“I think he’s a genuine leader.
You know,he has a believe system.”
Its been a long journey for imran khan. He founded his political party,
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf(PTI) in 1996, and for many years made no real
Progress. Many mocked him. The Guardian journalist Declan Walsh
dismissed him as ‘a miserable politican’ whose ideas and affiliation had
‘swerved and skidded like a rickshaw in a rainsshower’.
PTI did make a limited amount of progress in the2013 General Elections, when it
emerged as the second largest party by national vote and with 30 parliamentary
seats. Furthermore , Imran’s party secured control of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
But none of this was enough to challenge for national power.
The outlook has changed dramatically over the past three months. The world needs
to take seriously the prospect that Pakistan’s sporting idol and former Test
cricket captain may be its next prime minister.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), mired in complacency and corruption charges
after the Pakistan Supreme Court disqualified its leader Nawas Sharif in the
wake of investigations that followed the publication of the Panama Papers.
With only a month to go until the General Elections, the house of sharif is
rudderless and broken. Following the fall of Nawaz , it cannot even agree on a
candidate to lead the party into the election. And it is accused of stashing
huge sums of money abroad.
Imran has one further advantage. The 65-year-old has repeatedly presented
himself as the virtuous outsider promising to clean up the endemic corruption of
Pakistan’s politics. The enforced resigination of Nawaz is therefore seen as a
profound vindication of Imran himself.
Imran goes one step further, claiming that he would punish those found to have
falsely accused others of blasphemy. He said that this is already happening in
K-P, where 57 people are being tried after false accusations that student Mashal
Khan had posted blasphemous content online in April which led to him being
beaten and shot to death by a mob.
The issue of blasphemy is a symbol of what would be Imran’s overall approach to
governing Pakistan. First and foremost, he intends to uphold the rule of law and
strengthen independent institutions in order to create a more just society.
Some commentators have sugested that his support is divided across
irreconcilable demographic lines. On the one hand, he depends on the backing of
young, urban, secular-liberal, middle class voters; on the other, on a more
conservative, religiously-minded sector of the population. Once in power, it is
thought, he could find it impossible to please both.
Imran has a simple response to that suggestion.
“With people voting in Pakistan today, it really is not that much of an issue
someone is liberal or someone is conservative,” he said. “People want
If people vote for us, it won’t be about whether I’m liberal or conservative. It
Who is going to tackle corruption.”
Apart from this , what is Imran’s political vision?
In some ways, it’s not unlike Jeremy Corbyn’s.
Like Corbyn , Imran believes in taxing the rich and investing heavily in health
“There are two things which I feel my party has in common with him,”
Imran said. “He believes in social justice, economic justice.and secondly,
His foreign policy is much more just.”
So is Imran going to win?
“ You know,you’re asking a sportsman who’s going to go and play a match whether
he’s going to win or lose,” he replied. “ Ofcourse I say I am going to win.”
The world should no longer see Imran as merely a former Test cricketer. It needs
to look at him very seriously as a potential leader of Pakistan who can project
his country onto the world stage. He could become Pakistan’s most recognisable
leader since Zulfikar Ali Bhutto 40 years ago, mobilising a mass movement and
articulating a fresh political vision.
But the world should also bear in mind one thing: although he is instantly
recognisable in the West, and fits the westernised mould of Zulfiqar and his
daughter Benazir Bhutto, many of Imran’s messages- whether over drones and
military intervention or on the position of religion in society-may be painful
to some western ears.