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March 9, 2012

Not cricket

Opinion

March 9, 2012

Friends from the PTI remain upset with me for criticising their knight in shining armour, the once successful captain of the national team in a spectator sport, someone who capitalised on his fame to raise funds for building a remarkable hospital and a competitive college, and the person who never fails to brag about being incorruptible.
There are friends who I consider PTI’s old guard or committed to the original cause. They sincerely saw hope in Imran Khan some years ago. Their genuine and justifiable disappointment in the existing lot of our politicos made them contribute to the creation of a new party.
Many of them believe in scrapping the oppressive and dated social and economic order. Now I leave it up to them to think what it would mean to work arms in arms with the Legharis, Tammans, Bosans, Kasuris, Mahrs, Arbabs, Tareens and Qureshis.
Then we have parts of the British and the American press and the commentators on Pakistan like Anatol Lieven, who see the structural problems of the Pakistani political economy through an anthropological lens. Also, there are affluent middleclass professionals in the country itself who propose management solutions to political problems. For instance, they clamour for ‘rule of law’ rather than ‘social justice’ and ‘good governance’ rather than ‘redistribution of power and wealth’. These national and international experts on Pakistan, due to their facility in the common language of communication, inform the thinking of the otherwise astute policy makers in western capitals and the well meaning diplomats in Islamabad.
As far as Khan Sahib’s reaching out to the western capitals is concerned and to their representative missions in Islamabad, unlike what his rightwing supporters and a section of the disgruntled urban youth who see him as a messiah believe, he has been hobnobbing with the diplomats more frequently than his competitors in the game of Pakistani politics.
Either he is telling the

Americans and others that he has to maintain the classic hostility towards them when speaking to his conservative constituency in order to succeed in the upcoming elections or the missions in Islamabad do not get proper translations of his speeches made in Urdu.
In any case, the story he is trying to sell to them is that if he comes to power, he will negotiate the competing interests of the Taliban and the western countries most ably. The smooth withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan in the near future and a relatively peaceful exit from the Afghan quagmire is understandably the west’s priority.
But for us in Pakistan, who have some sense of history to recall that religious intolerance and violence did not begin here after 9/11, Khan Sahib’s latest statement that the Taliban pose no threat to Pakistan is a reminder of what he has stood for.
He also defended his party’s representation in the Defence of Pakistan Council but said that participating in its rallies does not mean that he subscribes to its Islamist ideology. Who wouldn’t find that confusing? Ironically, Taliban being less perplexed in their views, called him a slave of the US and Europe. Perhaps they are better apprised of Khan Sahib’s recent overtures towards the west than his own supporters.
You are turning 60 Khan Sahib but politics is not cricket. You don’t have to retire and, therefore, no need to hurry. We are told you work out every day to keep fit. Also find time to read, listen and contemplate a bit about how pro-poor democratic revolutions are brought about. Of course, if you are committed to what you claim.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and author. Email: harris. [email protected]