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.
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.
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