Our golden boy

Published: December 19, 2011
The writer works at 4INFO, a San Franciso-based mobile advertising start-up and has previously worked at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. She is an honour’s graduate of Stanford University

The writer works at 4INFO, a San Franciso-based mobile advertising start-up and has previously worked at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. She is an honour’s graduate of Stanford University [email protected]

The similarity between Imran Khan and Barack Obama is not in their origins or goals but instead in the suddenness of their impact. Imran Khan’s speech at Minar-e-Pakistan on October 30 was oddly reminiscent of Barack Obama’s at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. We all knew of the charismatic senator out of Illinois, but no one had expected him to come out with such force and sincerity. Similarly in Pakistan, Imran Khan is a household name but many have questioned his political career path. He has never been able to gain a significant share of seats or meaningful support from the masses.

On October 30 2011, however, something extraordinary happened in Pakistan. More than 100,000 Pakistanis gathered together for a non-PML-N and non-PPP candidate. This feat cannot be easily discounted. But there is hopelessness in the intended bravado — we have been dragged across the surface of rock-bottom so often that a third option is blindingly positive. We run in its direction, eyes closed, head to the sky, desperately hoping that this politician will finally make things right. With the mess of the memogate and the PML-N on a hunt to eliminate both a second and third political option, we must look past the celebrity veneer and ask ourselves, who really is Imran Khan and what can he do for Pakistan?

Khan is a man who does not depend on the laurels of his last name, rather, he depends on only the much stronger heaviness and glint of Pakistan’s golden year — 1992. ‘Kaptaan’ as we like to call him, gave us our first taste of world domination as 11, seemingly naïve, cricketers won — in what remains as Pakistan’s most proud moment — the World Cup. As much as I’d like to believe in Khan’s rhetoric and angel-faced sincerity, manning an 11-person cricket team is not the same as manning a country of 180 million, in shambles.

I’ve looked up to Imran Khan in many ways, but never as a politician. Verbosity has always scared me in the political sector and I’ve seen Khan tout change more than solutions. That is our greatest and most challenging problem. How do we change peacefully in a world that is shifting by the minute? In the wake of an Arab Spring (in deeply Islamic nations), why are we still stuck in the harshest winter? I’ve always seen Pakistan as the troubled child — the naughty adolescent balancing South Asia in one hand and Islam in the other; a child constantly destabilised by his troubled Afghani brother and dominant older sister in the north (China.) In such a fractured familial set-up, can we find stability without choosing a singular identity? Is there a place for Islamic governance in a world that is rapidly moving in the direction of secularism? How is Imran Khan equipped to solve these problems? He is an extraordinary philanthropist but charity is not and should not be the currency of the politician.

I always ignored criticism of Obama’s lack of experience during the 2008 presidential election but let us take a page out of America’s political history. I perceived the negativity as a vestige of an archaic white man’s world order, a bitterness and resistance to change. But now, with another election in the offing and witnessing the onslaught of anger towards Obama’s inability to deliver on his promises, I wonder if experience really trumps all other qualities. Obama had the leisure to surround himself with the best and most seasoned of politicians who knew how to maneuver the hallways of Washington and power past bureaucratic barricades. But who will cushion the blow for Khan? Pakistani politics is the Wild West of political landscapes and the stakeholders at play are vicious in their national and international dealings. Can our cricket star carry the burden?

The last thing we need right now is 15-minutes of fame for an aged heart-throb. The stirring created at Minar-e-Pakistan is one of value and deeply engrained Pakistani history — not a screenshot or a New York Times front page story. The rally was a product of the times, not of the man. What we need from Imran Khan is not a leader but a guide. The leader must emerge in each one of us.

The real slogan of the hour is not ‘Jaag Utho’ Pakistan. We haven’t slept in years. We have been wide awake, screaming at the top of our lungs. Is he the amplifier we are looking for? Can our golden boy deliver?

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (29)

  • Sadiq
    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:01AM

    In short yes he can hasn’t failed the nation yet!


  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:04AM

    I think the the reason for Obama was Bush and for Imran khan is present situation in pakistan
    where sys is divided bet two actors Army and Democratic govt came in by back chanell NRO.


  • Jibreel
    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:10AM

    No he cannot and he never will. His change is meaningless as long as he remains arrogant, naive and pro-military / pro-establishment / pro-taleban to an extent , completely anti-american, a hundred percent nationalist and what not. Kaptaan wants to play tennis wid a bat.


  • Nadir
    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:10AM

    Well with all the turncoats joinining PTI he wont be short on experienced political operators thats for sure.


  • awais
    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:26AM

    “What we need from Imran Khan is not a leader but a guide”

    a leader by definition, at least a good leader, is a guide. on the whole, a poorly written article with lots of platitudes and cliches but little substance.


  • Aanif Ali
    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:35AM

    The writer has not been listening to what Imran has been saying, for he has answered many of her questions in his various public and media engagements in the recent past. I found the article much misplaced rhetoric e.g. Imran has built two institutions – Shaukat Khanum and Naml University – so he has a successful track-record of “institution-building” thats Pakistan’s foremost need. For another example, the other Pakistani politicians have never even led 11 men successfully. Recommend

  • Aanif
    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:36AM

    Ironically, this article is largely just verbosity comprising of misplaced rhetoric!


  • Muhammad Usman Ghani
    Dec 20, 2011 - 12:55AM

    Well lets see, many old horses are joining PTI,


  • Junaid
    Dec 20, 2011 - 1:03AM

    Good point. Let’s hope he doesn’t fail like Obama.

    On a side note, reading this at 1 in the morning and thought worth the read. Keep up.


  • Falcon
    Dec 20, 2011 - 2:10AM

    May be the reason that Pakistan and world as a whole have suffered from leadership crisis for long is because of “traditional” politicians. May be this is time for a paradigm shift where philanthropists and nobodies yet sincere people of nations can rise to challenge the current configuration of outdated power structures. On a side note, US problems are entirely different from that of Pakistan. So comparing Obama and IK is an over-simplified or may be even a distorted comparison in my humble opinion.


  • salman saif
    Dec 20, 2011 - 2:15AM

    Insha Allah this time Pakistan will see real positive change. . . May Allah bless our country . Amen


  • bilal
    Dec 20, 2011 - 2:53AM

    I think u ignored the black skin one of the reason for obama’s victory ( the first african-american blah blah) and we are all brown. Recommend

  • Mir Agha
    Dec 20, 2011 - 3:01AM

    Which world do you live in? Arab “spring” and an increasingly secular world? The Arab Spring knocked out secularist regimes which are being replaced by democratically elected Islamist governments. See Tunisia, Iraq, Turkey, Morocco, Egypt, Libya, and soon to be Yemen, Syria, and Jordan. Also soon to be Pakistan, though in a peaceful and democratic fashion.


  • Al Arist
    Dec 20, 2011 - 3:17AM

    And, Answer IS



  • Muzaffar
    Dec 20, 2011 - 3:18AM

    The title seems to have a word missing , so with it it should read — Our Golden Play Boy


  • Wajahat Ali Khan
    Dec 20, 2011 - 3:36AM

    “What we need from Imran Khan is not a leader but a guide”

    LOL; sorry! can’t stop laughing. Girl. Grow up.


  • American
    Dec 20, 2011 - 3:46AM

    Actually Imran Khan is nothing like Barrack and is actually very similar to Ron Paul. The author seems to have a very misguided and superficial understanding of the politics in both America and Pakistan.

    Ron Paul and Imran Khan: These are both anti-status quo politicians, not “hope” politicians… They both have been preaching the same message for years and now the youth has come around to realize the truth in their message. Look it up.


  • dr j tipu
    Dec 20, 2011 - 4:50AM

    yeah yeah, watever you say, IK is still my hero n as many educated people as i have in my circle, they r all voting for him……………….


  • saud g
    Dec 20, 2011 - 5:29AM

    His arrogance is a positive and ideal characteristic in Pakistani politics, Obama was a realistic man, who strongly believed in logic and showed doable dreams to the people and failed in fulfilling them. Imran Khan is an idealist man who chases his dreams until he accomplishes them such as building hospitals and college for poor and winning the world cup.

    Everything aside I dont care who says what about him, I just want to see a person like him become pm of Pakistan one day. So I can tell my children that anything is possible. I have never seen someone in my whole life accomplish this much in single lifetime. People dream of doing all these wonderful things that he has accomplished, I know I would have been pleased with myself if I could do only fraction of the things he has accomplished in his life.

    I am still in university right now but I know, on the election day i am gonna invest as much money as I can in the stock exchange of Pakistan. Only if I am sure he becomes the pm. If I know anything about Imran Khan it is that he never gives up, and if he comes into power Pakistan has nowhere to go but up.(Optimism and HOpe)


  • SaudiRules
    Dec 20, 2011 - 5:42AM

    You asked:
    “But who will cushion the blow for Khan?”
    Who else but khant’s puppet master, the khakis!


  • Super pak
    Dec 20, 2011 - 6:35AM

    Again comparing obama to imran is nonsense. Obama came from the democratic party and so expecting anything from an established party, so people were only kidding themselves expecting any change. The only person close to imran is Ron Paul he is a libertarian but has joined the repubs. Just because Imran was a cricketer doesn’t mean thats the only thing he knows. Ronald reagan was a hollywood actor but became president because people listened to his message not his past. Also imran is no need of fame, people get what he is talking about and that is why we the swells at minar pakistan.


  • Baqar
    Dec 20, 2011 - 9:00AM

    yes I agree—A leader has to emerge from among us


  • correct option
    Dec 20, 2011 - 2:16PM

    he IS one of us


  • sa
    Dec 20, 2011 - 4:20PM

    enjoyed the comments more than the article:)


  • FactCheck
    Dec 20, 2011 - 4:43PM

    Anna, you know better than making statement such as Oabama’s inability to deliver when in reality the Republican establishment has openly stated their sole goal is to make him a one-term president. No President of the United States can do anything without Congress.

    Being that out oif the way, he has delivered on some big promises:

    Health care

    Ending Iraq War

    Getting OBL, to name a few.

    Thanks for plagiarizing from right wing media which continues to question basic math, science and evolution.Recommend

  • Jamshed
    Dec 20, 2011 - 5:23PM

    Great article. Perfect timing too.

    I’m glad you provided a real reality check in a time where everybody was blindly following the one man who is giving them a semblance of hope. He may be the right option, but certain things need to be kept in mind.

    Well written!


  • Concerned
    Dec 20, 2011 - 5:38PM

    I disagree with the author’s assessment of Imran Khan and the PTI, primarily because it appears that she hasn’t researched the political ideology, the raison d’etre and the policies of the PTI.What Imran Khan wants to bring is societal change, and he wants to trigger it from within the Pakistani conscience. He clearly isn’t going to do this on his own, which is why he has set up specialist teams dealing with different aspects of policy – education, health, defense, foreign policy, etc. A far more sophisticated set-up than the family-run PML-N and PPP.

    To claim that he is ‘Pro-Taleban’ is ludicrous, his ideology is far more sophisticated than the musings of these illiterate fundamentalists – read his book, ‘Pakistan: A Personal History’ and you can trace his ideological roots – he wants to bring back Jinnah and Iqbal’s Pakistan. His Anti-Americanism is, in my view, completely justified. The Afghan War is being lost at Pakistan’s expense. The entire rationale for the ‘Jihad’ is American Foreign Policy in the region, it is producing militants and impeding the evolution of Pakistani society. The rest of Asia is developing at a phenomenal pace and we are still stuck in quicksand, and sinking rather quickly.

    Ultimately, IK has called for an end to the Army’s ‘militant proxy’ strategy – in India, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and has a far better understanding of the tribal areas than any of us stuck in our air conditioned homes in Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad (or elsewhere). Compared to the alternatives, Imran Khan will be the best thing for this country. I’m not naive to think he’ll be perfect, but he really is the best chance for us to free ourselves from the chains of dynastic politics and foreign interests and take our country forward. Recommend

  • flix
    Dec 20, 2011 - 5:57PM

    “I have never seen someone in my whole life accomplish this much in single lifetime”
    and may i know what are those,i too never seen someone so desperate like him and it’s an insult for both obama and democracy to get compared with a person who built his political career on strikes,wreaking havoc for the heck of it with little to no substance /knowledge on anything.


  • Tariq Bashir
    Dec 22, 2011 - 8:57PM

    Author have some mediocre information on Pakistan politics yet alone Imran Khan. If anyone concludes that Barak Obama failed due his inexperience, is extremely naive to say the least. The system of “Divided Government” in the US has its mechanics to make or break all-three institution, if the one is determined to do so. Can the auther explain the emergence of Tea-Party & Birtha movementin the US that changed the political discourse here? Would she like to explain the readers if Obama is to blamed then why Republican controlled Congress is at 7% approval, an extremely embarrasing and worisome situation for GOP?
    There are few readers whom have rightly mentioned that if any, Ron Paul, a libertarian candidate, is more fundamentaly aligned with Imran Khan agenda as an anti status-quo then Obama or anyother. It’s obvious that the author have paid little or no attentions to articles written by/or on-behalf Imran Khan and/or consult PTI website for any reference, a “common” excercise if you to write about a political party.
    I only hope the author do some legwork and; homework before indulge herself with a serious matter.
    Regards- Tariq Bashir, Minneapolis MN USARecommend

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