Has Godot Ar­rived?

Im­ran Khan’s mas­sive pub­lic rally at Mi­nar-e-pak­istan re-kin­dled hope among the peo­ple that they would yet see bet­ter days.

Southasia - - Front page - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

T“Ooth jaag zameen dekh falak dekh fiza dekh Mashriq se ub­harte huwe sooraj ko zara dekh.” – Iqbal

he peo­ple of Pak­istan have been wait­ing for Godot all these years. In their ea­ger­ness to have a bright present and a brighter fu­ture for their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, they em­braced a chain of im­posters only to dis­cover that all had feet of clay.

Yet hope never dies. That is what gives pur­pose to liv­ing. It “springs eter­nal in hu­man breast,” as the poet said. So, when Im­ran Khan emerged all of a sud­den on Pak­istan’s po­lit­i­cal hori­zon and the dark fir­ma­ment be­came il­lu­mi­nated with daz­zling ef­ful­gence, even his worst de­trac­tors were forced to sit up and take no­tice. A fol­lower of Iqbal, he is the ris­ing sun to her­ald a new dawn - the dawn of change. Sub­se­quently, the peo­ple who thronged to his rally in Iqbal Park on Oc­to­ber 30, seemed en­thused to have a new look on the am­biance.

As Roedad Khan re­marked, “It was not a river. It was not a flood. It was a tsunami.” There were young and bright-faced men and women, ec­static and full of elan. The crowd com­prised not only the com­mon folk but also a size­able num­ber of ed­u­cated peo­ple. In fact, the turnout was be­yond what the or­ga­niz­ers had es­ti­mated. They had been pre­pared for some­thing around 50,000 but the num­ber had crossed the 100,000 mark hours be­fore Im­ran Khan even started his speech and was swelling while block­ing roads “from Minto Park up to the sec­re­tar­iat, rail­way sta­tion and Ravi Bridge.”

Peo­ple came not only from Pun- jab but also from KP. A group of Sikhs from Wapda Town of La­hore, led by Sar­dar Tar­lok Singh and Sar­dar Harpal Singh, car­ried a ban­ner call­ing for change and rais­ing slo­gans.

Ac­cord­ing to ob­servers, the rally at Mi­nar-i-pak­istan was the largestever po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ing of peo­ple since 1986 when peo­ple choked the roads from the air­port to Mi­nar-i-pak­istan to wel­come Be­nazir Bhutto. But Be­nazir had sev­eral unique ad­van­tages that pulled the crowds for her. She had the grace and charm of a young maiden, fur­ther com­pounded by her help­less­ness as an or­phan, whose fa­ther had been done to death by a cruel mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor. And she was ap­pear­ing in pub­lic for the first time.

None of that ap­plied to Im­ran. He is nei­ther a landed aris­to­crat nor

a busi­ness ty­coon. He has, how­ever, per­se­vered like the Scot­tish king, Robert Bruce. He has shown the sin­gle-minded re­solve of a re­former driven by a (lofty) pur­pose that keeps adren­a­line per­pet­u­ally gush­ing in his veins, than a politi­cian look­ing for the pelf of of­fice.

Im­ran’s de­trac­tors have been many. Guardian’s De­clan Walsh once called him a “mis­er­able politi­cian.” Fron­tier Post po­lit­i­cal colum­nist, Azam Khalil, ad­dressed Khan as one of the “ut­ter fail­ures in Pak­istani pol­i­tics.” For the last fif­teen­plus years, Khan’s pol­i­tics have in­deed been lack­lus­ter. In April 1996, he founded the PTI and be­came its Chair­man and his party won a sin­gle seat, his own, in the National Assem­bly in the 2002 elec­tions.

But Im­ran’s crowd in 2011, eclipsed the at­ten­dance at the pub­lic meet­ing Shah­baz Sharif, as chief min­is­ter of the prov­ince, had held only a few days ear­lier at Bhati Gate. Though the venue is his­tor­i­cally fa­mous for turn­ing the tide of pol­i­tics, de­spite the free use of state re­sources he could not pull as big a gath­er­ing

In a hard-hit­ting speech Im­ran de­manded that the rulers de­clare their as­sets, threat­en­ing a civil dis­obe­di­ence move­ment and a coun­try­wide block­ade if they failed. In­ter­est­ingly, when he de­clared, “Hum aaj eik nayee

Pak­istan ka ag­haz ker ra­hay hain (we are launch­ing a new Pak­istan to­day),” Im­ran Khan was re­peat­ing word for word what Z. A. Bhutto had said af­ter be­com­ing prime min­is­ter. Even his state­ment “To­day I greet all the rick­shaw driv­ers, taxi driv­ers… civil ser­vants who have se­cretly come here, po­lice­men who are happy on the in­side,” had an echo of ZAB’S sen­ti­ments.

His pro­nounce­ments that the PTI would never use the army against its own peo­ple nor would ever beg for for­eign aid will cer­tainly re­as­sure those who dream of a demo­cratic and peace­ful Pak­istan. But his dec­la­ra­tion that “Tribal el­ders have pledged to en­sure peace if the army with­draws from the tribal ar­eas. They have said leave it to us, we will end ter­ror­ism our­selves,” is likely to cause some raised eye­brows.

Be­sides, the nag­ging ques­tion re­mains, “Will he be able to sus­tain the en­thu­si­asm of the peo­ple at the same pitch?” He has said all the right things such as the mea­sures for re­duc­ing poverty and re­ject­ing beg­gary. Yet, the spark that elec­tri­fied the masses, such as PPP’S roti, kapra, ma

kan or Indira Gandhi’s gharibi hatao is miss­ing.

Per­sonal in­tegrity is Im­ran’s forte. His hands are squeaky clean. But one man does not make a show. ZAB had gath­ered a galaxy of tal­ented peo­ple,

He has said all the right things such as the mea­sures for re­duc­ing poverty and re­ject­ing beg­gary. Yet, the spark that elec­tri­fied the masses, such as PPP’S roti, kapra, makan or Indira Gandhi’s gharibi hatao is miss­ing.

such as J.A. Rahim, Mubashir Hasan, Yusuf Buch, Hafeez Pirzada and so forth. Many of them, like Rahim and Has­san were not “pro­fes­sional” politi­cians. Im­ran Khan will be hard pressed to col­lect a sim­i­lar team. Be­sides, politi­cians who are clean yet can also gar­ner votes will be rare to find. A.K. Brohi was one such find yet he could not get past the hus­tings.

When Im­ran Khan launched his party in 1996, Prime Min­is­ter Be­nazir Bhutto asked, “Can Im­ran win 51 per cent seats in par­lia­ment to form a govern­ment?” That ques­tion mark still stands.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party in­vited Im­ran Khan for a four-day visit that be­gan the day af­ter his his­toric rally at Minto Park. This was the first time the CCP in­vited a Pak­istani be­fore he had even been elected. Po­lit­i­cal ob­servers in­ter­pret this as an in­di­ca­tor that China sees in Im­ran Khan a vi­able leader.

The US is mean­while, watch­ing him closely. The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and former editor of Southa­sia Mag­a­zine.

Pak­istan’s only hope?

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