Imran Khan seems to be at a crossroads. To move ahead, turn this way or that, make a u-turn (ah, the turns that are infamous by now), or just stop. To smell the now not-so-fragrant air of the Margalla Hills, and decide somewhere away from the now legendary container what his next course of action is going to be. There seems to be materialisation of to-do-or-not-to-do in big font, winking at him everywhere he turns, and now it’s up to the prudence (that his detractors do not give him much credit for) of unarguably the most talked about politician in Pakistan what his next step would entail. And not a day too soon. Another deadline looms as November 30, 2014 is being bandied as the game-changer in the messy game of missteps, otherwise known as the politics in Pakistan.
Notwithstanding the very authentic demands of electoral and social reforms that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has endorsed and fought for since its inception, today, the situation does not seem very optimistic for all who stand with Khan. The constant demand for the resignation of the prime minister has met with rejection from the joint houses of Parliament and the public in general. The latter may bemoan the abysmal state of governance by the incumbent and previous governments, but the very fact of their absence in a game-changing number appears to have put a dampener on whatever the PTI was hoping to gain by its by now 100-plus day dharna. The very grim realities of the everyday life of the common man prevent his presence in protests that do not have an end-date. Endorsing Khan’s demands in their hearts, the PTI supporters may have come in throngs to a jalsa here and there, but to make the D-Chowk dharna a government-removing phenomenon, the attendance has been anything but what the PTI leadership hoped to elicit.
The pressure of addressing the still-loyal crowd at the D-Chowk has taken its visible toll on the very dynamic, very passionate Khan. While travelling through Pakistan to address huge — the size is unarguable — rallies, the deadline of making a daily speech at the dharna has drained Khan of arguments, allegations, expectations, warnings, deadlines and prospects. While the rudimentary demands remain the same, it’s become increasingly discernible to the pragmatic that now the fight is about preservation of self-esteem, of face-saving. Repudiating the integrity of most institutions that are to dispense justice for his demands, Khan is in a limbo of his own making. What the last option there is, of that there’s no simple prediction. From the judiciary to the election commission to the parliamentary committees to representatives of other parties to media houses (except for an anchor or two), Khan has question marks about the moral and professional uprightness of one and all. Now what? Ask Martians to intervene?
For all of us who have supported the PTI’s very tenacious fight for accountability and transparency, it is almost painful to watch this party unravel, one speech-filled day at a time. Politics needs fluidity, and vision. When the fight becomes a free-for-all, it’s an indication for a time-out, to take a step back from the fray and take an honest stock of the stakes. When your message of change becomes muddled with your livid, and repetitive, unoriginal utterances, when your warnings to bring transparency convolute into comic reactions, and when your deadlines resonate with the hollowness of your ambiguity — who can control a scenario that’s dependent on the ruling party to cede to your demands — that is the time when you exhale. And stop. Not to throw the towel in, not to attach legitimacy to all who fight against, not to suppress the truth of your demands, and not to assign victory to those who you believe are unfit to rule Pakistan. It is simply the acceptance of a situation to devise a new modus operandi. It is simply a damage control measure to design a new course of action. It is simply the acknowledgment that you have awakened the consciousness of a whole new generation of Pakistanis to change, and now it is time for you to move your fight within the realm of order and…dialogue. No, Mr Khan?
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2014.