khan is admired by millions in Pakistan and around the globe because of his cricket talent and charm. He is the man who won Pakistan first ever Cricket World Cup, built first cancer hospital in name of his deceased mother; and achieved other goals in welfare work.

As a cricketer, a fund raiser and a social worker he was very successful. He then decided to become a politician that he can change plight of people by eradicating political ills of Pakistan; but he soon realised that politics was different to managing 10 cricket players in the field.

Despite his charisma and much propagated image of being honest and man of principle he badly failed to make a mark on politics of Pakistan. People liked his ideas and admired his struggle, but did not vote for him. Apart from that he showed his immaturity in field of politics by sometimes supporting wrong people in hope of getting appropriate rewards; or by taking on big players in politics and then abandoning his fight against them, as he did with Altaf Hussain.

Imran Khan was also known for his principled stand in matters of cricket, for example no allegation of match fixing. Also up till recently, he was hailed as a man who does not compromise on principles and who is ‘Mr clean’.

But all this has changed over the past few months; and many people question what kind of politics Imran Khan wishes to promote, as he is apparently making too many compromises. His critics point out that he might not have fixed cricket matches, but he has learnt how to ‘fix a public meeting’; and how to bend his political principles and still claim that he stands for a change.

At one time Imran Khan was deadly against MQM and it leader Altaf Hussain; and held him responsible for nearly all the ills of Karachi. He thundered in various public meetings and press conferences and boasted that he was going to London to present evidence to the British police that they could expel him from London.

MQM and on other hand, also used their power and influence and did not allow him to enter Karachi, a city which people claimed was controlled by the MQM. Now both MQM and Imran Khan’s party are glove and hand; and Imran Khan has managed to hold one of the biggest public meetings in Karachi, a city where he was not allowed to enter. Imran Khan’s critics say this was result of a compromise – ‘fixing of a public meeting’. In return, Imran Khan did not say anything against the MQM.

Altaf Hussain, whom Imran Khan regarded as a political enemy and enemy of peace and stability in Karachi, was the first person to congratulate him on holding a successful public meeting. So one can see a change has already taken place. Mohammad Ali Mahar, in his article, ‘Imran Khan: tsunami or hot air balloon’ published in Daily Times Pakistan on 28 December 2011, wrote: ‘The establishment now needed a new horse to put its saddle on. However, they wanted someone who could take the MQM along, for they did not want to shoot the limping, but still useful, horse as yet’.

Apart from that Imran Khan, despite his hard work and incorruptible image, wandered in political wilderness for the past fifteen years. He held rallies and public meetings on issues that really affected people, but he could not muster more than 4-5 thousands people. Then what happened over the past few months that print and electronic media are presenting Imran Khan as a ‘messiah’?

After the Lahore public meeting, Imran Khan is perceived as a serious contender for power; and impression is being created that the proverbial bird of power - Huma, is going to sit on Imran Khan’s head, hence the race of all opportunists to Imran Khan’s PTI. As noted above, rightly or wrongly, change has taken place; and the following support this view:

>> Imran Khan, like a lion used to roar up and down the country against American policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, for past many months there is a change in his attitude and tone, hence the change – no more rallies against America and no harsh words;

>> He used to speak in support of Taliban and their issues; and now he is tight lipped about that;

>> Also he used to speak about heavy handedness in FATA and Balochistan, and for past some months he is quiet on issues related to these areas as all is rosy there; whereas fact is that situation is getting from bad to worse there;

>> He boasted to promote transparent politics and refused to accept in his party those who had bad or unsatisfactory record; but for past few months, every one is welcome provided they declare their existing assets (no matter how they accumulated those assets) and are in a position to win seats;

>> He claims to end VIP culture, but finds it appropriate to fly in a private plane himself and live in a ‘palace’ in Bani Gala (Islamabad), which occupies many acres of land;

>> In his Karachi public meeting, his old and sincere colleagues from modest backgrounds were sidelined; and visible were those who belonged to established political families and had jumped the bandwagon in the past few weeks;

>> He supported the Musharaf dictatorship, but when he realised that there was nothing there for him, he started opposing him; and vehemently criticised his policies, especially related to America. Despite that he finds it appropriate to welcome Foreign Minister of that era (who must have had considerable role in foreign policy) with open arms;

>> Similarly, Imran Khan strongly criticises Zardari government on corruption and various other issues, including relations with America. Mahmood Shah Qureshi was the Foreign Minister, who must shoulder some responsibilities for policies of that time (he was so close to America and wholeheartedly defended American policies that some in Pakistan questioned if he was a Foreign Minister of America or Pakistan.

>> Imran Khan had no problem in accepting him and hailed his joining PTI as a big wicket. But the question is if Mr Qureshi or others were ‘bad’ in PPP or Q League, then what tonic Imran Khan has used to ‘purify’ them that they are now acceptable; and are fit to be part of a team which, according to Imran Khan, will bring major changes in Pakistan.

>> Imran Khan supported Kashmiri peoples right of self determination, but his recent statements demonstrate that he regards Gilgit Baltistan as part of Pakistan. Furthermore, he has alleged to have referred to militants as terrorists.

Many more things could be added to the above list, but this is sufficient to show that the change has taken place, and that change, unfortunately, is in the policies of the Captain, who after years of political wilderness has finally realised that he has to change and make him acceptable for the post of the Chief Executive of Pakistan.

Even ordinary people of Pakistan understand this much that no one can come to power in Pakistan without patronage of the establishment; and without making him/her acceptable to Washington and few other capitals. So with help, guidance and support of experts and king makers in the establishment the Captain has ensued his journey to power. He knows he is not getting younger; and if he fails to make it this time, he would probably be among ‘old guard’ next time, and might not have the same attraction for the younger and energetic electorate.

A Million dollar question is will he make it? In my considered opinion, despite the establishment’s patronage, help and guidance he will not sweep the polls as he anticipates. Establishment, in my opinion, has also matured and would not like a clear winner. They have realised that the two party system has advantages and disadvantages. This time they would like to have a hung parliament with three parties holding majority of the seats with no clear winner. In any case, establishment likes to bet on more than one horse; and Imran Khan should know this.

However, Imran Khan’s apparent popularity has made some positive changes too. People are coming to public meetings; and it has forced leaders of the both big parties to pay more attention to their workers and leaders. It may even force them to come to some arrangements on certain seats to keep the Captain and his big boys out of the race.

Writer is Director Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:drshabirchoudhry@gmail.com




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