Over hot cups of chai, Pakistanis view Imran Khan as the sole hope this country has.
One of the perils of working for a newspaper is that whoever you meet, feels entitled to discuss the state of affairs with you.
They must tell you that these are the worst of times, that the current government is the most corrupt ever (citing some ballpark figures and rupee-dollar conversion rate as irrefutable evidence), that there are maps of a dismembered Pakistan circulating on the internet, and that the Chief Justice was an “epic fail” because he ran back to Islamabad instead of delivering a verdict on the Karachi suo motu case.
They would then heave a deep sigh, condemn the blossoming immorality, society’s growing intolerance, rising political temperatures, and the increasingly-shrill political-show anchors, in that particular order.
If I dare say that things are worse, if not equally bad, even in some European countries, they’d be distracted, and then dismissive. But at least they have a system, they exclaim. I scratch my head, give that up, and dig for counter-evidence closer to home.
“We had the Eighteenth Amendment, decentralisation of power”, elicits a ‘Hunh’. How does that even matter? they ask. Karachi is still bleeding, they beat their chest and chant. I give that up too.
What about the fact that we’re trying to draw up authentic voter lists for the next election? Here, they smirk, reminding me what a sham voter lists are, not realising that we were the ones that published the Election Commission’s admission that out of 80 million voters, 37 million were bogus in the last elections. Admission of shortcoming is progress? No, it’ll be worse the next time, because they feel so.
They also feel that there’s no hope for democracy, because Rehman Malik will be the interior minister again. They wouldn’t listen when I tell them that by-elections in Punjab have shown some spectacular upsets, highlighting a change in status quo.
But alas, Imran Khan will be the hope, they beam. And add in the same breath that what this country really needs is a ‘danda’. I don’t bother reminding them that they had it for eight years, and got sick of it.