Real challenges for Imran Khan

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Enviable enthusiasm, patriotism, boundless charisma and rare conviction: This is Imran Khan! He is gifted with qualities other leaders lack in Pakistan. Egocentricity and corruption, seemingly very common in others, are not part of his personality. Today he is as popular among the youth as Zardari is unpopular among the masses. But he had lacked political skill. He was successful in initiating a social movement but many analysts doubted his political success. He was neither able to form a working team nor a squad of election-winning players. However, his successful political show in Lahore resulted in a long queue of politicians joining his party. But, indeed, politics neither functions like a cricket team nor 180 million people could function in the same manner.

 

If he insists on his slogan of transparency he will face the problem of finding candidates for elections. If he compromises on recruitment standards then his claims and image will suffer. Now he has signalled he is going to recruit all sorts of political rubbish and he has opened his party’s gates to them. All those “clean” persons are indeed traditional or rejected politicians from one party or the other. Now, the first challenge for Imran is to convert them into “revolutionaries.” The second challenge is to satisfy those who join the PTI. This is something Imran has never showed a talent for.

 

Imran Khan has to recognise the nature of politics in eastern countries and the fact that politics and cricket are two different domains. Here politicians do not feel it necessary to follow the captain in each move.

 

Imran has to refrain from an extremist approach in practical politics. Imran’s politics is an example of extremist stances. In opposition of Nawaz Sharif he put all his weight behind Gen Musharraf. Musharraf opted to be a partner of the US and Imran was an active campaigner in the referendum for Musharraf. The turning point came when Musharraf preferred the Chaudhry borthers over him, and Imran started focusing all his attention on an anti-Chaudhry campaign until Elections 2002. Before the restoration of the judiciary after the last elections his top target was Asif Ali Zardari, and all that time not only did he not utter a single word against Nawaz Sharif but also was a partner with him in the movement for the restoration of the judiciary. After the restoration he focused his attention on Altaf Hussain and even publicly announced his decision to approach the Scotland Yard against him. Now, strangely, he forgot Altaf Hussain and his first target is Nawaz Sharif. Extreme stances in practical politics are dangerous.

 

What is missing in the PTI is a clear roadmap. Indeed, the PTI has mobilised the youth, but now it seriously needs to craft an agenda which is based on issues. Only issue-based politics could guarantee success for the PTI as personality based politics will end up creating enemies. Now it is the perfect time for the PTI to move its focus from personalities to issues.

 

In terms of overall Pakistani politics, Imran’s successful show at Lahore has two positive impacts. Firstly it forced the PML-N to abandon its aristocratic and arrogant attitude and it felt need for democratic politics. Secondly, the anti-US sentiments that forced the youth to join the camp of extremists now have a democratic and positive platform where they can expresses their views and sentiments. Again, both positive aspects pose challenges for Imran Khan. Firstly, now that the PTI leadership and workers have adopted the same arrogant attitude that was the brand of the PML-N in Punjab. Secondly, it needs serious thought and planning to channel the sentiments and energies of the youth who joined the party but have extremist tendencies.

 

There is no difference between ideologies of the PTI and the PML-N. About internal and foreign policies both parties share a vision but are engaged in a tussle. And this tussle is not based on ideologies but is a mere war between two journalists. One journalist is an advisor of Nawaz Sharif and the other is very close to Imran. The rivalry between those two journalists became the cause of sustained tension between two parties. It would be wise if both leaders understood the real cause of tensions and avoided extremes.

 

Indeed, the success of the Lahore public meeting is a result of hard and consistent efforts of the PTI and Imran. But the long queue of seasoned politicians joining the PTI is not the result of the Lahore show. They are convinced that the establishment wants to see Imran Khan in the position of prime minister. And this is understandable, as the PTI is exactly playing the role which once the MMA played for establishment. However, real politics suggests that at any point of time, if Nawaz Sharif compromises, his deal with the establishment is probable. The PML-N is still the most favoured party of the establishment if any such deal is finalised. Moreover, with the pressure mounting, Nawaz Sharif has a limited number of political options and at any time could come to the ultimate decision.

 

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem.safi@janggroup.com.pk