PTI is holding its tsunami in Liaquat Bagh Rawalpindi today and I am thinking of a piece I read last Friday in this very newspaper called “Will the real Imran please stand up”.
Written by Mohammad Malick this piece reaffirmed my concern that the Imran Khan argument in our print media is somewhat one-sided. There is a huge majority of us who believe in Imran Khan, but in the print media we are not adequately represented.
I am not a PTI worker, nor am I under any obligation to support Imran Khan. I just speak for an average Pakistani who wants to see a prosperous, peaceful and proud Pakistan in her own life time and believes that Imran Khan can carve that Pakistan for her.
So when a journalist as credible as Mr Malick calls Imran Khan a case of ‘sheer default’, implies a mistrust in his companions, questions his extremist tendencies and alludes to his colourful past, all in order to raise the eternal question whether Imran is actually different from the other politicians; I feel I owe it to my intelligence, and my allegiance to the idea of a better Pakistan, that I show my side of the picture too.
This piece is my attempt to create a space for a pro Imran Khan argument simply because it’s needed.
Why do I support Imran Khan, the playboy, the extremist, the mullah in the closet? And when I say I, I speak for thousands of educated, reasonably sensible people, who gravitate towards him in droves, regardless of all the ‘intelligent’ criticism coming their way.
To begin with, I can safely say that I have never heard Imran Khan say anything that makes him an extremist. I think with this label, we commit the fallacy of omission. Of taking things out of context.
When does Imran Khan ever say that he supports extremism? All he says is that he doesn’t support the war against extremism because of the way it is being fought. In his view Pakistan is the biggest casualty in this war which is creating more extremism. He doesn’t sympathise with the ideology of terror; but has immense sympathy for the victims of the collateral damage. He asks for an end to one dimensional military policy, and wants a change of strategy. A political settlement, a ceasefire and negotiation.
Now right or wrong, simplistic or idealistic, this is a point of view. Like any other point of view it can be argued, thrashed or downright ridiculed. But the trouble starts when we misrepresent it and make it to be something that it’s not. A sympathy for terror, a love for the extremist.
Similar is the case of the playboy argument. The ad hominem, argument of attacking a person in order to disregard the ideas he stands for.
Do we honestly believe that having a colourful past means that a person cannot have a black and white present? Do we, the liberal educated moderate Pakistanis honestly believe that people cannot evolve with age and their changing roles in society cannot alter their priorities? That youthful adventures of a cricket sensation cannot be replaced with nationalistic aspirations of a mature political leader?
And if we do believe that then let those of us who are without a colourful past, cast the first stone.
I’m afraid, from a junior Bhutto to a senior Sharif we wouldn’t be left with a lot of choices if this is how we chose our leaders.
And speaking of leaders, I support Imran Khan because the leaders that my votes have put in power don’t inspire me. My life is difficult as it is, and I don’t have patience for a detached world where corrupt billionaires play victims and democracy serves the purpose of revenge. I have had enough.
Imran Khan speaks of my realities. His aspirations for my country are similar to mine. So what should I do? Should I stubbornly tell myself that no, good things can never happen to me, and painstakingly find arguments that feed my scepticism? Or should I get up and say: Ok, it seems very difficult, I don’t know how this man is going to do it, but then look at his track record. He is not an angel from the heavens, but he is credible. Credible, but human nevertheless, who like all humans is bound to make mistakes.
So let’s not attack him before he has even starts. Let’s help him out. He probably needs it.
With this I am not endorsing Mr Malick’s view that Imran Khan is a case of ‘sheer default’, a figment of a frustrated people’s desperate imagination. We might be frustrated but we are not delusional. Let’s not discredit Imran Khan’s rocky struggle of sixteen years by calling him a case of sheer default. Ayaz Amir once said that a lesser man would have given up long ago. And it’s true.
Imran Khan didn’t make a grand political entrance on October 30, he did so when he first stood in front of Pakistan during the ‘97 elections, wearing a woollen cap and a simple shalwar kameez and told us through our TV screens that he didn’t have the money to lure the voters, he didn’t have the buses to get them to the polling booths, but he wanted to end corruption and give us a just and self-respecting society.
The only difference between now and then is that we didn’t believe him then. But we do believe him now.
Imran Khan has tediously won us over, and that makes him not just another alternative, but the most viable alternative.
He doesn’t need to stand up. He already stands out.
The writer is a teaching fellow at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS. Email: adiahafraz@gmail. com