My journey with Imran Khan: From the ‘tanga party’ to a ‘one-man show’
My journey with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan began perhaps when I witnessed his win in Mianwali in 2002. The results were coming in from all across the constituency, and he won by a margin of around 5,000 votes. I was 14-years-old then. Although it was one seat, it felt like we had won a majority in the National Assembly. But when I woke up the next day, I realised this win was just a drop in the ocean.
Back then, I had only heard the famous Urdu quote,
“Katra katra kar kay darya banta hai.”
(Every drop makes a river.)
But my understanding and belief in that quote were both about to change over the years.
During my school days, I had a sticker of our chairman on my Aitchison notebook. My class fellows – whose parents were mostly aligned with either the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) or the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (the new name of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz under Musharraf) – would taunt me using phrases like “tanga party”. It took me a while to realise what this meant.
Activism came naturally to me, and I would participate in rallies held in Lahore related to Palestine, Kashmir and other issues close to my heart. It was 2004/05 when I decided to participate in a PTI rally being led by Imran. The rally departed from the PTI office at Zafar Ali Road, and we were meant to go to Nasir Bagh, with 20 cars at most. When we reached Nasir Bagh, police had surrounded Khan’s vehicle before we could even get off our cars. All 50 of us were loaded onto Shehzore pickup trucks and taken to the Civil Lines Police Station, where we were locked up for a few hours. It was then that I first felt a feeling of revolution, of change, in the air around me.
My journey with Imran continued. The next memorable day for me was November 14, 2007, when he was arrested from Punjab University. We tried our best to save him from that mysterious kidnapping by people in civilian clothes, and the fact that he still got taken away charged me and my comrades even more. While I regretted not being taken with our leader, I felt that air of revolution stronger than I had before – almost as if change was right around the corner.
I then had the honour of working with the Kaptaan as a founder of the Insaf Students Federation (ISF). I still remember arranging a leadership talk by Imran at a college in Gulberg. It was 10:00am when I found out that the talk had somehow slipped his mind and he was in the midst of his daily work out. When he was reminded, I don’t know how, but somehow he managed to be in Lahore by 1:00pm and gave the talk (perhaps taking the next flight out and ditching his exercise).
Youngsters were always his main priority. He would be giving two to three lectures a day at different colleges and universities. This is what led to the momentum that resulted in the historic jalsa at Minar-e-Pakistan on October 30, 2011.
It seemed like the Kaptaan was unstoppable now. He had always kept us hopeful. After that mammoth jalsa, even his opponents started to give him respect, as he was a force to be reckoned with.
However, the tragic elections of 2013 shattered our hopes. The Kaptaan was on the hospital bed. We were at Lalik Chowk Defence, sleeping on the roads and screaming for our rights. Our mandate was stolen, and it was the most frustrating moment of my life. However, the Kaptaan recovered like Superman and soon he was back. There were protests and jalsas day and night, with TV interviews, a dharna, lockdowns and what not, all being a part of it. The Kaptaan was not planning to give up, despite General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Asif Ali Zardari, and Nawaz Sharif running the country in cahoots.
Now, from the “tanga party”, Imran had become a ‘one-man show’; the government and the opposition were united against him. The dirty allegations that started with Sita White eventually reached the extent of Reham Khan’s book. From Ayesha Gulalai to Zardari’s claim of having Imran’s personal pictures to calling his late father corrupt, all attempts fell flat on their faces. The ferocious cornered tiger we were told about when we were kids was on the pitch again. The toss was done by the two big parties when they selected their own Chief Election Commissioner; they did not even wish for Imran to play the match. But he got the game and emerged as the winner.
All Kaptaan needed was one fair election. The people were hopeless, but he reignited hope in them. I know a lot of people who were taking part in the election campaign because of the 2013 rigging that gave us the Sharif family in power. Kaptaan did nearly 70 jalsas in two weeks; many flopped and many were huge, but Kaptaan was on the final curve and about to make his closing sprint. Only he could see what was at the finishing line. This is what makes him different from the rest of us – he is a fighter like no other.
Kaptaan, you did it! You did a big favour for a country that had become a disappointment for many. There was no room left for honest people anymore; bags were packed in every middle class household, as all they wanted was a visa to leave. But Kaptaan, you kept us dreaming, kept giving us hope. It reached the point where we would sometimes get upset, wondering why Imran keeps giving us hope when he can’t succeed.
As I write this, your voice echoes in my mind,
“Allah ne insaan ke hath mein niyat aur koshish rakhi hai. Kamyabi Wo deta hai.”
(Allah has given us the ability of intention and to keep trying. Success is granted by Him.)
Undoubtedly, my faith as a Muslim has become firmer than ever. Kaptaan, you have taught us how to win even when we lose. You have given us a new life. For my generation, July 25, 2018 will surely be remembered as a second Independence Day.
It is still hard to comprehend a Parliament without the likes of Nawaz, Fazlur Rehman, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Abid Sher Ali, Yousaf Raza Gillani, Akram Durrani, Sardar Yousaf, Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry, Khawaja Saad Rafique and many other such big names.
Good luck, Kaptaan! I have no doubt you won’t fail us, for you define exactly why perseverance commands success. May you persevere till you achieve what you and all of us have dreamt together for this country.
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