The tiger is an apex predator. It is a solitary, powerful beast and it is no surprise that Imran Khan is attracted to it. The Imran we all once knew was a cricket superstar who captained Pakistan to their first World Cup victory. He rallied the Pakistani cricket team in the 1992 final, ordering teammates to play like “cornered tigers”. A voracious playboy — he was once married to Jemima Goldsmith and was romantically linked to the likes of Susannah Constantine, Sita White, and Goldie Hawn. Like Imran’s bouffant hirsute and playboy years, the tiger analogy is now passé. As a politician, Imran needs to build true credibility. Democracy, as they say, must be something more than just a tiger and a cow voting on what to eat for dinner.
Over the years, Imran’s political campaign has been built around a narrative that has close associations with violent jihad. He has channeled public support using a popular, yet simplistic refrain that Pakistan’s political elite bears the blame for all of Pakistan’s woes. He argues that this political elite is corrupt and is complicit with the United States in the ongoing war on terror. This “master-slave” relationship, as Imran called it in a recent interview with Julian Assange, has caused indiscriminate death in Pakistan.
Imran’s misguided strategy is treacherous. Islamist groups exemplify all that is wrong with Pakistan. Their version of Islam lacks both empathy and tolerance. Islamists have long manipulated religion to advance a political agenda. Like the Republican Newt Gingrich, Imran has traded political obscurity for fleeting notoriety. The potential for intellectual rigour has been traded for half-baked ideas, the sort, which according to Najam Sethi, “you would pick up at an airport — and now Imran is caught in a no-man’s land, satisfying neither liberals nor conservatives”. Imran’s political rhetoric does not provide the framework to organise a proper government. Any Pakistani who pontificates that they can end corruption and terrorism in 90 days is disingenuous. But then again, this is the same Imran who wrote that Darwin didn’t quite get it right — referring to his theory of evolution as “half-baked”.
According to Imran, the salvation of Pakistan’s sovereignty lies in resurrecting the ideology that helped create Pakistan. He urges the country to unite to repulse American interests in the region. Imran’s use of religion and anti-American sentiment to push a political agenda is unfortunate. He shows himself as an opportunist, willing to appease Pakistan’s right wing in order to win votes and gain popular support. As someone who has stated that he wants to be “a catalyst for change, bringing in a big revolution in Pakistan and changing the way the country is going”, he is doing everything wrong. Imran’s speeches are full of clichés, false hopes and unreasonable offerings.
Pakistanis should demand more of their politicians — being Imran Khan is not good enough. When John Fitzgerald Kennedy took the oath of office in 1961 as the President of the United States, he delivered a moving speech announcing the dawn of a new era — “rejoicing in hope and patient in tribulation”. He went on to say: “In the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding on the back of the tiger ended up inside it.”
Imran should heed President Kennedy’s tiger analogy instead of politicking like a cornered one.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2012.
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