The morning after the night before

Published: October 31, 2011
The writer is a partner at Bhandari, Naqvi & Riaz and an advocate of the Supreme Court. The writer can be reached at!/laalshah. The views presented in the article above are not those of his firm

The writer is a partner at Bhandari, Naqvi & Riaz and an advocate of the Supreme Court. The writer can be reached at!/laalshah. The views presented in the article above are not those of his firm

Falling for a political party is not all that different from selecting a mate. It can be a passionate affair, full of sound and fury. Or it can be a more sedate, more calculated affair in which one weighs up the pros and cons of matrimony with someone whose features may not excite the heart, but whose dowry (or financial health) offers a comfortable future.

Prior to the tempestuous arrival of Imran Khan on the scene, the three candidates on the Punjab scene (the PPP, the N and the Q) represented only varieties of the second approach. True, each of the three offered a different mixture of ideology, corruptibility and administrative (in)competence. But at the same time, all three were not just known quantities but tried, tested and failed quantities.

The prospect of voting for any of the three established parties therefore did not cause any flutters in peoples’ hearts. If anything, the reaction of the voting public was simply ‘ick’. And as a consequence of the ‘ick’ factor, a frighteningly large number of Pakistanis had simply written off the prospect of a happy political future altogether, preferring instead to wallow in apathy or to grimly ignore their daily diet of corruption and incompetence.

Sunday’s show of strength by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), however, altered this picture in two very important ways.

To begin with the obvious, the emergence of Imran Khan has — after a long time — injected some much-needed romance into the wooing of the electorate. People who had given up hope of ever seeing reform or movement in Pakistan’s calcified power structure are now, after many years, beginning to believe again in the prospect of a better future, in the possibility of hope.

The problem with romantic, hopeful dreams though is that they tend to get dashed by reality. For example, the stormy young poet hoping to take the world by storm with his revolutionary verse tends to present a considerably less appetising marital prospect after a decade of hardship than in the days when the future was still unlimned.

Similarly, the problem with Imran Khan the revolutionary leader was not just that he represented the romantic option but that he seemed to represent the hopelessly romantic option. And so, while the youth of this country swooned over him, others shook their heads and said that he had no chance. I confess that I was one of those shaking their heads.

It is in that context that Sunday’s rally represents a quantum shift. Anybody who can gather 100,000 people in Lahore is no longer a flake or a fluke: instead, that person represents real political power in its most elemental form, which is the ability to bring people out of their homes. Imran Khan always had the style to be a people’s leader. What has changed now is that he appears to have the substance as well. Or to continue the matrimonial analogy, he offers not just romance but the prospect of a steady job too.

Let me not get too carried away though. Notwithstanding the euphoria of Sunday’s rally, there is still a long way to go. I have no crystal ball with which to predict the future and I cannot say whether the PTI will win five seats or 50. Instead, what I can say is that PTI’s rally marked the first time for me when I took the PTI as a serious political contender. And I don’t think I’m the only one.

At the same time, being able to pull 100,000 people to a rally is a hell of a good start but it doesn’t guarantee a damn thing. If the PTI is to win seats in the upcoming elections, it will have to conduct a constituency by constituency analysis to find acceptable candidates. And within each constituency, its candidate will have to go door to door to negotiate with biraderi groups and, in essence, outbid them for their votes.

Again, it is in this context that PTI’s rally was so important. The ordinary voter prefers to be wooed but, more importantly, the ordinary voter wants to make damn sure that his vote counts. Thus, while I do mind if my chosen candidate loses, what I mind more is if my chosen candidate is not even a plausible option. To put it another way, I have no interest in symbolic protest votes: I want my vote to make a difference.

What the rally taught me is that a vote for Imran Khan is not going to be a wasted vote. His candidates may or may not win any seats. But they are unlikely to be embarrassed at the polling booth either. And so, for the first time, Imran Khan has credibility in my eyes.

Note, credibility does not mean that the PTI can bank on my vote. I still find the PTI to be hopelessly confused in its policies. And I also have deep reservations about Imran Khan’s fondness for negotiating with the Taliban. In other words, I may be interested but I’m not sold yet.

The point I’m trying to make though is not about my choice as a voter but a more general one about the importance of hope.

Pakistan is not a complete disaster but it often feels like one because of the sense of despondency we live with, the sense that no matter what we do, the future will be no better. What hope does is that it breaks the vicious circle by means of which apathy produces more apathy. What hope does is that it gives people other than complete cynics a reason to be in politics. What hope does is that it makes a better future more likely.

I don’t know if Imran Khan and his followers will succeed in their quest for political power. What I do know is that I now have a certain hope in the politics of this country that I did not have earlier. What I also know is that there are a lot of people out there like me. And for that, if nothing else, Imran Khan deserves all the praise he gets.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 1st, 2011. 

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Reader Comments (43)

  • Khan
    Oct 31, 2011 - 10:05PM

    IA Imran will receive a similar crowd in other cities as well.


  • Arifq
    Oct 31, 2011 - 10:08PM

    Totally agree with Feisal, like him many others were skeptics of Khan and his politIcs, not that we are converted but sure are impressed with Lahore and it’s people. Kudos Imran Khan for pulling off another world cup surprise.


  • Tahir
    Oct 31, 2011 - 10:14PM

    You don’t agree with his policies but he gave you hope. He gives Pakistan hope. Hope for change from corruption and misgovernance and thats my vote.


  • Oct 31, 2011 - 10:31PM

    Perfectly echoes the feeling of a lot of Pakistanis who aren’t on the bandwagon. Imran’s political credibility has certainly enhanced and in the process reenforced the belief in change from within a democratic system. People may agree or disagree with his policies, but one owes him credit to give a much needed dose of vitality to an otherwise ailing democracy in Pakistan.


  • White Russian
    Oct 31, 2011 - 10:42PM

    Imran Khan is champion of beating already beaten horses. Everyone knows where the real power lies. Root of almost every Pak problem is shrunken economy, and first step towards improving it is through correcting a faulty foreign policy. Every Tom, Dick or Harry in the street can hurl abuses on politicians to his hearts content, and so can Imran. Does Imran Khan has the guts to challenge the powers that be? I don not think so. Recommend

  • Falcon
    Oct 31, 2011 - 10:57PM

    So well articulated…thanks for putting it together. Waking up a nation and providing a ray of hope is a key step I think. Whether PTI wins the election or not is a different issue altogether…the very fact PTI is pulling non-voters into the political landscape reduces the risk of bad or unintended political choices…and I think that deserves some credit!


  • faraz
    Oct 31, 2011 - 11:38PM

    He talks of changing the status quo but speaks little about civil-military imbalance. Foreign and defence policy cannot be altered without challenging the military establishment


  • Parvez
    Oct 31, 2011 - 11:51PM

    If not Imran, then who ???
    You have spelt it out nicely without going overboard. Great article.


  • Bangash
    Nov 1, 2011 - 12:53AM

    The 100K crowd was mostly concertgoers for a free concert.


  • Nov 1, 2011 - 1:13AM

    can he turn this ‘icky’ factor to immy factor “nationwide”?


  • Nov 1, 2011 - 1:26AM

    I voted myself in 1997 elections for PTI, and only three other votes were counted from that ballot box for the same reason that everyone else didnt want to waste their vote for a party which doesnt ve any ranking among the masses. But with passage of time IK successfully managed to wake up the drawing room guys to be in the streamline of politics at least as a concerned citizen . Today the analyst the critics the wise ppl ve been constrained to change their point of view to consider IK or PTI for that matter as a party or an alternative political force. Though the journey has just started but mark my words it ll be a great great swing only to replicate in double the swing of 70`s. And wisely the youth and the silent voter who never participated in elections has realised it at the nick of time. It is always the man at top who matters and then he can develop his team with ease. I usually give example of Warid telecom. They were awarded the license after another group was discarded for not fullfilling the PTA terms. And within a span of 9 months the Sheikh Mubarak established the whole company with out having any previoe experience in telecom sector. Only because he was honest with his business and hired the best available professional team from the market. So point is this that IK is very clear about the country and countrymen. And if he ever grab the oppurtunity he is fully capable of putting Pakistan at right path and with ease. Definitely many people woulf differ from many of his point of view but that is countered by the honesty and sincerety he owes to Pakistan. In coming days you guys will witness many of these like writers changing their stance and the heading will be NOW I AM SOLD . Thank you


  • Lobster
    Nov 1, 2011 - 1:36AM

    Oh come one, he is thousand times better than Zardari, Nawaz, Asfand Yar and Altaf. Do you have an alternative?


  • Tariq Bashir
    Nov 1, 2011 - 1:54AM

    Another de ja vu? Another untested, inexperienced man who is massaging the national ego but will get on job training (read, political maturity) for a few years and will fall out with its maker (read, the military establishment) and will either be hanged or exiled. What a joke! Its another pincer movement like attack on the country by the military Inc who are determined not to loosen their grip so much so that it frightens me about the deadly consequences and the effects of weak democratic institutions which the Inc don’t give a toss about. They needed a face to forward their worn out myopic world view re Kashmir, jihadis, proxy fighters and strategic depth and gain breathing space vis-a-vis America. When Imran spoke he could well be mistaken for a retired military officer ranting in front of his equally conservative guests while having late afternoon tea and cakes at his plush DHA house! What has the country done to deserve this, ie jettison the experienced and hardened political leadership who understand the system better and induct a novice just because he will not blow the whistle on the Inc for obvious reasons?
    Feisal’s excellent writing skills apart, Imran does not represent change at all, he smacks of being another establishment tool ready to be used to perpetuate the type of rule people have tried to uproot many a time. Unfortunately, its like a lethal bacteria, mutating into something different, immune to medication.
    Am not a big fan of PMLN but it looks like all the big parties are being bought, bribed and blackmailed into ganging up on N with a new rabbit in the hat, Imran Khan. People are calling it a breath of fresh air. I am not.


  • gp65
    Nov 1, 2011 - 1:57AM

    @Author: “But at the same time, all three were not just known quantities but tried, tested and failed quantities.”

    I am an Indian and the decision of who the Pakistani people chose to vote for is ENTIRELY THEIRS to make. I acknowledge that. However I would like to share something for the people who are going to make decision based on what you just listed above.

    In India bad economic policies of Congress in the 1960s and 1970s had kept the Indian economy down. The liberalisation process unleashed in 1991 was also in the Congress regime which has injected a fresh vibrancy in the eonomy for the past 20 years. In other words, if a party had folowed incorrect policies in the past that have led to a bad result, it is possibly for the same party to bring in course correction. SO for example Nawaz Sharif who was an establishment candidate now realizes beyond a shadow of doubt that it is necessary for the military to report to the civilian establishment and also to pursue a very different foreign policy (particularly vis-a-vis India) that allows the coountry to make different choices visa-vis soft infrastructure (health, education), hard infrastructure (electricity, ports, railways) and defence. This one fundamental chane can put the country in a very different economic trajectory by jumpstarting the soft and hard infrastructure) of the country.

    I am not saying people should vote for PML-N vs. PTI. I have no locus standii in the matter. But I am just sharung India’s experience that people that failed in the past can spetacularly succeed in separate circumstance. I would also like to suggest that 2 term of less than 3 years each is not enough time to judge performance nad determine that someone failed.


  • Nov 1, 2011 - 2:24AM

    Good analysis. I think now PTI enter the second stage where it has to prepare an election organization.


  • Nosheen Khalid
    Nov 1, 2011 - 3:07AM

    Very well written article! I totally agree with you when you say “people who had given up hope of ever seeing reform or movement in Pakistan’s calcified power structure are now, after many years, beginning to believe again in the prospect of a better future, in the possibility of hope”

    Imran has come far and done a lot of good for the country but that doesn’t necessarily mean hes got it all together. But hats off to him for all hes done for Pakistan; hes got my entire households vote that’s for sure.


  • Rah Guzr
    Nov 1, 2011 - 5:37AM

    Next Please : Imran Khan


  • Y Khan
    Nov 1, 2011 - 5:59AM

    Imran Khan said that there are 10 lacks armed tribal lashkar behind him; I think he was talking about the TTP.


  • samir
    Nov 1, 2011 - 8:11AM

    trust me that the educated urdu speaking people have never voted for MQM and Imran khan can wake up the silent majority there i think he must do such a activity in KarachiRecommend

  • Observer
    Nov 1, 2011 - 10:12AM

    Hmmm . . .

    Pakistanis just don’t get it do they?

    They want to be spoon fed – they want a functioning democracy, tried and tested, everything bench run with errors minimised . . . well, perhaps Imran was right, he said he had a complaint to register with his supporters . . . he said they are slow in responding.
    If you want a sovereign country you have to work for it. Show some mettle and character.


  • Zohra S. khan
    Nov 1, 2011 - 10:29AM

    Devil’s advocate: Someone forgot to mention that the mere permission to hold a political rally in lahore is itself enough evidence to strengthen the ‘backed forces read agencies’ supporting Imran Khan. So change but compromised change..need another example of compromised change see:


  • antanu g
    Nov 1, 2011 - 10:32AM

    auther empahasizes on HOPE and hope is the strongest catalyst for change.In a country where prophets of doom are in abundance…IK’s biggest contribution is rejuvenation of HOPE. One cant ask for more from a leader ubder the precailing circumstances.


  • Adeel Ahmed
    Nov 1, 2011 - 10:42AM

    PTI Jalsa at Karachi is expected on 25th December, 2011, it has been learnt.

    So Karachiite, wake up!! we need much bigger show than Lahore.


  • M Bilal
    Nov 1, 2011 - 1:01PM

    @Tariq Bashir: A bit too pessimistic… Cannot blame you as our history and current scenario is such but still got to show some respect for IK… he is indeed wave of fresh air


  • M Bilal
    Nov 1, 2011 - 1:03PM

    @faraz: Got to save something for the later half of the innings, its not all over.


  • M Bilal
    Nov 1, 2011 - 1:05PM

    I am just too excited to think of such a gathering favoring IK in Karachi… We got to show all the critics that he can have same support in Karachi as well.


  • Realism
    Nov 1, 2011 - 1:21PM

    my only concern is that when and if Imran comes into power will he have the political guile to manage the army and the judiciary. He will require a lot of patience to deal with the vested interest in every sphere of life. What he claims is easier said than done. Good luck Imran.


  • Nasrat Baloch
    Nov 1, 2011 - 3:14PM

    THE CHANGE: change is the need of the hour in this country but how change comes; will it come by, merely, ousting the present Govt or stopping Nawaz from being elected again? Change should come from the top to the bottom. The present system of this country is in state of a total decay. Corruption is penetrated in the veins of of every one and I mean every one here; be it a peon or a top bureaucrat, be it laborer or Industrialist, be it a common political worker or a political leader and the list goes to our own selves. I have been observing this system for more than three decades now and seen it more deteriorating after every new govt. It is because faces of people have been changing not the system it self. We have seen various Govts with various slogans but when they came to power situation got worsened.The political party goes to masses with attractive slogans and wins the elections. so what? they never get the real power/authority from the “certain powerfull quarters” to freely govern the country nevertheless conspiracies to destabilize it start from the day one.The media is always there to help those “quarters”. Imran Khan should consider these bitter realities also.We need a revolution but not change of faces now; it should be a major surgery of whole system -be it establishment, extremism,media,businessmen and politicians. A REAL CHANGE.Recommend

    Nov 1, 2011 - 3:16PM

    The electrifying atmosphere at Minar-e-Pakistan on Sunday of which I, my friends and neighbors were very much a part, echos the sentiments of millions others sitting and watching the history-in-making in their homes. During the National Anthem, there were tears in the eyes of many youngsters present there and in those tears I could see a hope and a desire for change besides a strong will and belief to fashion that change.


  • Hammad Siddiqui
    Nov 1, 2011 - 3:24PM

    There is certainly a change in the air, but the actual change is needed by the Vote! I wonder how many will vote for Imran in rural areas of Pakistan?


  • Anjum Amin Siddiqui
    Nov 1, 2011 - 6:00PM

    Imran needs to put whole hearted efforts in rural areas especially Sindh if he really wants to do something for this country. For the last 20 years political parties especially PML (N) and its different factions never really made any efforts to break the dominance of PPP in rural Sindh & MQM in urban Sindh. Real and honest hard work is needed otherwise there is little chance for PTI to really implement the change they forsee.


  • usman
    Nov 1, 2011 - 6:33PM

    100,000? please try at least 400,000


  • Yousaf
    Nov 1, 2011 - 7:17PM

    You nailed it! I am an expatriate albeit not a youngster. But I did feel that my soul was standing by the people of my country in Minar-e-Pakistan. We have to make it work. We don’t have a choice!


  • Nov 1, 2011 - 8:17PM

    very candid analysis!


  • Mohsfit
    Nov 1, 2011 - 8:22PM

    It is funny to read some of the negative comments.People are so skeptic of Imran Khan as if bringing about some basic changes is rocket science. The complain of him not mentioning every issue. If he mentions issues they complain of lack of detail. Agreed. PTI does not have a detailed solutions for all the problems right now. But it is the only party where think tanks have started working very hard for the last year or so. They are coming up with short-term and long-term plans. This does not end here. The dream is to turn PTI into an institute. Party organization is going on right now and then it will lead to true party elections. Still a lot of work has to be done and a lot of way to go. As the public interest increases in the party and the new blood is infused, things will start to accelerate. PTI was nearly finished some years ago. It is the never say die attitude of Imran Khan that kept it alive even when the people did not believe it can go th distance. Imran had to fight against all odds. He needed funds, he needed work-force and he needed dedication to work on details plans. For the last few years things have started to progress in that direction. And the thing is do we have a choice otherwise. Active participation from the public will turn the fortunes. Imran is heading towards the right direction although some people are not able to comprehend that right now. Minar-e- Pakistan Jalsa was the first real show of strength but it did not come out of the blue. 15 long years for the party and a life-long struggle by Imran Khan to make people believe and hope is what brought this first spark. More work needs to be done. Imran khan is not the only one who needs to own this party but the whole Pakistan public. And it has to be done even if you don’t agree with some of the things he says. He may be wrong on some aspects or there maybe lack of understanding on part of the public, whatever it is you need to own Tehrik-e-Insaf to bring about a change.


  • Mohsfit
    Nov 1, 2011 - 9:11PM

    And those who are saying Imran is only restricted to Punjab and its urban politics, they need to understand he has to start from somewhere. There is limitation of time, resources, workforce and ground realities. He cannot start Tehrik everywhere at once. Some momentum needs to be built. Punjab is starting point and gradually but steadily he will target the rest of the country and the results will be there to see. Have some patience and vision to understand that things take time to change. Nothing changes overnight and especially in a country which has lost all hope and moral and financial corruption has spread to the core of the society. So be a part of change, drive this change, built a foundation and then later we can argue on the finer points of the agenda. Only complaining attitude will not help, as it has never helped in the past. People have to think beyond themselves to really understand the struggle Imran has went through. He has no angel and every thought of his is not perfect. But we need to understand he is a trier and achiever. He has not compromised on his vision for short-term success. And for this he had to wait and for a long long time when he could actually see country going down very fast. But he knew he could never bring about long-term changes with compromised on the vision. His forbearance is showing results now. People have to trust him a bit more. Question him but don’t dismiss him. If you are true to yourself you will know most of the criticism here and elsewhere is intellectual snobbery. I can very well turn around and write a negative comment which will be as believable. But it will be dishonest on my part and it will just cater to my own consumption with my thoughts.


  • Faraz
    Nov 2, 2011 - 12:58AM

    I agree with a lot the writer has to say, but I will give Imran a chance without burdening him with any expectations as I know for certain that he is well-intentioned and from the core of his heart wants to do something good for this nation, misguided as some of his stances may seem. His honesty, straight-talk and optimism make him an outstanding candidate among the crooks we have to vote for.


  • Zaeem
    Nov 2, 2011 - 2:35AM

    now you’ve more or less summarized the discussion/arguments I’ve been having with so many people for the last few days .. really pleased


  • Mohsfit
    Nov 2, 2011 - 3:05AM

    @Nasrat Baloch:
    Thinks will change as Imran says. Don’t fret about those things. Leave it to Imran and his core team. Sonami is coming and top two parties will be totally wiped out. Balochistan will be dominated by nationalist parties who will be allied with Imran. People’s party is at the beginning of end, it will have no representation in next election. PML N will suffer the same fate. JUI and other relegious parties will taste huge defeats. JI will have some representation. MQM will be visible in Karachi but not as dominating. MQM will change and the militancy wing will see an end. ANP gone and done with.

    It will be a total change of fortunes. Those who can’t see that just wait for two months more. Bigger signs will emerge. It is now an irreversible process.

    Many corrupt will join the ranks of PTI. Some not so corrupt will also join. Feudals, Industrialists and so called electables will join the party. The cleansing process will start once PTI comes into power. Corrupt among PTI will not be able to sustain themselves for long.They will slowly dissppear into oblivion with new leaders emerging in the party. Reforms will see to it that if PTI is not in power 20 years down the line, the old corrupt system will not be able to replace it. Whole dynamics will change. If you are unable to foresee this change, then look more closely. The signs of deterioration are clearly visible. Don’t worry about the corrupt joining the ranks of PTI. They will be taken care of in the long run. The ball has started rolling and the establishment will also have to pack its bags. Army will have to hold back otherwise they will not be able to sustain the sonami of awaam. In the long run, army will be taken care of, reduced to its constitutional role.

    Tribal Areas and baluchistan will be the biggest strength for Pakistan and Imran Khan. Just wait and watch for all of it to unfold. Resources yes, but forget the resources, actually the people of Tribal Areas and Baluchistan will turn it around for Pakistan. Imran Khan will have undivided and never-seen-before loyalists in these places. Punjab begins the change, Karachi will accelerate it, Sindh will join soon, KPK will sustain it but the real assets are the balochs and the tribals. They are fearless and incorruptible people who will change things around in no time.


  • Mohsfit
    Nov 2, 2011 - 3:17AM

    @Tariq Bashir:
    Very Good. Deeply enlightening. Rabbit out of the hat? Do you think so? What a simplistic and retarded analysis. Go read more books from pseudo-intellectuals. A military establishment tool like Imran Khan is critcizing military actions for the last 10 years. Very weird. This kind of cynicism, negativity and myopic view is the trademark of urban intelligentsia of Pakistan. Thanks to them we are suffering at the hands of PPP. Time and again i have read these claims. Such baseless lies. People don’t even know what they are talking about. They just see things throw the window of the past. Why don’t you judge Imran without any bias in your mind? Why historic events keep refreshing your memory? Command on language is exemplary i must say. But your thoughts are typical of the pseudo-intellectuals. Make fun of Imran supporter, fans whatever you must say. They are naive, simple and even idiots at times. But believe me when i say they are not wrong. Things will change and you will be there to be witness to it. You will regret the fact that you doubted his sincerity on the basis of your excessive knowledge.


  • Tariq Bashir
    Nov 4, 2011 - 1:05AM

    Already Imran’s supporters are losing perspective on twitter and facebook as if they’ve have managed a Munich Beer Hall putsch! I say, good luck to them but their impatience on the back of a one million tribal lashkar bravado by the great leader sums up their future strategy, i.e. yes to the halal lashkar, no to the haraam constitution. God help Pakistan!


  • Mohammed Javaid
    Nov 4, 2011 - 12:01PM

    @Tariq Bashir:
    First thing he did not say that he will command one million Tribal Lashkar , he said leave the terrorism problem to them , they can deal with that .Tribal Lashkars are allowed in costitution . So you wanna turn those guys against Pakistan by keep bombing them ? Imran presented a very practical approach that suits to situation , he is not pro taliban , but you have to tackle the problem within means taking care of the current situation. We know that he can not solve all the problems in a blink , still we hope that he can bring change and he has established himself as a good clean administrator and politician , which others are not .If we don’t vote for Imran , then we have to vote for either killers or financial crooks . Don’t you you see the deteriorating condition of common people , i do not give a damn to too much deep political philosophies and intelligentsia. Recommend

  • Ahsan Jahangir
    Nov 4, 2011 - 1:21PM

    no question of Imran’s credibility. A few problems that he has can be solved, give him some time, its now the time when he will organize the party completely. Its his achievement that he brought the youth into the electoral process. The same youth hated the politics a few years ago. the credit of the removal of fake votes and registration of new votes goes to Him. My vote is for PTI.


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