“There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.” — Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw.
At the brink of turning 60, Imran Khan looks charming, handsome, fully in control of his mental and physical faculties and is also a writer to boot. His discipline, leadership skills and hard work won us the cricket World Cup and helped establish the nation’s first cancer hospital. With his colourful past and global exposure, one would expect him to be a determined realist, if not a thorough liberal. But he is not.
Politically, he has been a master of miscalculations. He entered electoral politics in 1997 when the PML-N swept the elections, he supported General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the 2002 referendum and then boycotted the 2008 elections when he had a chance to make his first substantial impact. Many still laugh out loud at the faintest suggestion of him becoming the prime minister. But the movement he started is gaining momentum and one can only hope that this time something has really changed in him.
But the acerbic few are quick to point out that he has already made fatal miscalculations on foreign policy and defence matters. In a country which is at war with itself, he advocates a simplistic policy of non-violence against those who pose an existential threat to the polity. And at a time when the nation is reeling under the impact of lack of foreign empathy, he actively campaigns for a foreign policy of dramatic isolationism. And the cherry on the top is that on both issues, he has no elaborate plan, no detailed blueprint. And yet, neither he nor his supporters understand that the critics of his policies are not his personal enemies.
The story doesn’t end here. He has made countless unrealistic and unimaginative promises like eliminating corruption and terrorism in 90 days, introducing alternative sources of energy to control the all-pervasive power breakdowns and what some are calling IKnomics. Of course, these promises are music to the ears of a gullible people starved of hope. But the real problem lies not in making such promises, but in fulfilling them successfully. The Herculean task of winning an election looks like child’s play in comparison.
In his bid to win the elections, Imran Khan is setting himself up for post-election failure. And the people rallying around him are a motley crowd. Does this remind you of anyone else from Pakistani history? Soft on right wing political ideologies, deliberately ambiguous on political philosophy and helpless before the exaggerated expectations of their voters and supporters? Not one, but two individuals come to mind — Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. And we all know that the political careers and personal lives of both the Quaid-e-Azam and the Quaid-e-Awam were nothing short of insurmountable tragedies. Mr Khan should learn from the mistakes of these stalwarts, not because of their failures, but because they, too, were taken hostage by their supporters.
In short, if Imran Khan really means business he needs to fold back his unrealistic promises and seize the moment. He has earned quite a few believers. Now is the time to influence them and change them with the truth. It is time to tell them how weak a country Pakistan has become and the possible outcomes that reality entails. Introduce a realistic roadmap and be honest. Or else sir, remember that you were warned.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ