Tarar Square

From 'why Imran Khan' to 'finally Imran Khan': It has been a long journey for a better Pakistan

People know Imran Khan is flawed, but magnificent; he loves Pakistan without ifs and buts.

 |  Tarar Square  |  7-minute read |   29-07-2018
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I voted for Imran Khan on July 25, 2018. Imran Khan and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf won the elections, bagging the highest number of seats in the National Assembly. On July 26, in his thank-you address to the nation, millions of people watched, awed, silent, surprised, on their television screens a politician transform into a statesman. Khan’s speech was humble, generous, positive, broad-based, inclusionary, forward-looking, and focused on the micro and macro of a country whose issues are huge, but whose spirit is indomitable. Khan on July 26 became the symbol of that spirit.

imran-khan_inside_072918120129.jpgBitter pill: Most of what is written about Khan is quinine-coated monologue.

And three days after the elections as I try to compose my thoughts on the enormity of the phenomenon that I believe will change Pakistan in more ways than one on levels that are small and some unquantifiable, my mind wanders back to the first article I wrote on Imran Khan six years ago. And what is going through my mind on July 28, 2018: Most of what is written about Khan is – excuse my excessive adjective-ising – consciously cynical, deliberately harsh, and relentlessly dismal. This is how it was in my early months of column-writing in 2012, and it hasn’t changed a bit in 2018 when in a few days Khan will be taking oath as the new prime minister of Pakistan.

One editorial and write-up after the other in national newspapers, scathing editorials, quinine-coated monologues worded as an op-ed piece in reputed international newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times have appeared after Khan’s electoral victory. Most paint him as a charismatic figure with a few redeeming qualities. It baffles me. To have a well-rounded argument looking at all angles, factoring in the positives, and highlighting the bad substantiating it with a solid line of reasoning is one thing. Publishing a linear narrative with binaries of black and white is not responsible journalism; it is a blatant pushing of an agenda, and it is plain lazy.

Titles of Taliban Khan, extremist, fascist, misogynist (“whose promise of making Pakistan an Islamic state...is making Pakistani feminists shudder”), puppet, ladla is a reiteration of a narrative that despite having some rickety ground to stand on primarily is an intentional and a systematic effort to malign Imran Khan the man, Imran Khan the politician, and now Imran Khan the future prime minister of Pakistan.

imran1_inside_072918120145.jpgPinning their hopes on: Young men and women, middle-aged and old people, educated and barely-schooled — they have all voted for Imran Khan

I find it a sheer waste of time to take each allegation, and dissect it for its few merits and many demerits to counter the narrative that is being methodically and painstakingly constructed: how the “Taliban-supporting, extremist, fascist, backward-looking, religious-minded Imran Khan of Islamic Republic of a nuclear Pakistan is a threat to his liberals and feminists and seculars and western governments.” There is so much that is wrong with this binary of black and black that it’d take me a series of articles to rebut it argument to argument, but that would take a long time, and patience that I lack today. When I write it’d be based on facts not my personal opinion; reality, not a one-sided, cherry-picked dimension of a situation; it’d be an analysis of a regular practice of a certain principle, not a propagandist storm-in-a-teacup because of one careless statement given in an interview; and it’d be not be an unbalanced opinion whose raison d’etre is painting a black and bleak picture, without bothering to give any importance to nuanced impartiality and an even-handed breakdown of what, why, how, when and if.

I will write, once along with millions of Pakistanis who voted for Imran Khan in 2013 and 2018, I have had time to let this sink in: Imran Khan despite all the efforts to destroy his political career and his decades-long fight to form a Pakistan that is for all, will be the next prime minister of Pakistan. Yes.

supporters_072918120230.jpgAnd many will vote for him simply because he is... Imran Khan....

Despite allegations of having won in an establishment-judiciary enabled, pre-poll rigged elections, and amidst noise of massive mishandling by the Election Commission of Pakistan on the election day and during counting, one fact remains undisputed: there are millions of Pakistanis – young men and women, middle-aged and old people, educated and barely-schooled, affluent and daily-wage earners, foreign educated professionals and thumb-stamping villagers, the liberal and the conservative, celebrities and common people, the disabled and the invalids, the tycoon and the poor – they have all voted for Imran Khan. The man who they believe, equipped with their support, will form a new Pakistan from the debris of the governmental and economic mess that Pakistan is today. They know Khan is not corrupt and they know Khan is Pakistan: flawed but magnificent. And they know Khan, like them, loves Pakistan without ifs and buts.

Going back to February 2012...

Despite being the biggest celebrity of Pakistan; a legendary cricketer; an iconic symbol of flamboyance and natural charisma; his spectacularly good looks and their devastating effect on people of a certain gender in all cricket-playing countries; his historic philanthropic work in the form of Shauket Khanum Memorial Hospital, the first-ever cancer hospital in Pakistan that provides free treatment to 70 percent of its patients from underprivileged backgrounds; his Namal University providing international level education to young people from backward and underprivileged families; and his entry into politics since 1996, what I noticed was that that Khan was absent from the op-ed pages of the newspaper for which I wrote fortnightly articles. What was published about him was primarily and overwhelmingly negative. And that made me write my very first article on Imran Khan one cold February day titled “Why Imran Khan...”:

“Imran Khan is that politician to a lot of people today who embodies a new, a better tomorrow. They feel his time has come; he has paid his dues, has been thoroughly vetted, and did not let a little thing being a pariah for 15 years bog him down.  His recent popularity seems like a feat of levitation, and he vows to make things better. Emerging as the hero of those who are not fearful to dream, Imran is the new poster boy/middle-aged man for a better, nicer, healthier and a wealthier Pakistan. Here it is not a debate on his ideology, his policies, his manifesto, and his proposed reforms. This is just an observation of how he is perceived by people who like him, and a comment on how he appears to people who follow him. How these perceptions and comments seem tomorrow if and when he assumes power, well, Khan, and his supporters, and his opponents: only time will tell.”

And I wrote in September 2012 in an article “Et Maintenant Imran?” (And now Imran?):

imran-file-photo_072918120340.jpgImran Khan, an iconic symbol of flamboyance and natural charisma (Reuters file photo with Jemaima and Nelson Mandela, 1997) 

“As long as it is Khan, let us just agree on one thing: if you do not like him, chances are not you are not gonna until it is time to vote the arrows and the lions and the bicycles again. Then either people will vote for him or his ten million supporters (duh!) will remain a fantasy giving the detractors an opportunity to guffaw like Mr Puri in Mr India. Pakistan is facing its worst possible time, but of course, all those in power and who are on the “right track” will put Pakistan together on a utopian footing. Khan the untested one is just there to take the punches. He may not be the ideal statesman, he may not sprout the sagest things all the time, he may seem ambivalent about some issues, and he may make the occasional on-air faux pas, but there is one thing you cannot blame him for: the mess, the mayhem, the chaos, the hell, Pakistan is in today.

Khan’s hands are clean, and Khan’s intention is clear: let’s clean it all up, before it is too late. If there is no other reason, there are many who will vote for him simply because there is no other choice.

And many will vote for him simply because he is... Imran Khan.”

Millions voted for Imran Khan on July 25, 2018.

Congratulations, Mr Khan, you did it.

Also read: Why Pakistan election could be Imran Khan's last shot at power

Writer

Mehr Tarar Mehr Tarar @mehrtarar

A former op-ed editor of Daily Times, Pakistan, and a freelance columnist.

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