Battle of the Khans: Wajahat vs Imran – but why?

Published: February 20, 2018
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A few days ago, I had the “privilege” to see a video sent to me by one of my friends who happens to be a diehard Imran Khan fan. He forwarded me the video on WhatsApp while stating that it was one of the most “sincere” videos he had seen in recent times, as it indulged in what he called “constructive” criticism of Imran.

Intrigued, I started to watch the video which began by focusing on garbage cans for a few seconds. After the obviously bewildering and frankly senseless focus on garbage cans, the camera lens moved to show our most “sophisticated” anchor, Mr Wajahat S Khan. He started with what I can easily rank as one of the most hilarious and yet saddening public meltdowns.

If Wajahat’s intention was to sound serious, his humorous video was definitely an unintended and unfortunate outcome. He started by introducing himself and declaring that this message was for Imran. It was followed by his grievance – undoubtedly the real reason behind this “sincere” video – that Imran was not accessible and therefore he had no option but to talk to him via this medium.

Wajahat then started a rant about the Lodhran debacle and why the result had been expected. He followed his argument by blaming Imran’s daily routine of physical fitness and how it was contributing to his party’s non-presence in the political arena. According to Wajahat, Imran’s weekly strategy of holding one jalsa and giving an interview to one of his favourite handpicked anchors was not going to work in 2018 elections. I could feel his deep and personal pain here, as I am sure this video would not have been made if that “favourite handpicked” anchor was Wajahat himself.

Moreover, he also asserted how Nawaz Sharif had fooled people and successfully sold the narrative of “mujhe kyun nikala” (why was I disqualified). He went on to criticise Imran for not coming to Karachi to fill in the vacuum created by the withering of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

The most hilarious part was when he removed his sunglasses and said, “be like a Khan”. That was overacting at its “best” and I seriously thought that he would breakdown and start crying.

After watching the video, I was initially left dumbfounded and confused as I did not know what to make of it. Here was an anchor, trying to teach politics to Imran and also making assertions that Nawaz had “fooled” supposedly simpleminded people.

But then it dawned on me that the entire video was nothing but an attention-gaining gimmick, made worse by the fact that the presenter apparently thinks that he is intellectually superior to the rest and therefore Imran should listen to him. It became clear to me when rumours were abound, suggesting that the real reason behind this video was that Imran had perhaps not invited him to a meeting which took place with several media personnel at Bani Gala a few days ago. This apparently infuriated Wajahat and led him to make this emotional video.

Imran Khan meeting with media anchor persons in Bani Gala.

Posted by Imran Khan (official) on Saturday, February 10, 2018

Furthermore, the video contained insulting remarks about Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), its leader and Pakistani voters, which frankly were in poor taste.

But Wajahat’s antics and dubious objectives aside, did he really offer “constructive” criticism? Is he correct in his assertion that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was in decline and in fact below than what they had been prior to the 2013 general election? Was there something really wrong with PTI which also led to the debacle in Lodhran?

I am afraid Wajahat is quite off the mark when he made the claim that PTI had been stronger prior to the 2013 election. There is, in fact, no comparison here, as PTI has actually improved its electoral prowess quite a lot since 2013. Back then, just prior to elections, most of the surveys (such as Gallup) had given PTI substantially less than 20% of the expected vote share. Now, however, recent surveys place PTI comfortably above 20%, which by all means is a sizeable improvement. Yes, it is true that PML-N remains the most favourite party but PTI is expected to give it a much tougher fight in the forthcoming election.

Secondly, Wajahat also implied that despite the Panama verdict, PML-N was strong due to the failure of Imran to capitalise enough on the situation. One of the major problems with Wajahat, and for that matter most of these urban-based anchors, is that they think that the Panama verdict is an issue which resonates with the entire Pakistan. Frankly, this is not the case as Panama leaks or for that matter “corruption of politicians” are issues which only Pakistan’s urban white-collar class deem important. Imran’s failure is not that he did not capitalise enough on the verdict but rather that he has overemphasised on it. In fact, after the verdict, all PTI has done is to keep on obsessively discussing it instead of trying to expand its message beyond it. Even today, it is relying more on favourable National Accountability Bureau (NAB) judgments rather than talking about other issues.

Ironically, Wajahat himself had been making tall claims that how PML-N was on its way out just a few months ago, in a very derogatory way, on Twitter. The fact that he is now babbling about PTI’s supposed failure, shows how he himself is off the mark and, to be honest, clueless.

His assessment of the Lodhran by-poll election was also way off the mark. If anything, Imran and PTI had campaigned harder than PML-N in the constituency. The defeat did not occur because Imran’s party was “nowhere to be seen” but mainly because of local factors and also because PML-N, despite ousting of Nawaz, remains firmly entrenched at the grassroot level.

Yes, it is true that PML-N’s narrative of “mujhe kyun nikala” is also resonating with people, but that is taking place in the urban areas. Rural areas, in general, work differently and politics is often highly localised.

Third, Wajahat’s suggestion that after MQM’s fracturing, PTI should take over and handle issues like garbage collection, was extremely senseless. PTI cannot “takeover” in the sense Wajahat was suggesting without winning through local elections. I don’t really understand what the purpose of that suggestion was.

In my humble opinion, Wajahat needs to learn some humility and stop dragging the public into his personal spats to the forefront. And frankly, Imran should also refrain from listening to someone like him!

raza.habib

Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

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