Are the stars finally smiling on Imran Khan?

Published: November 2, 2011
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Imran Khan has to step up his game now, the stars aligned and the timing perfect for an all out political blitzkrieg. PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM

One can finally sense that the tide is turning and Imran Khan is being taken seriously as a political contender. 

It can be seen at dinner conversations, where our liberal elite are no longer taking every opportunity to ridicule his minor inconsistencies and misdemeanours or in how his party workers are slowly becoming more recognizable on television. His rallies are now being attended in the tens of thousands rather than by a few faithful hundred and it is the convergence of such elements that is propelling him towards the main stage of our nation’s politics.  It is through this growing momentum that Imran Khan’s prospects are rapidly changing.

In an environment of political ambivalence and mixed messages from our current leadership, Imran Khan has managed to stay on message and consistent with regards to the established institutional players in Pakistani politics.

For simplicity, we will look at the two most prominent institutional players in Pakistani politics, the United States of America and the military. Besides the usual rhetoric against America that every politician in our country uses when in opposition, the only serious contention that Imran Khan has had with America has been over Afghanistan. With the endgame approaching, America is looking for creative ideas to bring the Taliban in the political mainstream. Luckily for them, Imran Khan has been consistently advocating for a peaceful political settlement with the Taliban having to his credit predicted that it would come to this. A survey earlier this year showed him to be the most popular leader in the Pakistani tribal areas.

Imran Khan is not inherently an army basher, he hasn’t vocally proposed military budget cuts or accountability, nor has he differed over India with the army. Also, he doesn’t condemn those militant elements that our army harbours for its skirmishes in Kashmir and Afghanistan. While this may make Imran Khan a popular choice for the army to support, there is no historical precedent that shows that the ISI can act on its own, without the approval of the President or the Prime Minister to rig an election. The popular belief is that since Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was elected all elections have been rigged with the approval and cooperation of a sitting Prime Minister or President.

The most prominent support to Imran Khan has come from the media. The sympathy and leniency that is showered on him by key anchors is indicative of their support. One can claim that his over-representation in the electronic media is due to his celebrity status that gets channels more ratings. However, there is a degree of tacit approval that anchors have for Imran Khan which seemingly steams from their harbouring of a similar nationalistic ideology to him.

Lastly, and pessimistically, Imran Khan benefits from the process of elimination as the vacuum for national leadership continues to grow. In this environment, the ability to inspire is the single most important (and lacking) quality, the presence of which could potentially sway people away from the status quo towards a different point of view.

Can such motivation be expected from the likes of Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari or Altaf Hussian? What alternatives are there?

The vacuum for national leadership has only expanded.

Imran Khan has to step up his game now, the window is open, the stars aligned and the timing perfect for an all out political blitzkrieg.

Mustafa.Omar

Mustafa Omar

The writer has recently completed his undergraduate from the University of Cambridge and has an interest in public policy.

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