What do JFK, ZAB, Imran Khan and Rahul Gandhi have in common?

Published: December 7, 2014

Kennedy’s rise to fame, based on his looks and persona, is not a unique one. Even in our history, politicians have often been chosen because of how they look or how well they speak.

November 22, 2014, marks the 51st death anniversary of the United States’ 35th president, John F Kennedy.

While the western media – the American media in particular – mourns on the day, giving it more coverage than the death anniversary of any other American president, aided by public gatherings at different Kennedy monuments throughout the US, a question comes to the mind of an outside observer:

Does Kennedy really deserve such exuberant treatment, even after 51 years of his death?

True, Kennedy was amongst those US presidents who died while in office – but he wasn’t the first. Seven other American presidents have died while they were holding office before him. Similarly, Kennedy, popularly known as ‘Jack’, wasn’t the first US President to be assassinated either. Abraham Lincoln, James A Garfield and William McKinley were all assassinated before him, while holding office.

So what is it about Kennedy that still attracts not only Americans, but people from East and West, young and old alike – for whom more than 40,000 books have been written since his assassination?

What were the achievements that made him stand out, over and above the other presidents?

Solving the Cuban missile crisis?


Today, while Americans praise him for successfully solving the crisis in late 1962, and steering the world out of a possible nuclear attack, critics also point out that anyone in his presidential capacity would have done the same and made necessary attempts to avoid the confrontation. The world had already witnessed two big wars, not very long ago. So a confrontation was not at all an option.

However, if there was any blunder that one could make, it was made by President Kennedy himself, who supported the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 in the first place and, as a result, created the domino effect that led to the crisis.

So what was it about him that clicked with everyone?

I am neither a historian, nor a critic of history; however, being a keen student of psychology, I can make a simple psychological analysis: We love what looks attractive. And yes, President Kennedy attracts all of us.

If being the youngest elected president ever is an achievement, then yes, Kennedy did achieve something. Young and accomplished, with excellent oratory skills (remember the ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’speech?) and mostly accompanied by his young, beautiful wife, Jacqueline, Kennedy was the true face of the American dream. It comes as no surprise that the Americans were in awe of him and were even intimidated by him, regarding the Kennedy family as ‘America’s own royals’.

Photo: Reuters

But Kennedy’s rise to fame, based on his looks and persona, is not a unique one. Even in our history, politicians have often been chosen because of how they look or how well they speak.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the young and talented foreign minister of Pakistan at the time of President Field Marshal Ayub Khan (a military dictator), realised his impact and political potential, he found a way to use it effectively and become a leader of the masses. Although his achievements as president and later as prime minister of Pakistan are many, he is remembered even today because of his excellent oratory skills — which stimulated the masses, young and old, urban and rural altogether — and his unjustified death at the young age of 51 rendered him immortal in the pages of history.

Good oration and untimely death – sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Photo: PPP/File

Imran Khan

Of course, one cannot omit Imran Khan from this list. What is it about him that awes and amazes us today? To be fair, he hardly has any governance experience. He comes with a right-wing political agenda in the face of ongoing extremism that engulfs us today.

So what is it that attracts millions of young Pakistanis, who see hope in his words and promises?

The answer is not rocket science. Imran’s persona attracts us all; and why wouldn’t it? He is a good looking Oxford-graduate who represented Pakistan in cricket, and became the first and (so far) only Pakistani captain to honour the country with a World Cup. Then, he involved himself in philanthropic works and got international acclaim — certainly some positives. He is currently the most popular leader in the country, because he knows what to say and how to say it. He knows how to make people hope for something more.

The notion of ‘Naya Pakistan’ may be idealistic and even radical, considering how ideas of providing offices to Taliban representatives have floated around, asking masses to start a civil disobedience movement to destabilise the government (read: the state) and asking overseas Pakistanis not to send remittances home to mention a few, but who cares? As long as the youth buys it in the name of an ‘honest person’ like Imran, it’s a win-win.

Photo: AFP

This attitude can be found in India as well.

The Gandhis

The example of the Gandhi family across the border is no different. People respected Indira Gandhi more because of Nehru’s legacy and less because of her own political achievements. Similar was the case with Rajiv Gandhi who initially became popular as a part of family legacy.

The same, however, cannot be said for Rahul. The popularity that this young politician has, to a large extent, can be attributed to his good looks as well. While he might come across as an educated, good looking Indian politician, the people of India seemed to have rejected him and his party – what he lacks is oratory skills. So until the next elections, Rahul will really have to do something big in order to prove his worth – perhaps he can take a few tips from Imran Khan.

Photo: Publicity

When it comes to making political decisions, nations have become more aware (and responsible), however, first impressions, personalities, charisma and making unconventional headlines still matter, to this day.

John F Kennedy remained in office for two years and nine months (approximately), but his achievements, in reality, are few – enough even to be counted on our fingers tips. Yet his assassination tells a tale of an unfinished story, full of youth, passion and determination. Certainly, his appearance reflected the same.

Culturally we could be different as nations, but I wonder if all nations think alike when it comes to choosing charisma as a synonym for leadership, perceiving as it shows, with hardly any depth. Whether we like or not, good looks and charisma definitely have a part to play in politics.


Paras Abbasi

The author is an IBA grad currently working in the public monetary sector. She is an avid reader, book reviewer and short-story writer who blogs at www.ofcoffeeconversations.wordpress.com and @ofcoffeeconversations on Instagram.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    I would like to start off by saying that the article is well written, good command of language, good research and overall a very good effort. which brings me to the last teeny tiny bit which you added(I hope as an afterthought, or perhaps edited by editors)
    “but I wonder if all nations think alike when it comes to choosing charisma as a synonym for leadership, perceiving as it shows, with hardly any depth.”
    Quite wrong this is.you forget a simple thing and stumble around . Charisma is one of the basic attributes of leadership. Please show me one single leader who is not charismatic. If you are not charismatic you are then destined to live your life following, if you have charisma you will lead. again I will be happy to admit that I am mistaken if someone shows me any good leader who was not charismatic.
    (I recently had to face an irate “activist” who was of the view that Mahatma Gandhi was not charismatic and he pointed out his spartan life and his meek attitude, so please note that by charismatic I DO NOT mean flamboyant, a person can have charisma and not be flamboyant and the the vice versa. Gandhi and many other leaders do not like to show off, this cannot be connoted with a lack of charisma)Recommend

  • Salma

    Sorry to say this. A shallow article. paras, you picked up four arbitrary names and you filled in some unrelated details.Recommend

  • pakimadar

    Dont drag indians into your nonsense talks…b/w rahul gandhi is a uneducated lol just like pakistanis…Recommend

  • BlackJack

    You are close. In reality, it is mainstream media which loves photogenic faces, and gives them an edge through increased visibility. People in general don’t care that much about the way their politicians look, or there would be far more film-stars turned successful politicians than there are today. Even the ones who made the cut in India) are those that were associated with a more substantial cause or unique political platform that resonated with voters – like MGR and NTR. The ones that were just crowd-pullers (like Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Govinda, Shatrughan Sinha) failed to build on existing mass appeal to become political leaders of stature.Recommend

  • Will Jones

    Happy to share across the globe the truth why Americans keep bright the memory of John Kennedy: He was a true patriot and holy martyr of God, murdered by the Roman Catholic Fifth Column Knight of Malta-led, CIA/Opus Dei FBI, false-Jew Talmud/papist Organized Crime faction (viz. ‘Hunt v. Marchetti’ and CIA colonel E. Howard Hunt’s deathbed confession) which has since gone on, with Mossad, to commit the false-flag “terror theater” treason of 9/11, for ordering our military withdrawal as papal catspaw from Rome’s latifundial estate of Indochina (NSAM263) after 120 of us had died there; and for ending Vatican banker-intermediaries Rothschilds’ and Rockefellers’ debt bondage fiat money scheme now bankrupting America, the “Federal Reserve Bank” (EO11,110).

    Their satanic, “Military Industrial Complex”/Mafia faction constitutes “the Beast,” of the Entity Thomas Jefferson, our Founder and Prophet, identified as “the real Anti-Christ” “engine for enslaving mankind:” the Risen Babylon.

    America, whose named Sovereign is the Creator of the universe, God Almighty, is the Hebrew prophet Isaiah’s foretold “Israel,” “into which all nations flow,” usurped now by Earthly Evil – Rome’s pedophile priesthood and atheist Zionism’s and Rabbinical Talmudism’s satanic cult psychosis, which seeks to restore the rule of king and pope, under the guise of the “New World Order” and the “United Nations.”

    John Kennedy became a disciple of Mr. Jefferson in the White House, and understood our credal civil religion’s divine right of Individual Sovereignty under God alone (viz. “American Exceptionalism”), ruled only by Truth and Justice – as Isaiah prophesied of “Zion” – Hebrew for “perfection.”

    Each nation can be “Zion,” free and prosperous under the Creator alone: once together we cast down Rome’s Rothschild/Rockefeller “Beast” which seeks to enslave all peoples the world round.Recommend

  • Alann

    So…what do they have in common again?
    Perhaps if you had written an article taking just two personalities, namely Rahul Gandhi and Bilawal Bhutto, and pointed out the ‘common’ things between them (like how they both are political dumbf–.. just dumb I mean), it might have been an interesting read.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Rahul Gandhi became a “leader” and that too “standing above all other leaders”? When did that happen? :ORecommend

  • http://www.sepia-paper.deviantart.com Muhammed Waqar Younis

    looks are the weakest wall of a Character of a Person…Recommend

  • Ameena

    Oh wow you just called a whole country uneducated. How arrogant!
    Btw there is research that tells that Indians are very obsessed with good looks and a fair complexion. :)Recommend

  • Malik

    I wonder if Imran khan turned out to be a Charismatic personality suddenly on Oct 30th 2012 where he had started his political party back in 1997? Com on Madam Psychology student you picked up quite a wrong side, I’d like to draw your attention to Imran Khan’s determination all the way long to this day. I’m afraid you’re ignorant about his rejection in his early career which made several believe that Imran Khan must give up as this seemed nonsense to continue without any remarkable achievement and on top of that without any help of power players.
    You may contradict with Imran khan but you can’t deny the fact that he not only has mobilized the cream of Pakistani society but also had changed the dimensions of Pakistani Politics. The Three men you’re comparing Imran Khan with on the basis of commonalities between them is a mere nonsense. All three of them rose up from within the system I.e Kennedy became President first and than rose up , Rahul has not extraordinary except his heredity of Gandhis, ZAB also rose from within the system and his followers were illiterate Pakistanis of those times whom he sold the dream of Roti,Kapra and Makan, Imran Khan is an exception. Whatever his achievements you’ve counted are truly of his own qualities and achievements neither he got this in heredity nor anyone else contributed to make him stand where he does now a days.Recommend

  • VicM

    … zap would not qualify to shine jfk’s shoes……and rahul gandhi isn’t qualified enough to polish mine.Recommend

  • ic

    Didn’t mention Imran Khan’s oratory skills, now did you? LolRecommend

  • VicM

    zab would not qualify to shine jfk’s shoes……and rahul gandhi isn’t qualified enough to polish mineRecommend

  • siesmann

    IK better watch out!!.Other 3 were murdered.Also out of four,IK is the only one that doesn’t belong to a dynasty.Recommend

  • Prashant

    It is possible any other president in Kennedy’s place would have done what he did but you cannot ignore his role in diffusing a situation which would have resulted in a nuclear catastrophe.

    ZAB was a leader of masses but at the same time someone who refused to cede power to Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, signed the Simla agreement with India and started the nuclear program for Pakistan, each one of them was a historical event irrespective of how one would like to judge him.

    Imran Khan led Pakistan to a world cup victory.

    Rahul Gandhi has made history atleast in India for how not to give an interview, he is in short the master of disaster, there is no comparison of the first three with Rahul Gandhi who is actually not a Gandhi but a Nehru.Recommend

  • Faulitics

    They are all men from privileged background?Recommend

  • Ernest Dempsey

    A pathetic comparison of figures who have nothing significant in common in the remote except that all of them are/have been in politics. But in their personal lives, you can say that JFK, Imran Khan, and Rahul Gandhi are all womanizers – two of them (JFK and Khan) openly so – for Marilyn Monroe and Sita White – and Rahul for the very shady, rumored rape accusation of a poor village girl. Charisma as synonym for leadership? LOLS. Good for a laugh.Recommend

  • Chintu Candy

    Very random article. You just can not compare the first two with the last two; in fact, RG shouldn’t be in that list of greats at all. And Bhutto had many traits (such as his negotiation skills) that made him immortal, in the history of Pak, long time before his death

    If you want, draw a comparison between Rahul G, Bilawal Z, Marium S and Hamza S that would surely be a competition to certain extentRecommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Imran Khan a womanizer? Oh please do tell. How many women has he wooed over his years? His WIFE was a English Lady, I am sure that you have proof that he has been with lots of women, for the term “womanize” means “To pursue women lecherously”. So please show me where he pursues women lecherously.
    About the Sita White Issue. There is no proof that he is the father, Imran Khan did not go to the court to get his DNA tested because he believes in every citizens right to be excused AFTER there is evidence. Miss white had no evidence so IK did not even bother to go to the court.Recommend

  • Parvez

    …but all of them were / are…….. rich…….and in todays world that’s big.Recommend

  • abdul

    LOL waste of 10 minutes.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Bringing Rahul Gandhi at par with Kennedy, Bhutto or IK is an insult to the later.. They have achieved something significant in their lives. Rahul G has nothing to show…Recommend

  • Reddy

    except for the death of JFK,nobody gives damn about them, that’s something more common among them ….as far as our gem rahul is concerned we celebrate his mind numbing atrocious charade every day…pakistanis always tend to like the morons even before it’s inception…atleast my comedian comes up with more jokes than urs IK, who tells the same joke everyday and ppl still take him seriouslyRecommend

  • Abyss

    “…Indians are very obsessed with good looks and a fair complexion.” – Be honest and tell me if it’s not the same in Pakistan. I’d take your word for it & delete my Disqus account if you tell me it’s not.Recommend

  • Abyss

    I’m quite sure Rahul Gandhi was an afterthought, just to add some masala element, eh? The only thing he is popular for is “pappu” japes.Recommend

  • parker

    A very pathetic column ..irrelevant and non sense
    First three are statesman ….who is rahul gandhi i dont know him Recommend

  • Saadat Ali

    Kennedy was popular because of his persona and not because of his statesmanship? lady you must be kidding.,Recommend

  • Mareeya Durranee

    Can anyone please give me back those 12 minutes I wasted reading this shallow piece of whatever ?Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Oh so you guys have a “He’s not a Gandhi but a Nehru” argument there in India too? Here we insist similar thing for Bilawal that he’s not a Bhutto but a Zardari. Another similarity among the two idiots.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Even though.. But RAHUL GANDHI for MASALA? I mean like SERIOUSLYYYYY?Recommend

  • Abyss

    Perhaps, the author wanted us to share some “pappu” jokes.This is all I could fathom but yes, I would love to hear about author’s rationale. Maybe, she should have included some excerpts from the interview he gave on ‘Times Now’, it was a riot :D… It’s Twitter handle was trending like crazy!!Recommend

  • Abdul

    Don’t know about JFK but the rest of the three cannot be blamed for having much brains.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Just read his interview in full text on Times of India website. What an idiot! :p Perhaps I should take some time out and watch his interview too. Must be hilarious :pRecommend

  • BlackJack

    No – that is no comparison. Rahul Gandhi is not even distantly related to Mahatma Gandhi or any other Gandhi for that matter (while the name seems to imply that he is). Bilawal is the son of Benazir Bhutto -so is at least not misleading people.Recommend

  • reader

    “b/w rahul gandhi is a uneducated lol just like pakistanis…”

    It is interesting how you just labeled Pakistanis as uneducated people while you fail to even compile a proper sentence in english. Bravo! Is it a case of ‘the pot calling the kettle black’?Recommend

  • LS

    How is that when a Nehru Female Marries a Parsi/Muslim Khan (Who later calls himself Ghandy), their progeny be called as Nehru? At best they can be called either Khan or GhandyRecommend

  • Tahani

    Imran Khan is more of a lifeline for fed up, desolate Pakistanis. His struggle goes way beyond the current position of his party. Neither a Bhutto nor a Sharif, made his own mark. Took the mocking and insults on his chin and built his own empire. Those are some of the reasons he’s glorified today. Recommend

  • Cher

    Have you listened to his last speech? He was going to expose them all. That’s why he was killed.Recommend