The PTI’s south Punjab tour

Published: December 17, 2012
The writer is a correspondent in Pakistan for France 24 and writes for the Christian Science Monitor. He used to work for The Express Tribune and tweets @TahaSSiddiqui

The writer is a correspondent in Pakistan for France 24 and writes for the Christian Science Monitor. He used to work for The Express Tribune and tweets @TahaSSiddiqui

Imran Khan keeps talking about change. Change of leadership. Change of system. Change of status quo. But after travelling with and meeting Khan in the past few weeks, I have come to a conclusion that he needs to take drastic measures to stop becoming more and more irrelevant.

Just last year, around the same time, he was being called the third political force after stalwarts of other political parties, soon after the famous rally in Lahore in October, started joining the Imran Khan bandwagon. However, these very elements have failed him in the response he received in south Punjab during his recent tour of that area.

Dubbed as an ‘Awami raabta muhim’ in constituencies that are considered a stronghold of Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Jahangir Tareen — his current three closest advisers — Khan’s south Punjab visit was important since it was seen as a gauge of the popularity of his party in the areas of the party’s heavyweights. But the fact also remains that these heavyweights represent the status quo and this is proving to be harmful to him and the party.

The status quo was visible from the day Khan arrived in the region.

With the start of this south Punjab visit in a private jet that a handful of people in Pakistan privately own to touring the district in four-wheelers that only a fraction of Pakistanis can afford, the PTI chief was surrounded by people who are very much part of the status and do not really represent his slogan of change in any way. Furthermore, this is not only proving to be a burden, it is also making the party believe in an electoral future that may actually not be so rosy.

In Lodhran, where Tareen is among the richest landlords, the PTI chief addressed more than nine gatherings in a span of 12 hours or so. In one of the villages where Imran Khan was going to arrive later, I reached earlier to get a sense of his welcome. There, I found quite a few ‘outsiders’ making sure that all was ready when Khan’s convoy, led by Tareen’s expensive four-wheeler, reached the location.

While the gatherings were well-orchestrated, it seemed that many of the participants were there simply because they had been transported there.

A group of local journalists was given a navigation guide by Tareen. Upon inquiry, he turned out to be a servant at his farmhouse. The servant’s constant recognition for people in vehicles around us was remarkable and when I asked him how he knew all of them, he replied: “These are all Tareen saab’s workers”.

When Imran Khan arrived at the spot, he spoke briefly for ten minutes to a couple of thousand people. At other spots, there was even a smaller crowd. The organisers were smart enough to hold the gatherings in narrow commercial streets where the crowd was bound to look bigger. The level of participation can also be judged by the fact that the people I spoke to in the same village where a jalsa was held, not too far from their homes, were not even aware of it being held.

Imran Khan clearly thinks he is a rock star. The more I meet, cover and hear him, the more I feel that this self-perception may be affecting his judgment as well. Throughout the south Punjab visit, I saw him sitting on stage, wearing shiny sunglasses and instead of looking up and interacting with the crowd, he was busy playing with his smart phone. If he wants to reach out to people in rural areas, he has to give up comforts such as the stage, imported four-wheelers and so on.

He also needs to move beyond cursing President Asif Ali Zardari, the Sharif Brothers and just about every other politician who has not joined his party. Yes, everyone loves to bash those in power and have a good laugh but the PTI chief needs to understand that his role is bigger than a stand-up comedian because rural Pakistan can make or break him.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (62)

  • Kamran Naqvi
    Dec 17, 2012 - 10:49PM

    Although this is a neutral article by Taha Siddiqui yet I foresee a backlash from immature PTI trolls, who cannot tolerate “blasphemy” of their life-time Chairman.
    In fact, Pasha Tehrik-e-Intiqam has increasingly been dumped by electables after the retirement of General Pasha. Imran Khan Niazi can’t help it but curse everyone, including those who leave party in protest against his Big-Money hijacking.


  • immad
    Dec 17, 2012 - 11:03PM

    Yawwnnnnnnnn ..


  • Khalid Hameed
    Dec 17, 2012 - 11:26PM

    You article seems to be more based on biased criticism, its the fact that you cann’t win rural politics without electables. I still remember those days when every politician including writters like you talked about that he is one man show etc. Make a valid point here dont brag about the electables , talk about corruption not about political dynamics.
    The intent matters all. PTI will win


  • Tipu
    Dec 17, 2012 - 11:31PM

    I remember when PTI held the historic gatherings in Lahore and Karachi (which the author would like to conveniently ignore ), a group of ‘pious’ journalists started writing columns in the newspapers criticizing Khan the way he was offering his prayers on stage. One even said while sitting in his drawing room that the ‘Kaba’ was infact on the opposite side than where IK and others were offering prayers. That day I realized how people are going to curse him for even offering prayers . And now we have some pseudo intellectual criticizing his sun glasses and his ‘rock star’ look. Ironically he has been dubbed as Taliban Khan and narrow-minded in his approach by the very same people we find here. The fault is not with the people who criticize him just for the sake of criticism. After all Quid-e-Azam was also criticized for his initial failures in politics, his western life style, the way he used to speak English and how he never offered Namaz, how he married a Parsi and became ‘Murtid’. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was criticized as agent of westerners, promoting English and how he danced in a crowd just to beg for charity so that he could build up Alligarh university. The problem is where the heck are our priorities and what the heck has happened to us? Do you really think that with no gas, no electricity in my home, no security, no direction, no jobs and future, with sky high inflation I would really be interested in Imran Khan’s sun glasses and how he gives me a rock star look? With the same sun glasses and rock start looks the guy has given me a world class Cancer hospital, a world cup to boost about and a world class university in the least developed areas of Pakistan, all while not being in power. Do you think that I or my family will take your rhetoric seriously and will NOT vote for such a person, all because he gives us a rock star look? Give me a break man and try to write something useful, for a change.


  • PTI Troll
    Dec 17, 2012 - 11:33PM

    @Kamran Naqvi:
    Sadly IK seems to have made a mistake by including some heavily compromised individuals in his party.
    Poor Pakistan.
    Poor Pakistan . . . filled to the brim with insincere citizens.


  • uet
    Dec 17, 2012 - 11:33PM

    O Man
    You are in trouble, Heaps of trash coming your way!


  • uet
    Dec 17, 2012 - 11:43PM

    O Man!
    A Lot of Trash coming your way.


  • Liberal
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:21AM

    Ur knowledge is very poor u can’t even differentiate between jet and a propeller plane .. Cessna propeller don’t cost more then a million dollar and I think many Pakistani can afford it ..28 jalsas in two days and u think that he still need to come out of comfort zone .. 10 minutes speech and u want him to give policies in 10 minutes? .. Grow up


  • Truth Detector
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:26AM

    The organisers were smart enough to
    hold the gatherings in narrow
    commercial streets where the crowd was
    bound to look bigger.

    Can some genius (including the writer) tell me what is the expectation as far as street size is concerned in “Metropolis’ of Lodhran????

    I would like to thank the writer for dropping this clue to make his bias crystal clear. Thank you sir, thank you very much !!!


  • Hassam Malik
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:29AM

    Although the article was biased. Let me make few points clear to those who do not know South Punjab – Election methods etc.
    Jahangir Tareen always contested from Rahimyar Khan district/city constituency, 300 kms away from the city where ‘muhim’ staged. Plus all those places where they staged ‘jalsas’ were far from Shah’s and Makhdoom’s constituencies.
    I am from South Punjab – I witnessed how people chose their representatives in 2008 election, simply taking ‘1000/head’ before election day! think b4 speak


  • gujranwala789
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:30AM

    I already know that Imran khan is no more than a stand up commedian and does not deserve to be called as a politician because eventhough he is 60 but he still demands others to treat him like a teenager boy. No one should take an immature and childish person like him seriously. Recommend

  • Tahir
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:32AM

    Jahanagir Tareen pays the highest taxes in a parliament in which 70% of people dont pay any taxes. Its not about how much wealth a man has, we are not looking for a communist state, but its how the wealth is earned and how much tax they pay is what matters. This is different from the status-quo who have amassed fortunes through corruption and pay no taxes. We have a budget deficit as we can’t collect enough taxes, the main problem in Pakistan is corruption and tax avoidance. Until people understand that these two need to be dealt with, only then can Pakistan have REAL change.


  • Falcon
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:34AM

    I have yet to see someone write as critically about other political parties. Why are you guys so obsessed with PTI after all?


  • SoniaK
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:35AM

    I don’t see IK on a regular basis and do not follow his every step- but now that I saw him in an interview a few days back I cannot help but agree with the author. He seems to be in the air about his victory, almost aloof. Just hope that he is not carried away by it!


  • NED
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:41AM

    Using jets and sitting in 4 wheelers is a culture of pakistan and ofcourse Khan cannot ride on horses to go to villages so there is no point on criticizing on these things

    But yes truly said, the image PTI infront of common man is going down. IK has to decide his voters first. IF he is going for fedual lord politics and forget about those literate citizens votes from cities . Infact IK is finding it difficult to pose 2 different faces at city politics and at rural side..


  • Adeel
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:49AM

    This author starts criticizing on twitter even before the muhim get started. He must reframe himself, be neutral and then write balance report. Hes report seems too judgmental.


  • Dec 18, 2012 - 1:02AM

    one thing though, ik has learnt how to justify his u-turns, i am sure one day they form alliance even with mqm and still make some excuse, sorry he may be better than others but thats not change, especially the change that he is preaching to others


  • Dec 18, 2012 - 1:05AM

    @NED, yes jet, impored 4-wheelers maybe culture of pakistan, but we are talking about change. Charity begins at home dear. What change are we talking about then?


  • aftab
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:08AM

    Another paid article, if you are regular reader of Express urdu and tribune then there is no surprise.


  • Falcon
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:20AM

    OK…on a serious note…I don’t doubt that PTI might have made some mistakes but there is a significant element of exaggeration here…look at the photographs of events…unless Tareen employs whole towns, it is unlikely that such high number of people can be pulled together by outsiders alone. As to why IK is being accompanied by status quo, first of all, that is because elections in Punjab have not occurred and the new elected leadership has not emerged. Furthermore, the newer non-traditional PTI leadership was also there such as Asad Umar, but I don’t see a single mention of that in your op-ed. Your suggestion might be coming from a place of sincerity but your views on the gravity of situation are simply exaggerated.


  • TruthNinja
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:25AM

    who wrote this article….Bilawal?


  • Zaki
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:29AM

    “If he wants to reach out to people in rural areas, he has to give up comforts such as the stage, imported four-wheelers and so on”

    Should he start using donkey carts? I reckon that would not be an effective way to cover 12 different locations in 12 hours. However, the rest of your article has some very valid points. But sir, this is Pakistan. Introducing new and more civilized political ways would not be welcomed my the masses which unfortunately are not educated enough to comprehend them. Yes, speaking against Nawaz Sharif and Zardari is becoming redundant. But that’s what we feel. For the people on ground, this is essentially what they want to hear and perhaps what IK should say if he wants to convince the 99% DUMB. Bear in mind, these are the very same people who can sell their vote for just 20 bucks, It’s not like IK is dealing with the class that comes to Gymkhana.


  • Eyeing Propaganda
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:35AM

    They will conveniently ignore when IK stops and eats lunch on dhaba and on roads with common man like a common man, but will scream if he uses four wheelers to travel. Haters gonna hate … everyone has his own piece of advice. IK you are going good and u will win. period !!


  • Chengez K
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:48AM

    Great article

    This shows why France 24 & Christian Monitor pay him…..Well done !!!

    Liitle more spice then even Times may consider this great writer


  • Yahya Khan
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:48AM

    This is the most utter form of negligence that i have ever read. The opinions are biased and irrelevant. Whatever is said does not matter as this Country is in dire need of a leader. One who will guide the people of Pakistan into doing good. Next time instead of writing an article against someone please note that there are other politicians who dont need an introduction. Why not write an article against them? Just sheer lack of integrity is being displayed by the writer himself. These kinds of writers should not be allowed to post articles.


  • Arsalan Muneer
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:54AM

    The writer is giving advice like he has been leading political rallies for years and years. What’s up with ‘playing with smartphone’? Politicians don’t need advice from people like you on how to behave in rallies.


  • Jat
    Dec 18, 2012 - 2:01AM

    So funny and so close to the truth ! That’s gonna hurt Pakistan Tareen Industries


  • sattar rind
    Dec 18, 2012 - 2:06AM

    he was best in cricket. he is wasting his time…


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Dec 18, 2012 - 2:08AM

    This article suggests that he has lost momentum and his movement needs a stimulus package but in my view he never had momentum. The Lahore jalsa was filled with the help of banned organizations and plain clothes angels. All of us know who did it, but that was one year ago and in politics tide turns few hours before elections.
    Current situation is that in Sindh, beside PPP and MQM, Nationalists, PML(N) and PML(F) are main contenders. PTI is not even mentioned in Sindh politics. In Punjab, PML(N), is the main horse, others are PPP and PML(Q). PTI is distant fourth. In K.P. Imran could win few seats, if Taliban don’t mess up with elections.


  • rizwan
    Dec 18, 2012 - 3:19AM

    i want to be famous bashing IK… he does not have smart phone its ordinary phone. do you know what makes a phone smart?Recommend

  • Azmat
    Dec 18, 2012 - 3:19AM

    You are right about the Cessna propeller plane, most of us can afford it as I remember a friend of mine used to use one for pick’n’drop service for Fatima Jinnah students. Go away haters you cant criticize Immi”The Savior”Khan from getting elected.


  • Mountie
    Dec 18, 2012 - 3:57AM

    The only Tsunami I see coming next year will be generated by the tears of PTI suppoerts. They will cry because first they will blame ECP for not having fair elections (since they didnt win)


  • Usman
    Dec 18, 2012 - 4:23AM

    Interacting with the crowd? What planet are you from? No other leader walks amongst the public as much as Imran Khan. This is just a lazy attempt at heaping criticism on one person who is different from all other politicians.


  • Shoaib
    Dec 18, 2012 - 4:58AM

    all the trash will be from pml n and ppp supporters using pti’s name or prentending to show that he or she is a pti supporter….


  • Sher
    Dec 18, 2012 - 6:31AM

    No matter what PTI media team seems that he has turned out to be a complete failure after being friendly to gov parties and opposing the opposition.


  • Realist
    Dec 18, 2012 - 6:53AM

    I agree with the author. IK needs to realise that his party’s manifesto will be lost with those “established politicians”. Lets for a moment assume he becomes chief minister of Punjab. What can he change? He would have won on support of votes he got from constituencies of those old politicians. What power would he have to keep them in line? If he tries to stop them from their old corruptions and stuff and presto, vote of no confidence, his government broken.Recommend

  • Asad
    Dec 18, 2012 - 6:59AM

    Oh man we so want to be amazed by the 100 car convoy of PPP and PML-N leaders who pay taxes in thousands and earn in millions.


  • hassan khan
    Dec 18, 2012 - 10:12AM

    Well by going through analytical statistics of author response the people has already made the verdict.! Article is biased and rightly so, points made a far from reality. It is very easy now days to write an article against PTI and certainly get famous from two forces. One free lancers, immature and considerably have nothing to do PMLN social media workers and second by some over enthusiastic PTI workers.
    I appreciate this article never got to Twitter any how apart from few tweets and share and false perception is quashed then and there…

    Last word! go and check every election perception on media before and after, you will see the same .Recommend

  • ali
    Dec 18, 2012 - 10:40AM

    Keep bashing PTI media team and PTI trolls. No one is allowed to criticize “IK the greatest leader of world”. He can’t be wrong. Please read Haroon Rasheed and u will know about “the greatest leader of this century : IK”…:-)


  • saleem
    Dec 18, 2012 - 11:19AM

    when Bilawal went to his village, i don’t exactly remember how long was his fleet, but it was very big, did not see any article on him. People have set different standards when it comes to IK’s politics. if you do a fair comparison among all politicians IK will stand out. But, the sold out media will never talk about other politicians. Recommend

  • allli06
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:01PM

    express news is always full of IK bashing, i m not surprised to have these kind of biased analysis from the paid reporter of that media company , shame on basher


  • Arifq
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:06PM

    Personality or cult driven politics is always open to criticism and usually ends with very little achieved. If you want the message to be sustainable and believable then find an ideology that people can work with. Sadly, PTI i.e., Imran Khan has no political ideology except for the credibility of their leader.


  • SoniaK
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:48PM

    IK can use cars manufactured in Pakistan like every normal citizen. They do it in India and have been doing it in many countries.
    y do people think of extremes- either it will be an imported 4 wheeler or a donkey cart- is there nothing between them?????

    As for jets or propellers that are so highly protected by the PTI members- what is the problem in hiring the national airline planes to go to airports nearest to the jalsa gahs and then using average cars to get to he jalsa gah- no matter how filthy rich the party members are they can atleast afford to house one normal car for the PTI chief to travel in!!!!!


  • roadkashehzada
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:50PM

    ok lets not get stuck in sunglasses and rock star looks of imran khan. can you please ask asad umar not to report delay in departure due to broken kheri of imran khan, or countless facebook pictures of imran khan lunchs on driver hotels? if u dont want to take negative points of sunglasses why u claim positive points of the broken kheri or lunchs or praying in masjid.
    and when will we be done with comparing imran khan with quaid e azam? quaid e azam was a bar at law and was in active politics since his 20s. imran khan started his politics in late forties and gained popularity when he is around 60 now. quaid e azam have been in several committees and commissions during his political career while imran khan has been MNA once, member of kashmir committee once (under chairmanship of molana fazlur rehman) and member of public accounts committee once with no serious input.
    imran is great cricketer btw.


  • Ahmad
    Dec 18, 2012 - 12:57PM

    Jahangir Tareen Pays highest income Tax in assembly

    So why writers has issue with Plane or His SUVs does not make any sense :


  • Sohail Junaid
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:00PM

    For me and i guess there are hundreds of thousands like me out there, the choice is very simple. Either we go out and vote for PTI in the next elections or risk being ruled by the same corrupt people who have ruled us in one way or shape or form over the last three decades.
    For me the choice has never been clearer, for years i passed one opportunity after another to leave this country. First it was the misplaced trust in BB, then it was the notion that she must have learnt from her first term and then it was the dream Gen Musharraf sold us soon after taking over. I saw all those dreams and hopes vanish one by one and just as all seemed lost IK and PTI emerged. He is my last hope and if for some reason he fails to come into power, i will pack up and leave this country within months. Living in a country governed by Nawaz Sharif is not an option.
    God bless Pakistan and save it from the likes of Zardari and the Sharifs.


  • Ahmad
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:00PM

    So now it is crime in Pakistan to become rich legally and pay Taxes like Jahangir Tareen did. If he pays Tax (unlike most of PPP &PMLN MNAs) then whats the issue in that?

    Writer kept on talking about it shows his bias against PTI


  • zaman khan
    Dec 18, 2012 - 1:59PM

    objective analysis


  • Batur Khan
    Dec 18, 2012 - 2:34PM

    We should read the article with full peace of mind and should take the criticism in a positive manner.IK and his friends should concentrate on the pointed out flaws and try to rectify them out.IK is the future of the country;expectations are very high and all are assessing him with different parameters.Give a chance to IK.


  • Logical
    Dec 18, 2012 - 4:33PM

    dear author! do you brain to think…… is any other leader have done any thing like that without comparison how u can say it is successful or not


  • Adeel
    Dec 18, 2012 - 4:41PM

    for the writer, Jahangir Tareen being rich and having a personal airplane is a crime even though he’s the highest tax payee in the parliament of 70% non tax-payers…what a ridiculous article right from the start till end!


    Dec 18, 2012 - 5:03PM

    The aricle makes only one valid point. Imran may have become overconfident too early in the game influenced by his own strategic show of confidence plus the flattering “feedback” from those around him, He must have at his disposal some mechanism to get objective feedback through neutral professional sources. It is most hazardous to fall prey to the propaganda unleashed as a tactc by oneself. His energies must be focussed on charging the young men and women and much will depend whether he can motivate people wanting change and hoping for better times, enough to make them come out early in the morning on the balloting day, travel to the polling station on their own and stand in the queue to cast their votes.
    Rest of the article seems preconceived and also misconceived.


  • javaid mukhtar
    Dec 18, 2012 - 5:12PM

    Good article, but still u did not explain, how Jehangir Tareen got this status, the son of THANEDAR, beacomes the billionare HOW, when deeply searched , u will found Elahi, Imran khan………. then why it is pssible that such a person can change our lives…Recommend

  • Ahmed Zawar
    Dec 18, 2012 - 5:34PM

    Tipu’s comment answers it all. Tipu you have earned my like sir. Here take it!


  • Sultan
    Dec 18, 2012 - 10:21PM

    If Imran showed up on a donkey and flatulated while smoking hukkah with the locals, some other Ope Ed idiot writer would have said that he is so primitive and devoid of manners, how will he bring us into the 21st century? This is now a bogus, repetitive plot–no matter what he does or does not do, he gets attacked.

    The basis for this reflexive hatred is very simple to understand: all these priviliged thugs do not want to pay any taxes and the very thought of an Imran government gives them acid and nightmares–think of Texas Republicans!

    Another classic example of this putrid trend was the bogus protest in the parliament today by women parliamentarians about Imran’s comments about true women’s representation. He said he wanted to have women elected not shoed in and that too by a separate women’s electorate (women only voting for women) and look how that was twisted beyond recognition! Imagine the chances of bejewelled, heavily made up Begum Sahiba being elected by poor serfs, house workers, etc.? Zero is the answer. No wonder they are shaking with the fear at the prospect of losing the pomp and show they have come to enjoy just because daddy or uncle or brother or husband put their name through.

    Only Imran will break all these bad habits accumulated over decades of patronage. Truly replusive state of affairs!


  • Dec 18, 2012 - 11:04PM

    The perfect reply to this article by the one an only Saroor Ijaz:

    Why Taha is upset with Imran Khan

    Read it and weep. The behind the scenes for the article written by Taha for the Bufoon Tribune.



  • tajjee
    Dec 19, 2012 - 12:35AM

    ok, all accepted b/c finally you accepted tha Lahore Jalsa big, same way you would accept these tours were successful.


  • Waqas
    Dec 19, 2012 - 9:02AM

    I think I just wasted 5 minutes reading this Recommend

  • tayyab
    Dec 19, 2012 - 11:26AM

    how superfluous. there was no content in your article. you keep referring to jet, four wheeler, blackberry. without really making a point.

    i wonder what or who are you using as a benchmark for your critique.

    i feel sorry every time i click on an Express tribune article. and this time was no different.


  • Kaiser
    Dec 19, 2012 - 1:08PM

    Thank you Tipu. I sincerely wish to see more & more sensible & positive people like you around. Please never get bitter nor you ever leave a habbit of staying +ve as there was and there are type of people who hadn’t spare even Prophets. May Allah bless those who put themselves, their energies, time & money to bring good in society. At a pleasant note Imran Khan certainly look cool in those glasses that any mian or Taha can’t ;-)


  • SAK
    Dec 19, 2012 - 5:35PM

    Objective achieved by getting maximum hits for writing an Anti IK article.!! Wonder AAZ,NS and AH are all awami leaders!!! What is wring people he may not be an angel but he is sincere and far better than the rest of the lot!!


  • Rameez
    Dec 20, 2012 - 4:47PM

    I agree with Tipu!


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