The Pied Piper in Karachi

Published: December 26, 2011

The writer is a sub-editor on the web desk of The Express Tribune and has an LLB degree from the University of London

Imran Khan’s first public show in Karachi was in May, when the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) gathered at the Native Jetty bridge in Karachi to protest drone strikes. When I spoke to PTI supporters in the crowd of about 8,000-10,000 people that had gathered then, the popular sentiment was anger against America. Naysayers were quick to dismiss the event as a failure and upheld the view that Karachi would always be the MQM’s turf. But his rally on December 25 at Jinnah’s mausoleum silenced even his most vocal critics.

In a city like Karachi, where violence underscores the mix of ethnicities, Imran rallied for peace and unity quite successfully on December 25. Besides the fact that the crowd was massive — reportedly about 200,000 supporters — what was heart-warming was the sense of unity and brotherhood: Pakistanis from all walks of life represented — no hateful banners and no angry sloganeering. It was uplifting to see ‘mummy daddy’ supporters stand side-by-side with the awam, bridging the otherwise obvious divide between the rich and the not-so-rich. No one talked about drone attacks or civilian casualties. The mood was light, almost festive and people seemed to be having a really good time with all the music and the sprinkle of celebrities. For some, it was their first ever experience of a public rally. Why? Why did these Pakistanis, whose political activism is usually dormant, decide to be a part of Imran’s fleet?

The answers I got were varied and some very amusing: Imran is a hero; the PTI will change conventional politics in Pakistan; if not Imran then who; and (my personal favourite), I will vote for the MQM but I was curious to see what these PTI rallies are all about. No matter what the reason, like the Pied Piper, Imran called out to Karachi and Karachi, like Lahore, followed in hordes. So what does this mean for PTI rivals?

The PML-N must have watched with apprehension as former PML-N stalwart, Javed Hashmi, wowed Karachi with his charged speech and chants of “Baaghi! Baaghi” that left him crimson with emotion. Not only has the PTI proven to be a formidable force in Punjab, after Sunday’s showdown it has changed the landscape of politics in Sindh. Shahbaz Sharif’s swift statement that he will expose the “traitors cum politicians” who are switching from one party to another on the instructions of the establishment, is proof that all is not good in Raiwind. In this regard, the MQM’s decision to support the PTI rally in their city was a far cleverer move than opposing it. The MQM congratulated Imran for holding a “successful rally” in the metropolis and it’s no surprise that they did, since all speakers at the rally refrained from criticising them in any way. Could it be that the PTI is hoping to form some sort of alliance with the MQM come election results? Will past grievances and the fact that Imran was once banned from entering the city by the MQM be let go? I suppose all can be forgiven and forgotten when you are a relatively young party hoping to strengthen your ranks.

Critics who say that Imran’s approach of opening his arms to defectors contradicts his message of ‘change’, should know that it is his only option if he wants some sort of success in the coming election. Imran may be the PTI’s poster boy, but with additions like Qureshi and Hashmi who are seasoned politicians with a large following, he is being taken more seriously. But just like the Pied Piper has a dark side, I fear that Imran may be offering delusive enticements. In all his earnestness to come into power, it seems that he is falling victim to the very change he is fighting for: the love of the kursi.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (53)

  • Dec 26, 2011 - 10:16PM

    Well researched op-ed, Yes, the rally was good, the energy was there, we congratulate Imran Khan and best of luck to him but still as a Karachite, i will still vote for MQM, since PTI still don’t possess the likes of Mustafa Kamal :)

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  • Arifq
    Dec 26, 2011 - 10:32PM

    A wise man once said, all politics is local. Mr. Imran Khan was till Lahore a one man army with very little hope of becoming a national leader, but all that changed post Lahore grand showing. As an individual who can draw crowds across Pakistan, Imran Khan is the man to beat but what about the candidates who can win their local seats? The PTI supporter would say, yes we Khan but that does not get votes in Pakistan where Biradari system, ethnicities, cast, sect and most importantly local loyalty matters. All other political parties understand local politics thus their immoral compromises with unsavory elements, PTI is no different and appears to be on the same trajectory. Having said that, lets not forget the other parties will go into turbo drive to protect their seats Recommend

  • Parvez
    Dec 26, 2011 - 10:36PM

    I thought the opinion piece was balanced and good right until you got to the end and then you allowed a bit of cynicism to creep in.

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  • Ahmed Khan
    Dec 26, 2011 - 10:40PM

    Iam going to vote for PTI..atleast IK represents some change

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  • SSA
    Dec 26, 2011 - 11:08PM

    The best thing is Imran is niether playing to the LEFT nor specifically to the RIGHT he is playing it STRAIGHT.
    Lets hope he succeeds ,becuase if he fails Pakistan fails.

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  • Bossman
    Dec 26, 2011 - 11:09PM

    He had the option of kursi many times before, after 15 years of opposing the kursi, he would not fall into the greed.

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  • Dec 26, 2011 - 11:36PM

    “I fear that Imran may be offering delusive enticements. “

    This is absolutely true. He has nothing else to say other than hot air. Soon the hot air baloon will be exploded by the sharp needle of reality.

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  • Dec 26, 2011 - 11:50PM

    Why Pied piper stays silent on MQM remains a mystery and of course not many people remember that in May this year PTI chief Imran Khan had led a two-day sit-in in Karachi near the Native Jetty bridge in protest against the US drone attacks, but at that time public participation had not been as much as it was on Sunday.

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  • waqar
    Dec 27, 2011 - 12:16AM

    Imran is a selfless person.He is not in politics for his own benefit or fame.What he is doing is the responsibility of each single Pakistani.good thing is that most people have realized that Pakistan needs a honest leader.if you know a little bit about sir Imran you must realize that he is very capable of doing this extremely difficult but possible job of turning around the state in which Pakistan is in today.you have to trust his leadership ability and be sure he will not let any one hijack this movement.long live imran,Pakistan zindabad.geo pti

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  • Anonymous
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:02AM

    You were from the same school that i was from so i ended up on this page. cuz i thought wait, where have i seen this girl. lol. anywho, nice article but I didn’t like the fact that you are so skeptical about a person who has achieved everything that he has said he would do in his life. Also, look around you woman, do u know of any better politician or honest man who is willing to be questioned for every wrong he does?
    Honestly, i think that any educated, wise person would clearly know the difference between a man who has and is most likely to fulfill his promises and a person who has not fulfilled any.

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  • Ali_1
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:18AM

    PML N should resign completely. Yes 200,000 is not a big figure compared to MQM’s millions but still its a BIG ACHIEVEMENT. And everyone should support PTI.

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  • HW kakar
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:36AM

    Sunday really of Mr . Irmran was too much different from his other events especially from this year PTI really against Drone Attack.because he remained silent and can not speak single word against MQM.iwhat is represents…………….???

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  • dr j tipu
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:46AM

    watever, but my family, friends n me voting for IK deffo……………..a retaliation vote against all other bigots

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  • Falcon
    Dec 27, 2011 - 2:01AM

    What is a ‘delusive enticement’ in one man’s perspective is a non-compromisable goal for another man…whether he succeeds or fails at the end matters less…I DO KNOW that he will give it his best shot and that is all that matters!

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  • Ali from Karachi
    Dec 27, 2011 - 3:42AM

    Thoroughly enjoyed the PTI jalsa but I will still vote for MQM.

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  • You Said It
    Dec 27, 2011 - 3:53AM

    If the analogy is right, then those following the #PiedPiper today would be #Rats (well, surely some sinking ships are being fast abandoned); if he’s elected the nation’s children will be lost forever??!!!

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  • Saad
    Dec 27, 2011 - 4:39AM

    He is already striking deals before coming into power, he’ll have to hold his end of bargain when he comes to power and nothing will change in the name of ‘maslihat’.

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  • aftab najeeb
    Dec 27, 2011 - 4:46AM

    well people of pakistan looking toword imran khan we know he is the last hope me and my freinds and all my family going to vote pti people has changed world has been change where we are

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  • aftab najeeb
    Dec 27, 2011 - 4:51AM

    we dont need to worry about amrica or west bcoz they are established nations only there leadrs are hipocrets not people i been liven in uk 20 years and i love uk when comes cause i am pakistani imran khan will roole muslim world

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  • Habib
    Dec 27, 2011 - 5:25AM

    Can anybody tell what were the flags of banned sectarian organizations doing in the rally of our great saviour and the most brave leader Imran Khan????
    Plainly speaking,if for the sake of publicity he cant stop such flags then Only the God knows the magnitude of sectarian killings in Pakistan in the near future.

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  • Maryam
    Dec 27, 2011 - 6:23AM

    At the end of the story, the Pied Piper has only one side and which is dark.

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  • shoaib
    Dec 27, 2011 - 7:06AM

    I’ll vote for PTI. Only time will tell how PTI will affect the politics of MQM.

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  • Super Pak
    Dec 27, 2011 - 7:31AM

    I agree with bossman he had many oppurtunities to get the kursi but he didnt because he is a man of principle. Too bad skeptic people can’t see those qualities, most people who bash imran have the most superficial and least significant arguments against him.

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  • Sajid
    Dec 27, 2011 - 8:21AM

    @ Ali from Karachi
    Can I ask why?

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  • Zalim singh
    Dec 27, 2011 - 9:21AM

    So this pied piper will run them into Arabian sea?

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  • Humanity
    Dec 27, 2011 - 9:40AM

    So what change will IK specifically bring about, how and in what time frame?

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  • PakiKaki
    Dec 27, 2011 - 10:04AM

    ‘Critics who say that Imran’s approach of opening his arms to defectors contradicts his message of ‘change’, should know that it is his only option if he wants some sort of success in the coming election.’

    Madam, if this is the case then why had he been banging the drums of ‘changed politics’ and ‘i will never compromise’for the last 15 years, he’s been deceiving us all this time and took all the manipulative bunch in his fold when he was in a position to… nothing’s going to change in this country. Mr Khan will screw this country up further.

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  • Shani
    Dec 27, 2011 - 10:30AM

    Imran might posses some weakness in his personality and the party but c’mon guys all he is asking for a break.
    Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me !!
    Let’s all stand for a change, starting from within ourself.
    PeaceRecommend

  • Atif
    Dec 27, 2011 - 12:00PM

    Its a well shot Atika. PTI never entered in areas to gather crowd, which are considered as MQM base. Coalition is always a possibility but keep in mind MQM won’t compromise its seats in KHI. They simply can’t afford it. That is why I can’t foresee a change in SIndh political landscape.

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  • Hassan
    Dec 27, 2011 - 12:13PM

    Went to jalsa, had fun, but my vote to MQM

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  • MQM's Voter
    Dec 27, 2011 - 12:39PM

    MQM’s politics is based on the Philosophy of REALISM AND PRACTICALISM, they have delivered what they promised, MQM’s Leader Mustafa Kamal is the role model of Quaid E Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Quote (Work honestly and sincerely and be faithful and loyal to the Pakistan) the World best mayor -The man who changed the whole city, with his enthusiasm & devotion to serve the nation without any discrimination. Today its his Birthday allow me to take honor to wish the great man a very happy birthday.

    Coming back to the article Two parties MQM & PTI – both against Feudalism, urban, Symbol of Change, massmobilisers, yeayy near in future their will be a patch-up for Good sake of Pakistan. PTI’s Manifesto, constitution, policy and even slogan are seem to be extracted from MQM one’s.

    Congratulate n my best wishes for PTI,
    Sincerely,
    MQM Voter (MQM4Life)

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  • Nafisa
    Dec 27, 2011 - 12:57PM

    My thoughts exactly, Imran Khan’s Strategies should be looked at with a keen eye. Recommend

  • Overseas Pakistani
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:02PM

    What PTI provides Javed Hashmi.
    Electrifying youth, vociferous slogans, high veneration, pledge for change and a platform to talk freely!
    What else Javed Hashmi desire for. This is a kind of tonic that will make him young again. I am sure!

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  • Zeeshan
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:05PM

    MQM’s politics is based on the Philosophy of REALISM AND PRACTICALISM, they have delivered what they promised, MQM’s Leader Mustafa Kamal is the role model of Quaid E Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Quote (Work honestly and sincerely and be faithful and loyal to the Pakistan) the World best mayor -The man who changed the whole city, with his enthusiasm & devotion to serve the nation without any discrimination. Today its his Birthday allow me to take honor to wish the great man a very happy birthday.

    Coming back to the article Two parties MQM & PTI – both against Feudalism, urban, Symbol of Change, massmobilisers, yeayy near in future their will be a patch-up for Good sake of Pakistan. PTI’s Manifesto, constitution, policy and even slogan are seem to be extracted from MQM one’s.

    Congratulate n my best wishes for PTI,
    Sincerely,
    MQM Voter (MQM4Life)

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  • Saif
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:26PM

    @ Yasser Khan:
    *Well researched op-ed*
    !!!!!
    There’s no research here! It’s a purely opinion piece!!!

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  • Paki-Australian
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:31PM

    I too remain wary of Imran’s motives. How could PTI be any different given the party officials are power hungry defectors from the PML or PPP?

    Same old people, new brand! PT?

    Make you wonder!! Recommend

  • Kafka
    Dec 27, 2011 - 1:51PM

    PTI will loose at least one vote (mine) if it decides to side with MQM

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  • Sam
    Dec 27, 2011 - 2:21PM

    I am confused when IK is blamed to be part of KURSI Marathon. Read “Old rivals to team up against ‘common foe’”. The people of Pakistan never stood the way they are standing together united on a single platform. Imran Khan is working hard to bring people close regardless of their ethnicity which is itself a proof of a “WILL” to change the system. If one does a neutral analysis of our history it will become evident that nothing was done for the betterment of People by these parties. Let go everything, our governments couldn’t provide clean drinking water facility in last 60 years. Stop casting these aspersions on an honest man.

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  • Dec 27, 2011 - 2:24PM

    I’m Karachiet and my Vote for MQM. In PTI’s rally, Imran didn’t announce any manifesto for the Karachi. It’s Epic Failure.

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  • Mrs Ahmed
    Dec 27, 2011 - 3:03PM

    @Zalim singh:
    i wish i could recommend u to infinity

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  • Rashid
    Dec 27, 2011 - 4:19PM

    I believe that Mr. IK will be the PM in next term and also believe he will turn Pakistan on right direction, bcoz his life is full of turns from Successful cricketer to Successful Social Worker and now he is turning to be the successfull Politian.

    My Prayers are with him for the sake of Pakistan.

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  • Mrs Ahmed
    Dec 27, 2011 - 4:23PM

    @Ammad Hafeez:
    true magnificent failure

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  • samia
    Dec 27, 2011 - 4:42PM

    Can all those people who went to PTI jalsa but will still vote for MQM tell me why did they waste their time in the jalsa?

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  • aysha
    Dec 27, 2011 - 5:12PM

    @samia:
    main attractions were Roy and Haque

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  • Hoor
    Dec 27, 2011 - 6:32PM

    With all due respect to the writer and the many critics, i am very disappointed in my people.
    Imran Khan talks of change, of a good pakistan, of a happy, self sufficient nation. He is a dreamer, but he has changed all his dreams into reality. His only fault is that he is dreaming for you people, a nation that is used to slavery and has become dependent on other countries. His only fault is that he is showing his dreams to a corrupt, foolish, and selfish nation. His only fault is that he wants a change, while we, the nation, are perfectly content with watching this country fall apart Its hilarious to see so many people voting for MQM, when in Karachi, during the MQM government, life has lost its value.
    That guy is daring to dream of a good future for you and your children, but honestly speaking, none of you deserve it. You’ve already tried each one of these disgusting leaders, why not break these stereotypical chains for once? why not bring a change? and whatever party you vote for, its going to keep sinking. Why not try PTI, which has never come in power? It can’t get any worse, but it might get better. Cling to that ‘might’ and take a gamble. I, a true Pakistani, implore you, save this country. At least have hope for it. Fight for your freedom. Please.

    no offense intended.Recommend

  • fahad
    Dec 27, 2011 - 7:39PM

    I wish ik all the best. If he fails then i think army has to be called in indefinetly. I dnt care if its democracy, dictatorship or communism. i want to see Pakistan progress.

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  • Farooq Azeem
    Dec 27, 2011 - 8:43PM

    @samia:
    If you know Karachi, Karachi is a big fan of activity specially of political nature. Crowds also gathered at rallies of Jamat-e-Islami, (banned) SSP and S.T. etc.
    Do you think that Youth of Karachi didn’t know the history of the leaders sitting on stage?
    Everyone including Imran Khan has a baggage of past for Karachiats. So Imran should try his luck with Punjab.

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  • Sidrah Nadeem
    Dec 27, 2011 - 9:23PM

    Very well summarised by the writer, but I’m personally hoping the Pied Piper ignores his evil streak, if at all he’s harbouring one. Being extremely apprehensive about his political abilities before witnessing the Jalsa here’s why I feel he ‘can’ be the positive change he wants to be.

    1.Everyone present at the mausoleum risked their lives- literally- to be a part of it which is a rare sight for Karachiites. Sindhi’s, Balochis, Hindus, Silkhs, Kashmiris, Punjabi’s, Parsi’s, Pathans all united for one cause, hence the PTI is blessed with the support of the people.

    2.They have faith in someone who’s a believer, quite like the Quaid himself. I know the comparison might be pre- mature, but he has the potential to deliver, that’s what people are going to cast their votes on. Faith.

    3.I’ve been to concerts of roughly 5,000- 10,000 people and most of them end up in brawls. There were roughly 200, 000 thousand people present there, and it was overwhelming to see the Discipline/patience that they all possessed.

    Unity Faith Discipline

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  • Adnan Kyani
    Dec 28, 2011 - 1:38AM

    Imran is not what nation is thinking of him, this is what he has done to me. I went to dawn tv and now I will come on other media to expose him.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk47Kk0dxQ4

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  • Anonymous
    Dec 28, 2011 - 9:20AM

    @fahad:
    How many years u want to try army. They have been here for 40 years directly without hinderance . Their words were law and they could insert any clause in constitution.
    Is ther any country in world that has progressed under army ever?
    There are many countries where democracy has made the difference.
    Don’t worry give democracy a chance . Let democracy have 2 peaceful transitions i.e 15 years of democracy without clutches . We haven’t even one peaceful transfer so for.
    Be tolerant please.Recommend

  • shoaib
    Dec 28, 2011 - 11:40AM

    @Ammad Hafeez: you failed to read between the lines.

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  • abdul
    Dec 28, 2011 - 4:24PM

    it will be a greatest curse if IMRAN do the alliance with MQM or MUSHARAF ,,,..if he will do so he will loss his worthRecommend

  • Good analysis! However personal voting preference should not have been mentioned. An author is not supposed to show his/her bias.

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