From a politician to a statesman: In an era of dirty politics, Imran Khan’s speech was a breath of fresh air

Published: July 27, 2018
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I started following Imran Khan when he used to be that kid who had a penny in his pocket but wanted to buy everything at the grocery store. He had one seat in the parliament, but he roared his opinions like one was more than enough. From one seat in the parliament for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to winning five seats as ‘Imran Khan’ alone, he has come a long way.

All eyes were glued to the television screens when he first addressed the nation as the prime minister in waiting. Challenges awaiting Imran and his party are piled up like Jenga blocks; one wrong move could mean the entire tower of blocks collapses. However, if the victory speech is anything to go by, then Imran has already won our hearts.

Here are a few moments that touched my soul as Imran addressed the nation after a dominant victory.

Humility, even at his peak

For 22 years, this nation has humiliated and ridiculed him in politics; for not even 22 seconds of his speech did he try to get even at his critics. From being labelled a ‘Yahoodi agent (Jewish agent) to ‘Taliban Khan’, Imran had spent an eternity fighting campaigns that tried to malign his name from one extremist ideology to another. He was speared with personal attacks day in and day out when he became a threat to other mainstream parties. Yet he let go of the past in one sentence.

If Imran can refrain from passing comments at his opponents on a day that took 22 years to come, then supporters of PTI should take a leaf out of their leader’s book. His selflessness when talking on issues facing Pakistan, rather than hailing his knock-out punch to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) after defeating them, was admirable. He started speaking extemporaneously right from his heart, as if the issues ailing this country have been circulating in his mind this entire time. This was new because usually the ‘parchi’ tells our leaders what the problems are of the local hopeless citizens. 

The missing ‘parchi’

Nothing has been more embarrassing to me as a Pakistani living in the US than watching Nawaz Sharif sit in front of President Barack Obama and read sentences off his little ‘parchi’. To be clear, this doesn’t have anything to do with being fluent in English, because he could have chosen to use a translator. However, the timid body language and communication skills, that even the most lenient of professors would give an ‘F’ grade to, was painful to watch. The pain is aggravated particularly when you have friends from across the border having a chuckle at your prime minister.

Watching Imran talk like a leader and someone I could aspire to speak like one day has been a breath of fresh air. This wasn’t the first time we saw Imran talk. After all, this man had the stamina to deliver a speech for 126 days straight during the dharna without a single parchi. I never had doubts on his ability to speak, but nevertheless, this was the first time he was going to address the nation as a prime minister in waiting. This speech wasn’t exactly from the top of a container, addressing a local crowd with some music. Each word from his mouth was going to reach the whole world through the international media and leave an impact. His composed body posture and the delivery of speech were both captivating. This time when the Pakistani prime minister visits the US, I’ll be sitting with my head held high next to my Indian friends.

Relations with India

Talking of my Indian friends reminds me how I was surprised when Imran touched on the relationship he plans to build with India, because the real foreign policy makers were not present in the camera frame. I am not sure how this will sit with the powers that be when it comes to peace with India. Nonetheless, Imran was brave enough to talk some sense in regard to building a relationship with our neighbour. Patriotism bodes well for the nation, but overdose of patriotism leads to illogical decision-making. Imran’s message to India had the right mix of patriotism and sensibility.

Gone are the days when guns and bombs could decide a dispute over a piece of land. Pakistan and India both possess weapons of mass destruction, therefore shallow slogans loaded with shots of patriotism aren’t going to get us anywhere. If any progress is to be made on Kashmir, it has to be done diplomatically over the table. I was impressed to see Imran open the door for talks with India despite our opposition in Kashmir, but that wasn’t all. He opened the door for his political opponents as well to help investigate rigging allegations.

Gesture of conciliation

Pakistan is the only nation where candidates participating in the election must all be declared winners otherwise it’s not a fair election. As far as I can remember, I haven’t seen a single election where the losing parties have not cried foul, including PTI. Thus, the rigging claims in this election from PML-N and other parties are like consuming the same junk food in a different package.

Imran’s offer to open whichever polling stations the opposition demands is a welcoming gesture that even his critics must appreciate. He has lived up to the standards he had set for himself when he demanded four polling stations to be investigated after the 2013 General Elections.

I could keep picking more talking points because I loved every single second of the speech. For the first time, a victory was taken as a responsibility to serve the people. It isn’t exactly an opportunity to shout a few slogans at a crowd and go home to live the luxurious life for the next five years. Time will tell if Imran can practically implement his plans, but thus far, I like what my ears are hearing.

Pakistani politics is that pothole on the side of the road that everyone notices, but no one takes the ownership to fix. With time, filth from the society starts to accumulate in that pothole. It gets to a point where it’s clearly unhygienic, but every passer-by thinks it’s too late to be fixed. Imran could have crossed that pothole in a fancy car without having to bat an eye. However, he was a crazy, stupid, stubborn man who decided to get out of the car, fold his sleeves and dirty his hands in an effort to clean this corruption-filled pothole.

Thank you Imran Khan – our nation is indebted to you.

Hamza Junaid

Hamza Junaid

The author is an avid cricket follower and plays for a team called Gladiators based in New York. He tweets as @hamza_junaid1 (twitter.com/hamza_junaid1)

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