He is not a politician; he is not a business tycoon; he is not a landlord; he is not corrupt; he is not a liar; he is not a blackmailer; such a criteria should automatically disqualify a person from leading Pakistan. But that is precisely why he is being considered as the change many in Pakistan are yearning for. For years Imran has been an enigma analysts, critics, fans and general public could not fathom-how come a man with such a record of achievements and such amazing following could not be considered fit enough to lead the country?
Having been written off for the better part of his political career Imran and PTI are today sometimes reluctantly, and sometimes enthusiastically, recognized as the third political force in the country. The enthusiasts are the ones who see him as an anti status quo warrior who will purge this country from its many political and economic ills and will restore the country’s self esteem, while the reluctants still feel that there are many grey areas in his approach that do not make him a voluntary choice but a choice because of no other choice.
Let us analyze some of these areas of debate and see the reality behind the myth:
Imran is all big talk-The most oft repeated attack on him is that he has these grandiose ideas that are high sounding but have no connection with reality. His latest tall claim under criticism is that once in power, he will remove major corruption in 90 days. Figures speak for themselves. By the admission of their own appointed NAB chairman, who is being careful with these figures, the estimated daily corruption is Rs6 to 8 billion and most of it is due to 5 major institutions. If we change the head of these institutions we can save Rs2,000 billion annually solving our circular debt and many other problems. Pak Steel is an example. Led by an honest and professional head it was earning Rs8 billion profit in 2008 and with mercenaries in charge it has now accumulated a loss of Rs120 billion.
Also remember leadership starts with selling a vision and dreaming the impossible; Imran’s ability to see what others cannot see and do what others could not do is proven by his feats we all know about. Standing in a remote rural area and promising a world class college with a University of Bradford degree at no cost, was also laughed upon, but NAMAL today is a case study for international researchers, as is Shaukat Khanum.
Imran is pro-Taliban-this is another favourite tagline of those who doubt his philosophy. Some say he is a reborn extremist, others that he suffers from confused identity. This argument was even more fuelled a few years ago when Imran openly resented the military operations in Waziristan and protested profusely against drone attacks. His solution of engaging the Taliban through a dialogue was considered ridiculous and unrealistic. However time has proven his stance as being just and real. America today is chanting the same song and drone attacks are being condemned by all other parties in the country. Imran is a great believer in human values of equality, justice and integrity. His fear is that if any operations are carried out indiscriminately and end up hurting people who are innocent, as has been the case in Waziristan, Afghanistan and Iraq, its natural backlash will be more terrorism. This is substantiated by facts that there were no terrorist attacks before 9/11 in Pakistan and as the military operations and drone attacks increased so did extremism and bomb blasts. Pakistan has paid an unbearable cost of $60 billion and lives of 35000 people in this war “for” terror with no solution in sight.
Imran is anti West- Another related criticism is that Imran is anti American and anti west. This scares off people in two respects. Firstly, that he is not a moderate Muslim and that fear crops up every time he is seen with Jamaat-e-Islami leaders. Imran’s whole spiritual discovery is based on how Islam is such a modern, progressive and balanced way of thinking and living. His model Islamic nations are Turkey and Malaysia where these values are found in abundance. Thus with JI or any other party the only collaboration possible is on a common stance on certain issues, and not an alliance.
Secondly, Imran is not anti west but pro Pakistan. After having studied and lived in the west he has acknowledged many times that many of these countries practice more Islamic values and teachings than those living in Pakistan. He admires how these countries by being principle centred and law abiding have become societies with more justice and welfare for the common man. His vision is to develop friendly relations on equal footing with all countries including America.
The Quaid worked for almost 5 decades to fight for independence and for the rights of Muslims. Imran today is fighting for restoring the same pride and respect for Pakistanis all over the world. His dream of making the green passport a document of value and reverence is a dream every Pakistani shares.
Imran is an autocrat and not a team builder- the image of the angry and upset Imran of younger days was fuelled further by his solo flight as a politician appearing on media for many of the formative years of the party. People felt that his inability to listen to others and connect to many was a huge limit to attract people to his team. However now that a line of diverse people are joining PTI, the criticism is to the contrary i.e why is he taking people from other teams in his team.
Teams are always built on the basis of not who opposed whom but who best fits in with the job at hand. Obama’s appointment of Hilary is a classic example of how she who opposed many of his stances was still given the top international post due to her experience and competence. If you take opinion of those who have been with other party leaders to make a comparison between Imran and their previous chairmen they will unanimously tell you that such a democratic leader who listens to every dissenting voice and makes decisions on the basis of thorough consultations is almost unique in political parties.
If there is one thing that this nation has more or less unanimously agreed upon, and is demanding, is change. If Imran is not a career politician then that is the change we need, because the career politicians have failed time and again to better this country. Remember this country was not made by career politicians but by people who had the ability to sacrifice self for a higher purpose. Quaid-i-Azam, Allama Iqbal and Sir Syed were not MNAs and MPAs or sons of the political high ups. This country was made by a lawyer, a poet and a teacher and many like them. People who were not hard-core politicians but had vision, determination and integrity made this country. This country was made by people whose reason of existence was aligned to the reason of existence of the country. Thus, for this country to change, the time to choose people based on their ancestral fame, their constituency name and their political game is over.
Imran is a man driven by the vision of restoring faith in this country. Imran is a man driven by the exciting opportunities this country possesses. Imran is a man driven by his resolve to bring social renaissance in the society. His immense passion and relentless determination have always made bets against him a tricky business and will in the coming time prove a risky business for all those who doubt his ability to do the undoable.
The writer is a leadership coach, columnist and an ex Info Secretary of PTI Punjab and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org