The name won’t be Khan

Published: October 9, 2011

The writer is a commentator on current affairs. He also writes for the Khaleej Times, Gulf News and The Huffington Post

Of late, there has been much ado over the prospects of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a certain Mr Khan in the next general elections. There have been the pragmatic who insist that Mr Khan’s idyllic, idealistic appeal makes for a good anthem call, but fails in the negotiated murk of implementation. Then there are those who say Mr Khan’s whim and vigour yielded the unlikeliest of results on the cricket pitch in 92: it’s not too much to hope for a similar upheaval in status quo in the political outfield.

These arguments, though well-meaning and for the most part fairly adroit, are also unfortunately irrelevant. For it isn’t Khan’s bona fides that one must worry about, but that the system of electoral machinations, which is vehemently against the outsider.

Consider the facts on the ground. The PTI’s appeal, though rising, is based largely around urban centres. The party’s supporters are the urbane city dwellers, who for the large part excel at couch analysis, latte sipping, and categorical activism through the consistent updating of Facebook statuses and Twitter one-liners (please note, at this juncture, that I very much count myself as part of the Facebook updating, tweeting, cappuccino cohort). Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this. In fact, it’s a non-violent, semi-progressive agenda that does not give leeway to the same dichotomy of thieves that have been robbing all and sundry blind for decades. I support it.

But the nature of Pakistan’s socio-political structure is feudal. This ensures that the mass bulk of your voters are going to vote the way they always have — depending on which constituency they may fall in. Subjected to decades of oversight, they’re in the advanced stages of Stockholm Syndrome, and will relentlessly vote to power the same people who always proceed to disenfranchise them. This seems a bit harsh, so allow me to qualify: landowners, even if of a feudal bent, have some connection to their sundry serfs. They may do very little, but still have more power to effect change in feudal lands than your average white-collar person.

Alas, this calculus has been done before. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville stated the danger of democracy becoming the tyranny of the majority. Essentially, this means a majority can impose its views to the detriment of a large minority. This is precisely the case here, with the white-collar vote outweighed by a mass of farmers and workers answerable to their feudal lords. The lords canvas, and arrange for people in their circle of influence to be ferried back and forth from polling stations. They point votes in the direction of their latest decreed alliance.

The moral of this story is that as long as the feudal structure stays, the Khan stays out. Even His Cricketship has mentioned this by way of an anecdote on several an occasion. He talks about how the PTI will sweep the urban centres and lose ground in the rural areas. He blames this on rigging: ‘I would put it down to simple influence of the land-owning classes.’ Even if he were right, and rigging were occurring in far flung polling stations, that too is a by-product of a system in feudal inertia, because an independent election commission has not yet been established in Pakistan. The incumbents have no wish to erode power in the interest of fair play.

So here then is the dilemma. Khan is canvassing against a system that looks after its own — and in the manner of Marx’s structuralism, has created institutions that help it sustain and propagate itself. The PTI’s core constituency is the very sort of urban middle-class that does not have the might of numbers or resources to challenge land and power. In delicious irony, the poor who are being hurt the most by the current system are also helping to sustain it: a stereotypical Marxist construct if ever there were one.

This isn’t about Khan’s suitability as premier, nor about his ideals. It’s simply about a system that is caught up in its own inertia, and looks after its own. Outsiders are not welcome. And the urban classes Khan is courting — or rather the ones who are courting Khan — have a history of not voting anyway. So stick that in your Facebook and update it.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2011.

Reader Comments (49)

  • faraz
    Oct 9, 2011 - 8:58PM

    Get prepared for the charge of the internet brigade. My favorite PTI rant: you have written this article to get attention.

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  • pinky
    Oct 9, 2011 - 9:23PM

    u summed it up very accurately, Hisham..bravo

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  • Imran Swati
    Oct 9, 2011 - 9:30PM

    Hope for the BEST and Love PAKISTAN !

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  • Tahir
    Oct 9, 2011 - 9:38PM

    The writer has not been following Imran Khan properly, Tens of thousands of people have attended PTI jalsas in rural areas aswel as urban. And not only middle class people support him, poor&rich, all ethnics,liberals and conservatives, and most importantly the youth which forms 70% of the population.

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  • Lobster
    Oct 9, 2011 - 9:48PM

    And the message is? The feudal system will be automatically demolished?

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  • Khan
    Oct 9, 2011 - 9:58PM

    lol! yeah u r right & spot on..but how the hell do we get out of this mess?? everyone writes & talks about the cancer we have in our society but its about time someone wrote a prescription!!

    I’ll be extremely sad if he loses this time..

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  • Oct 9, 2011 - 10:13PM

    quite a realistic point of view.

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  • SUPERB
    Oct 9, 2011 - 10:20PM

    Yup realistic and balanced analysis. But I let you know this time we will not only go to vote but also finance the voting process. I tell you not this time.

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  • Faraz
    Oct 9, 2011 - 10:21PM

    No one from heaven is going to come and change the feudal system. It is the people who need to realize what the feudal lords have done with them for decades. If they still choose to vote for the conventional politicians then I’m afraid we will surely perish. We, the educated must target our efforts to encourage and empower them. After 60 long years, this country has an option in the form of Imran Khan. If we don’t grasp it; we might not have another chance.

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  • Prof. Sarmad Hafeez
    Oct 9, 2011 - 10:36PM

    Blockquote

    Blockquote> Brilliance, while I was reading this i felt, I have written it !Blockquote

    Blockquote

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  • Safir,
    Oct 9, 2011 - 10:54PM

    Fuedals of England and U.S.A are now under the laws of land and pays all taxes very faith
    fully why could not be this happend in pakistan???

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  • antanu
    Oct 9, 2011 - 11:09PM

    going back to 1835….are you joking mr.columnist?

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  • Atif
    Oct 9, 2011 - 11:39PM

    I like the self-righteous pandering of this “large minority” ( Full Disclosure, i am also a part of it) which while insisted that it is been ‘tyrannically’ ruled by the large majority, conveniently chooses to ignore the majority of needs and demands of this ‘large majority’ and finds it convenient to group the entire population into a “feudal-loving advanced staged Stockholm Syndrome” group.

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  • Adeel Anwar
    Oct 9, 2011 - 11:50PM

    Mr. Hisham Wyne,

    Please read world history, and also write an article as to how revolutionists have broken all the inertia and changed sterotypes to emerge as developers and custodians of the new systems, though the process of change in Pakistan is always time consuming, it wont take longer than a decade if not earlier this time for all the known reasons,

    Long live Optimism and Patriotism towards change of status quo,

    Best,

    Adeel Anwar

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  • Insane
    Oct 10, 2011 - 12:01AM

    And this is the problem with you columnists. You sitting in Urban Area talking about Rural Areas. Why dont you talk into account the changing dynamics, importantly through media, raising awareness even in rural areas? I am not just saying I mean it as I am from rural areas. And what about the removal of fake votes and inclusion of more than thirty five million new votes? And what about young people fad up with the status qua? And what about urbanization rate? How much seat can you get now from feudal dominated areas? And do you think all the rural areas are feudally dominated? Obviously NOT. So dont worry this system, whatever you call it, has to go now. InshaAllah.

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  • Adeel Ahmed
    Oct 10, 2011 - 12:44AM

    This is a big issue or problem with this nation that we have no hope with this nation even our so called politicians/leaders and columist do not have faith on the nation. If we just go in-depth of these articles you may find one hidden statement “The nation is so hopeless that even they know right and wrong but they cannot bring change”.

    This is what I like of Imran Khan that atleast if he claim to be leader then he also show his faith and hope with nation. And I want such person to be my leader who atleast have faith on me.

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  • Nabiha Chauhdry
    Oct 10, 2011 - 12:58AM

    Quite agreed to the evaluation of the system that goes against Khan’s ideology, be it the monetary land owning feudal or the feudal mentality in the largest metropolis of Pakistan (and the world). However, there may be a glimmer of hope when one sees history of this region, when the large minority (Muslims of India) rejected being over ridden by the majority (Hindus, pre-partition). One may also consider the different models of revolution and evolution in history. Not all changes are absolute, with the sway of the wand and overnight. Likewise, to expect PTI to clean sweep the upcoming elections is keeping yourself in a fantasy world. Nevertheless, there is an unquestionable of PTI in Pakistan (and global, with reference to Afghanistan war) politics and no length of abject rigging can prevent PTI’s seats in the assemblies (all 4 plus national!). Once in, PTI and Khan will play the role of a useful and intelligent opposition (as has been seen in the APC couple of weeks ago).

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  • Truth Seeker
    Oct 10, 2011 - 1:02AM

    @Adeel Anwar:
    In ten years,if history is to be taken as a reliable guide, then Pakistan will be comparatively in worse shape due to economic woes and bludgeoning population. Imran Khan ten years older and less energetic will be unable to cause any ripples. It is now or never.

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  • Realist.
    Oct 10, 2011 - 1:14AM

    Feudalism is an IDEA.
    People can be of Feudal Mind-set without owning lands & industries.
    Imran khan Himself isn’t less than any feudal lord he is a self-righteous & an Arrogant man!

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  • rizwan
    Oct 10, 2011 - 1:17AM

    mr. hisham its not about imran khan or pti,its about pakistan,we need change in pakistan and i cant see anybody apart from imran khan who can bring change.we all should join his struggle and cause.this is time to act and do something for our country.just writing articles and criticising wont help.

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  • Oct 10, 2011 - 1:48AM

    Mr Wyne,is messenger of bad news,so we are going to be upset with him,he expects that.If I were to to be asked to write a column for next Presidential or Indian election of 2014,I would write pretty much the way Mr wyne has writen,very pessimistic state of affair.This not the people of USa or India want to hear mirred in 9.1 unemployment with double ression staring in our face, in India corrupt to the core congress with rampent corruption and no end in sight for bombs going off in court,malls and railway station?.What do you want him to say?Fueldism is irrelvent?powerless?white coller Dawn,Tribunal English speaking white coller guy more in number than rural voters, who read urdu ,when we all know white collar middle class both in India/Pakistan stay home and use the holiday for picnic?it is fact,my friends,you will have your face burried in face book on the day of election,the voters of mumbai after the messacre voted for incompetent congress!,you want him to say pigs fly?O.K.pig fly,Imran Khan will sweep vazirstan,and rural area of Pakistan,happy now,HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN.REJOICE.!What a desperate nation,want miracle,without working hard or changing anything,just honky Dory,peaches and cream.way to go.

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  • Slatif
    Oct 10, 2011 - 1:55AM

    Be prepared to eat your own words.

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  • Cynical
    Oct 10, 2011 - 2:46AM

    @Realist

    Spot on.I have met scores of people not having any land to talk about, but who betrays a feudal attitude in their words and deeds.

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  • Oct 10, 2011 - 3:09AM

    Long Live Imran Khan

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  • Zoaib
    Oct 10, 2011 - 3:54AM

    Wasn’t there the same feudal structure when Bhutto won in 1970?

    The point is that when the time for an idea comes, nothing can stop it. PTI is trying to generate a WAVE in its favour, with almost all big parties on the other side and only PTI representing true CHANGE. If the common man, even in villages, gets this idea in his head, then he’ll be motivated enough to vote for Khan.

    In Bhutto’s time, it was seen that big “candidates” arranged special transport and food etc. for their potential voters, and people made use the of the same transport to come to the polling booths, but casted votes in favour of Bhutto’s PPP. So please, do not under-estimate the common man, especially in this age of electronic media.

    In an election held in a normal environment, with only lesser evils and no true alternative provided, there is less turnout and we see people voting on the basis of their everyday problems such as roads and such (just like in a by-election). But in an election where there is such disappointment with the ruling parties and a CLEAR alternative (I believe it will get clearer during the election campaign when PTI’s team and plans are fully exposed), what Imran is claiming seems to be very much possible.

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  • Oct 10, 2011 - 4:03AM

    Interesting thing i have witnessed by following almost all stuff about IK and PTI. The major story line is focusing on how he could not come into politics while no one is listening to the new transformative trends. I think if someone wants to hit khan hard, then he should speak about the points around which khan’s narrative revolves.(new voters, youth, media change etc) In spite of digging into some old ground realities (They exist but they can be changed) you must dissect the new realities……the flag of hope of IK and PTI if you want to make a correct analysis.

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  • wsd
    Oct 10, 2011 - 4:14AM

    So what should we do???????Such articles are in abundance where writers point out the problems but stay away from a solution. First of all the big landowners and feudals mentioned above are a minority now and they are primarily found in interior Sindh, Baluchistan and parts of south Punjab. This is about 15-20% of the entire constituencies.

    The facts are simple……Enough is enough and now we need a change. It may start from cities and go to the villages but it has started and in my opinion we have to support it where ever we are, whatever we are doing. No matter you are intellectual sitting in front of a computer, a doctor, a teacher an engineer a shopkeeper, trader and what not. JUST SUPPORT THE CHANGE!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Arsalan
    Oct 10, 2011 - 5:19AM

    “And the urban classes Khan is courting — or rather the ones who are courting Khan — have a history of not voting anyway.”

    Incorrect. This will definitely change in the next election.

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  • Freeman
    Oct 10, 2011 - 5:24AM

    @Realist.: I do not agree with you at all. He is very brave and nice person and has proved to be patriotic. He is not self-rightious BUT he is a rightious as we support him. Million and Million people support him now. This time Pakistan will thrive under Inran Khan powerful Leadership.

    We do not care anymore feudal minds. We will vote for Imran Khan.

    MR. Writer I am not facebook activist. I am real and please do not underestimate Imran Khans supporters.

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  • pfaraz
    Oct 10, 2011 - 10:28AM

    In rural area during the election the moto is “Show me the MONEY, get my vote”… though not all voters practice this (to avoid generalizing my statement) Imran’s presence will be limited in those areasRecommend

  • Saad ullah
    Oct 10, 2011 - 10:40AM

    I am sure that the elections this time will not be as they used to be!! This elections will definately create a history!
    Previously people had no good option or hope at elections and thats why the turnout was very low! But inshaAllah they will be a serious business this time for everyone, esp after the worst present conditions and the removal of bogus votes! Im really optimistic this time!

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  • umair malik
    Oct 10, 2011 - 10:50AM

    In delicious irony, the poor who are being hurt the most by the current system are also helping to sustain it: a stereotypical Marxist construct if ever there were one……………………even den poor say dey are getting nothing from Pakistan……dey dont deserve to be………so there is a need to change minds…………

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  • Nabeel
    Oct 10, 2011 - 11:20AM

    “The party’s supporters are the urbane city dwellers, who for the large part excel at couch analysis, latte sipping, and categorical activism through the consistent updating of Facebook statuses and Twitter one-liners”

    The author clearly needs to get his facts right. Because this is not the case at all.
    And also you need to see how critical facebook, twitter and youtube have been in the revolution of countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and several others which are far backwards in terms of awareness compared to Pakistan. For them the same “urbane city dwellers, who for the large part excel at couch analysis, latte sipping” saved the day…

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  • Sheharyar
    Oct 10, 2011 - 12:27PM

    You are neglecting the fact that the urban centres of Pakistan constitute the majority of the population both from middle class and the elite. And if these people choose to vote, which looks positive the way PTI’s campaigning, then a victory for Imran Khan is on its way and all hope for the country is not yet lost!!

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  • H
    Oct 10, 2011 - 12:41PM

    It is not about the big landowners and fuedals in 20% of the constituencies.. the rural voters are not bonded slaves, they are not pressurized or coerced.. it is simply a matter of ‘herd mentality’.. in rural areas, people have more interaction with their elected representatives, more need and favors to ask.thus,they are very closely involved and represent a large proportion of the voters. even in rural areas, there is awareness and to some extent, acknowledgement of what imran khan has accomplished and what he can do.. however, u ask them where they will vote and the answer is ‘vote toh jahan biradari degi’.. they have free will but they choose to exercise it in following what the community is doing. they are more acitvely involved in politics but for them, elections are kind of a festival and voting is all about displaying loyalty together as a community and to the party which they and their ancestors have always supported. so basically, tradition and misplaced loyalty and love of the status quo keeps them in the rut they are in.

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  • Danish
    Oct 10, 2011 - 2:25PM

    @Nabeel:
    You are also ignoring the fact that the Internet Penetration in the mentioned countries (Syria, Tunisia, Egypt) is much higher (as a percentage of the total population) when compared to Pakistan. So if you are hoping for a “Pakistani Spring” then you are in for a disappointment.

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  • Danish
    Oct 10, 2011 - 2:38PM

    @Safir,:
    This happened by removing the power of religious dogma and bringing in land reforms causing a breakdown of the land banks and the allowing the peasants to become land owners themselves whereby dissolving the power and sway of the feudal lord.

    This means for this to happen in Pakistan the first step would be to work towards a secular society by making religion a personal agenda not a national agenda …. What are the chances of that happening?

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  • Danish
    Oct 10, 2011 - 2:49PM

    @Adeel Anwar:

    Revolutions come about when majority of the population is in extreme poverty and hunger and they are brought to the point of do or die.

    Right now only certain areas in Pakistan are at this level of deprivation not all. Most of the country is still enjoying 2 – 3 square meals a day. Punjab is the largest province in terms population (roughly 55% of the total population) my humble opinion make the whole province go without food for 2 days and on the third you will have your revolution.

    Until that happens …. Long live Denial and Obstinacy

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  • Karim
    Oct 10, 2011 - 2:52PM

    article is based on half-truths and conjecture and does not merit a serious response.Recommend

  • Ghaznavi
    Oct 10, 2011 - 5:20PM

    Mr. Hisham

    Considering that you wrote this article from the comfort of your home or office and as you admitted yourself that you count yourself as one of the ‘connected’ urbanites who are exposed to Facebook, Twitter etc. You have assumed that PTI is only active on the cybersphere. Which is far from reality. All you needed to do was to attend PTI community meetings (jalsay etc) on ground and interact with the PTI supporters who are gaining strength day by day.

    The historical data of elections held in the past and voting patterns in urban and rural areas would be totally irrelevant in the coming election. Mainly due to the fact that more than 38 million voters have been registered recently. These voters are predominantly the youth of Pakistan. The free media has not only had major impact in urban areas but also on the rural populace as it has greatly enhanced their understanding and awareness about political, social and economic issues.

    There exist more commonalities between Urban and Rural youth now than anytime in the past. Telecom revolution has ensured that the youth are more connected and aware, the media revolution has ensured that the youth identify and understand issues better than their parents and grand fathers.

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  • Oct 10, 2011 - 6:38PM

    Well balanced analysis.
    I believe this is quite right.

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  • Ch Allah Daad
    Oct 10, 2011 - 8:57PM

    Imran’s popularity is fake and it will hurt him badly in elections. The reason is very simple. All other political parties are already in government. They need not to spend their resources on processions and gatherings. Secondly, if government parties arrange public meetings, they could be targetted by terrorists. Only PTI and JI are immune to these attacks, therefore ordinary people atttend in large numbers to feel freedom, entertainment and enjoyment without any fear. Other political parties are waiting for elections and once elections are announced, they will come out with full force and spectators will be divided into many parties. At that point, if Imran could not get same number of people in his meetings, he will be at tremendous loss. As a sportsman, he should know the best time to be at peak. During Training Camp or during Match…

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  • Zainab
    Oct 10, 2011 - 10:56PM

    Sad but true.

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  • sam
    Oct 10, 2011 - 11:51PM

    Mian Azhar has joined PTI! so much for change!

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  • Ghulam Mustafa Chaniho
    Oct 11, 2011 - 12:31AM

    i am not a feudal. i am just a simple agriculturist. i have spent all my life in the city and been educated in the city. i am from khipro. the torrential rains have caused havoc to the economy of my home town. there have been no help from anyone and the only people taking care of the masses here have been the land owners, call them whatever you may but these people are respected in the rural areas not because they hold power over the people but because the state is so weak they are the only people the poor can look up to. and trust me not all of them in fact none of the land owners here are of the feudal mindset..

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  • Omair
    Oct 11, 2011 - 12:42AM

    A perfect case of an article that is not based on facts but opinion sitting in their own cacoons. Some facts:
    1. The only seat that PTI has ever won was in a rural area
    2. Imran khan in Interviews have said he enjoys more support in rural than in urban areas
    3. Have you ever gone and witnessed impact IKF has made in rural areas thru house constructions and seed distribution in rural (flood) areas and the ripple affect it is creating
    4. How demographics have changed since 1996 (considering subsequent elections were either under a general and then 45% bogus vote

    This country needs responsible journalism, unfortunately this is not. Please get out of your drawing room and visit rural areas.

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  • rizwan
    Oct 11, 2011 - 6:28AM

    @Danish:
    u r a tired man

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  • Jawad
    Oct 11, 2011 - 5:26PM

    So it seems that we would never able to get out of that vicious circle…

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  • tayyab
    Oct 20, 2011 - 11:56AM

    This article is a product of the feudal inertia in PK. Not that I am arguing against your sincerity or your command of language.Seriously.
    Pakistan cannot continue on the current course. Our graph has been downhill for past 60 years. We need change before we hit the ground.
    Change is the only option. And IK symbolizes this hope for change.
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