Yup, it is indeed a pity, for a valid reason, that the famed tsunami has abated — and even to all intents and purposes, seems to be fast-fading. The pity is that had Imran Khan been able to sustain it, with or without aid and abetment from wherever, we might have seen change in the foreseeable future — much-wanted change, which has been harped upon by Khan himself.
Whether it might or would have been for better or for worse is another matter. But what is sorely needed in this country’s political scenario, which few with sanity can deny, is change. However, he has blundered badly and the blunders are too well known to bear boring repetition.
At home, what is expected of him in the next election? Can he win sufficient seats to even make a difference, let alone usher in change? Abroad, if a comment in The Guardian last month on the subject of his ‘detention’ in Toronto is anything to go by, he is still regarded as “the most popular politician in Pakistan and may very well be the country’s next prime minister”. That is a far cry as things stand.
In September 1996, Ardeshir Cowasjee addressed to him, in his Dawn column, an open letter. Sixteen years ago, Imran was just emerging. The letter amazingly tells us how little things have changed and how static they remain.
It opened: “Dear Imran: We thought you would be different from the goons we have suffered and still suffer, whose ‘followers’ round up people, pay them to go to airports to ‘greet’ them and take them in processions to wherever it is they are going and in the bargain, disturb the already harried people.
“On the day prior to your arrival and on the day you arrived in Karachi, August 19, this newspaper carried advertisements exhorting citizens to go to the airport and give you a ‘rousing welcome’. I asked your Karachi lieutenant, Nazim Haji, why this was being done and he told me that he was opposed to the idea but that others in your gang here had prevailed. Should you not curb and educate such elements?
“On Saturday, when citizens of Karachi were invited to meet you, some 400 of them had to look at each other for over half-an-hour. You were late. Nazim made the excuse that you had been delayed by the traffic. This raised a laugh. It was the day after the murder of Mir Murtaza and Karachi, its traffic and its people were all stunned. Then, you announced that your late-coming was not your fault. A good leader does not keep people waiting and should he do so, even inadvertently, he accepts responsibility and apologises.”
Towards the end: “Your prime declared concentration at the moment is on corruption, the eradication of which in the present dispensation is unachievable. The exchanges between president, prime minister and leader of the opposition on this subject are reminiscent of the legendary conferences Ali Baba was wont to hold with his right-hand man Mehmet Pasha and his left-hand man Turhan Bey after they had all been on a nightlong spree.
“What you can do right now is what some of us are trying to do — use your platform to lessen the robbing of what is left in the till. One well known rich picking spot upon which you can land is the Steel Mill, where figures of buying and selling run in billions.”
At the end: “A few points for you to consider. ‘Sacrifice’ is a word you (or for that matter, any politician) should never use. You are all doing precisely what you want to do. When you choose your team, carefully exclude those that claim they are willing to “sacrifice” themselves for their country.
“And, whenever a politician proclaims he is following in Muahammad Ali Jinnah’s footsteps, we know he is doing precisely the opposite”.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 29th, 2012.