Yesterday I linked to an essay by Imran Khan. Something has bothered me for a while and I think I will hash it out here. Why has Imran Khan failed in Pakistani politics?
Imran Khan, from ’85-’95, was Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Joe Montana rolled into one. He retired from Cricket (after winning the World Cup) and started a project to build a free cancer hospital in Lahore. For this project, he solicited donations, did fundraisers, gathered monies from NGOs, all to guarantee that the poor have a world-class facility. I can’t even begin to describe the goodwill and cheer he accumulated through his philanthropy.
Then, he decided to enter into politics and established the Tehrik-e Insaf [Movement for Justice] to foster an agenda of anti-corruption and development. He should have been elected PM in under a month. Yet, he has struggled to be taken seriously by our politicians or public. He still makes more news through his personal life than through his political one. He attacked the major parties as being corrupt and exploitative of the public and that not only cut him out of the immense organizational structure required to engage in local politics but also made him a political pariah. The religious parties had no use for this recent playboy with a gori wife. He went through phases of political wranglings and compromises [even doing the mullah bit – for like 5 seconds] which destroyed his reputation of being a non-compromising gentleman among theives.
His party never won any seats to speak of and he has barely managed to get elected in the few chances he has had. After 9/11, he criticized US foreign policy and has been by-and-large anti-US since the Afghanistan war. If you don’t have friends in D.C. and you don’t have friends in Riyadh than you ain’t got a chance in Islamabad. His latest move is to lead a XI-strong against The General. He is trying to emerge as the leader of a unified front – akin to the M.R.D. against Zia in ’81. The thing is that MMA is doing the same thing. Chances are that Imran Khan will get sidelined, once again.
So, what does this say about Pakistani political landscape? Why can’t an immensely popular and well-liked individual take a populist platform and still fail to gather any support as a leader. Masses are malleable only to the ones in power? Or is this a unique case? In the absence of any desire for change, can Pakistani civil and political society re-allign itself against The General? Don’t I have any shot at becoming the Manmohan Singh of Pakistan?