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Fifth column

March 11, 2017

Decrypting Imran Khan


March 11, 2017

Fifth column

Despite the predictions of doom and gloom by none other than Imran Khan, the self-designated provocateur of a cryptic fantasy of Naya Pakistan, the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) went smoothly. It was simultaneously surprising and encouraging to see people coming together in defiance of the dread the recent terror strikes had pursued to cultivate. The event succeeded in showcasing a unified national resolve to deny any agency to terrorism to regulate diurnal life. It also displayed, once again, the power and promise of cricket to unite the country for a change that is positive in its promise and potential.            

Imran Khan’s opposition to the match was silly at best. There is no denying the ruling that the Sharifs might have wanted to wring some mileage out of the event, but its capacity to galvanise the general public against terrorism and foment a powerful national narrative for the greater good was lost on the stupefied Khan. That a world class cricketer who owes his fame and fortune, and of course his position in politics, exclusively to cricket would work over time to frustrate the conduct of a cricket match beggars belief.

Of late, Khan has reduced his politics to slaloms between missteps, misdemeanours and miscalculations. To add to this, his belief in his self-righteousness saves him from any bother for introspection. His temerity to describe some of the PSL players in disparaging terms shows that Khan is in thrall to his own wisdom. With his          Kubla Khanesque      vision, he projects a world that is a confection of scepticism, disorder and malady that must be achieved for the purposes of a theatrical reinvention of his self as the sole saviour of this nation.

Imran Khan had energised and excited a new generation of the youth about politics, which was otherwise a preserve of the landed elite, their ever-looming cousins in khaki or old and retired folk with seemingly no gainful vocation. His participation in politics had offered a promise for Pakistan to break the stranglehold of the old guard who generally reinforced the medieval configurations of clan, creed or parochial topography. But that is in the past. Sadly, he has metamorphosed into a lethal dynamic of intolerance and hatred, adopted as a new colloquial by his cult-like followers. A large army of these youth are continuously engaged in peddling hate and spewing venom against all and sundry who dare to question the ever confusing wisdom of their ‘kaptaan’ on anything – from mundane cricket to more solemn business of politics. This has degraded Pakistani politics further and turned it into a banal engagement of lightweight trivia.

Much to the chagrin of the detractors, the successful conclusion of the PSL final has created quite some promise about Pakistan in the outside world. I had a chat with an old friend, well-known British journalist Peter Oborne, a former political editor at the daily         Telegraph. Peter is an authority on Pakistani cricket and his wonderful book, Wounded Tiger: A history of Cricket in Pakistan, remains seminal. He was over the moon at the success of the PSL tournament and commended the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for “a difficult but right decision” to hold the final in Lahore. He believes this has made the return of international cricket more likely possible. While he declined to respond to my observations about Imran Khan trying to provoke a fear psychosis to stall the final in Pakistan, he did express some cautious disbelief: “I don’t know why Imran Khan, who is such a great cricketer, did this. It was not helpful of him to get involved and make such comments in the run up to the final”.

Calling the assertion that the final match lacked world class players nonsense, Peter Oborne praised Chris Jordan, Darren Sammy et al for their commitment to the sport. Equally, he was livid at Kevin Pietersen and others for their absence from the Quetta Gladiators. “Pietersen’s failure to play in the final shows his lack of integrity and commitment. He has a habit of putting himself before the team and that is why he has been thrown out of the England team and is not welcome there anymore”.

As Panama is making a slow but certain comeback, the ruckus over the PSL and its aftermath will hopefully be over soon. But before it does, we must thank the security agencies including the Punjab Police for a job well done.

Postscript: Naeem Bukhari, Imran Khan’s counsel for the Panama case, recently claimed that mothers who could give birth to a person like Imran Khan were no more. He was speaking to Shahid Kamran on the latter’s talk show, On the Front, at Dunya TV. This was my first time seeing Bukhari in his new avatar as a fertility expert of sorts. While his intellectual musings must provoke some serious soul-searching at the national level, such claims should not be allowed to extinguish hopes for a Naya Pakistan. My reason for optimism is activated by the recent decision of the Federal Shariat Court which approved the option of test tube babies as halal. Thankfully, the judgement couldn’t have come at a more opportune time to offer some consolation when the portents are predicted to be so grim.                          

Appendage: In a recent article in Dawn, IA Rahman, showed surprise at the ‘advice’ of some visiting Chinese scholars on interstate economic cooperation and dispute management. He decoded it as a “clear warning that China’s policies should be understood in terms of its own leaders’ observations and not through their Pakistani translators”. I was the keynote speaker at the two-day conference, ‘Kashmir in focus: Avoiding conflict and quest for peace’, where these Chinese scholars spoke. They were calling for biding time to gain strategic advantage for any future military engagement to settle Kashmir. Unlike the rest of us, it seemed they firmly believed in such a proposition. That was certainly more surprising than their ‘advice’!


The writer is a journalist, author,and communications and securityspecialist. He lives between London, Lahore and Srinagar.

Twitter: @murtaza_shibli



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