The rise and rise of Kaptaan

Published: December 3, 2014
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The writer is a security and political analyst and works at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad

The writer is a security and political analyst and works at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad

The rise of Imran Khan from the world of cricket to the driving seat of Pakistan’s generally dynastic, feudal politics is the biggest change we have witnessed in decades. The November 30 rally in Islamabad, the biggest ever by the kaptaan, and the largest ever by any political leader, present or past, speaks a lot about the growing public support for him in every corner of the country. The rallies he has held in other cities of Punjab and Sindh have been very successful, more in Punjab in terms of numbers. In many ways, he has changed the political culture of Pakistan by raising awareness about the major problems Pakistan faces from widespread corruption by the elite to governance crisis and poor investment in education and health.

The conventional parties and their leaders have taken refuge in ‘saving democracy’, showing their majority in parliament and by closing their ranks against kaptaan’s agitation politics. Unable to defend themselves effectively by counterargument or evidence, failing to contradict what the PTI says about their character of politics and misuse of power and national resources, they have hoped that agitation will cause his politics to taper off. As appears from the recent public rallies, neither is the kaptaan tired and nor are his generally young supporters. Rather, the excitement and commitment to changing the functioning of the political order are on the ascent.

Something the old parties are missing in their understanding, or deliberately turning a blind eye to, is the distrust of the middle class, both urban and rural and its unprecedented politicisation. This is, perhaps, the major factor that accounts for the growing popularity of the kaptaan. The leaders of the dynastic parties have nothing to offer to this disillusioned class. With more urbanisation, the political power and influence of this class has grown a great deal. At the moment, this class is solidly with the PTI.

The second important factor that explains the rise of leaders in every competitive, democratic polity is their credibility. The question that is always on the minds of the people is: can they trust them? People in the democratic politics of the two major parties, the PML-N and the PPP have mattered very little, if at all. They have substituted genuine support of the people with building elite networks, the exclusive clubs of political families. In doing so, never were they alive to the changing political reality of Pakistan: increasing distrust in the ruling dynasties and new voices of change that the media and social discourses have popularised. For long, they have lost touch with the political reality of  a quietly changing Pakistan. On the other hand, people listen to and believe Imran Khan. He has etched a place deep in their political imagination for the better future of the country.

Finally, there is the political message of the kaptaan that has made great political waves in the country. Consistently, for years, he has focused on merit, transparency in government affairs, accountability and responsible governance. Sick and tired of systematic corruption, bad governance, and undocumented accumulation of wealth by powerful sections of society, the general public appears to be embracing his politics and leadership as the best hope for real change.

Furthermore, there are two significant things, in my view, about the rise of kaptaan: his de-legitimisation of old politics and trust in the people’s ability to change what he calls the corrupt and dysfunctional political system. He shows beaming confidence in his own ability to change Pakistan and rebuild the fractured ties between the state and society. The idiom has gone viral — the only cure is change itself.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd,  2014.

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Reader Comments (41)

  • Baig
    Dec 3, 2014 - 12:30AM

    Kaptaan of the disillusioned class.Recommend

  • porus khan janjua
    Dec 3, 2014 - 1:08AM

    Thanks for the article. It’s very interesting that you brought forth the class angle. That’s very important in understanding his popularity, no doubt about it.

    Recommend

  • Asad
    Dec 3, 2014 - 1:15AM

    Based on generalization and devoid of substance. Smells like umprie’s jacket which has not been dry cleaned for years. Perhaps motivated by third umprires and his invisible goons !

    Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Dec 3, 2014 - 3:38AM

    Kaptaan has risen so high that we cannot see him with naked eyes. Please tell him to come down little bit.

    Recommend

  • Ahmed Ali Khan
    Dec 3, 2014 - 3:54AM

    A great article pin-pointing to the rise of Imran Khan. Yes, the youth believe in him and trust him. If Khan says he will do certain thing he will really does or at least he will try his best. I like him plan of investing in the people ie in education, health and employment. In KP he has done it. One more thing kaptaan will do for sure as in KP maintain law and order and make police independent and accountable which is very important. The youth want to see him as PM asap so that the whole Pakistan enjoys the good governance.

    Recommend

  • Humza
    Dec 3, 2014 - 6:37AM

    @Baig: Kaptaan of u turns and anarchy. You have forgot to mention whey so many people like me who once supported Imran Khan have been turned off by his immature behviour and histrionics. He is not Naya Pakistan but Old status quo mob rule. He behaves as though he is above the law and turns off people with his nasty rhetoric and exhortations to damage society.

    Recommend

  • al
    Dec 3, 2014 - 7:14AM

    Excellent article Professor. I totally agree. IK and PTI are not perfect but they are providing a much better alternative than the PPP and PML elite, whose only agenda is to loot and amass wealth outside of the country.

    Recommend

  • b
    Dec 3, 2014 - 8:11AM

    Incoming paid PMLN trolls who will pretend that rivers of honey are flowing in Pak and that everything the author said is not true :D

    Recommend

  • ali
    Dec 3, 2014 - 8:16AM

    100% agree with everything you said! Status Quo Murdabad !

    Recommend

  • Zulfiqar Baig
    Dec 3, 2014 - 10:40AM

    Thank you Professor Sb. for writing a wonderful article. You have honestly described the facts which current elite corrupt politicians are not taking seriously.

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Ali Abbas Akbar Syed
    Dec 3, 2014 - 11:42AM

    A very good article. My humble request to all PMLN & PPPP stalwarts is that your leaders have swindled thrice. Please let this man have a go. Either he will be like the rest or may recuperate this nation and the economy.

    Recommend

  • Ayyubi
    Dec 3, 2014 - 11:52AM

    @ Asad,

    Seems to be servant of Status Co

    Recommend

  • Dec 3, 2014 - 1:38PM

    Change is the universal and inevitable . change may be positive or negative but it will take place.People only can accelerate it .

    Recommend

  • Munir Ahmed
    Dec 3, 2014 - 2:28PM

    Yes it is the right analysis of the rise of Imran.

    Recommend

  • Farhan
    Dec 3, 2014 - 2:47PM

    What’s really really dangerous is that no one challenges him on his pro-Taliban stance. I support Imran against all parties, but I will never vote for him as long as he is pro-Taliban.

    Recommend

  • Anwaar Hussain
    Dec 3, 2014 - 3:35PM

    Excellent article by professor

    Recommend

  • Taimour Ali Babar
    Dec 3, 2014 - 4:21PM

    A very good piece to read and some times I feel very infuriate when I see that our people has lost the sense to scruples. Most of us defend the corrupt, killers and alms against A person who’s welfare works are already on the ground in the shape Cancer hospital and university , how can they say that imran’ khan is not capable of running a country I believe that he can run it quite better than the ones who are killers and shady. We are comparing crooks with an honest and highly qualified.Recommend

  • F Khan
    Dec 3, 2014 - 4:24PM

    Kaptan is the leader and PTI the party of the disillusioned class. They believe to be honest you have to call others corrupt. To be democrat you have to call others tyrants/firoun. To be PM you have to call the elections as rigged.And for this you do not have to prove anything or go to courts or bring evidence.Just get up over a container and start saying whatever you want right, left and center.Shame on you IK for the gutter politics. We thought you were different but you have disappointed us.

    Recommend

  • Mohsin
    Dec 3, 2014 - 4:34PM

    If there is one honest leader left in pakistan, thats imran khan, praying for his success

    Recommend

  • F Khan
    Dec 3, 2014 - 4:35PM

    @Frahan:I totally agree with you. One of the reason why he was not voted in Punjab was his stance on terror/taliban. Who will vote for you if you are perceived as taliban khan.

    Recommend

  • raider
    Dec 3, 2014 - 9:18PM

    @Humza: all the peoples don’t support right peoples all the time, some due to cowardice and others leaves due to their threatened vested interests

    Recommend

  • raider
    Dec 3, 2014 - 9:26PM

    imran is diamond,we need diamond ,while diamond don’t need us

    Recommend

  • Systemic
    Dec 3, 2014 - 11:13PM

    @raider:
    If swallowed, diamond can kill!!

    Recommend

  • Ranjha
    Dec 3, 2014 - 11:59PM

    @Ch. Allah Daad:

    Darbari-e-azam, jaan ki amaan paon to poochhon: How many blind protestors did you thrash today, my “democratic” friend!

    Recommend

  • Umpire's men
    Dec 4, 2014 - 12:30AM

    At the service of the Umpire, period.

    Recommend

  • Grace
    Dec 4, 2014 - 12:54AM

    @Baig: He is not Kaaptan of disullusioned classes but Kaptaan of burger kids and VIPs who think they are above the law. He is falling in the eyes of all decent Pakistanis who only see a stubborn and vengeful man who will be happy to destroy the country in order to gain power.
    He should be called sore loser party and he is teaching the youth that you don’t need to work to make a better world but just party, dharna and break laws instead. He believes in quick fix world with no effort. Sorry I disagree with IK and PTI.

    Recommend

  • Napier Mole
    Dec 4, 2014 - 1:41AM

    A groundless eulogization of a person who has failed to give or implement any concrete vision. Each action he has taken for the last several months only points towards a naked grab for power. He has abused every segment of the society except the military. He failed to bring out any tangible change in KPK. There is no LB polls in KPK, something he promised to do in 90 days. He shoots from the hip and want to be taken seriously. Hence, I am disappointed to see such hagiographic article coming from a scholar who would be expected to take a more balanced approach.

    Recommend

  • In Service
    Dec 4, 2014 - 5:19AM

    @Umpire’s men:
    “At the service of the Umpire, period.”
    Actually, in the service of the Umpire.

    Recommend

  • Malveros
    Dec 4, 2014 - 9:09AM

    A big NO to an imbecile who has no vision to lead either KPK or Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Obaidullah mahmood
    Dec 4, 2014 - 9:35AM

    Sycophants of the establishment.

    Recommend

  • Hassan
    Dec 4, 2014 - 10:35AM

    Go Nawaz Go

    Recommend

  • Maalik
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:07AM

    Mr. Raees and all other readers if ET publishes my comments please go through the following link to see the credibility of ET.
    http://id.foreignpolicy.com/identity/public/login/options?nexturl=http%3A%2F%2Fsouthasia.foreignpolicy.com%2Fposts%2F2014%2F11%2F20%2Fnotfittoprintaninsideraccountofpakistanicensorship&previousurl=http%3A%2F%2Fsouthasia.foreignpolicy.com%2Fposts%2F2014%2F11%2F20%2Fnotfittoprintaninsideraccountofpakistanicensorship&KeepThis=true

    Recommend

  • ABKhan
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:57AM

    @Grace:

    If he is the leader of bruger kids, then somehow strangely most of the Pakistan has turned into burger kids. Try to speak some sense plesase

    Recommend

  • raider
    Dec 4, 2014 - 1:25PM

    @Systemic:
    diamond not for being swallowed, u people always think every thing is to be swallowed,,,

    Recommend

  • observer
    Dec 4, 2014 - 1:51PM

    Furthermore, there are two significant things, in my view, about the rise of kaptaan: his de-legitimisation of old politics and trust in the people’s ability to change what he calls the corrupt and dysfunctional political system.

    Trust in ‘People’s Ability to Change’????

    Are you sure?

    I thought Khan Sahib trusted some others more than anyone else.
    Sample these.

    http://www.dawn.com/news/1143447

    http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/11/10/national/khan-puts-faith-in-mi-isi-for-election-probe/

    Recommend

  • riz
    Dec 4, 2014 - 3:36PM

    The title reminded me of ‘The rise and rise of Hitler’. Although IK seems to be an honest person but at the same time, he’s stubborn.

    Recommend

  • Demagogue
    Dec 4, 2014 - 9:29PM

    The rise and rise of the demagogue

    Recommend

  • Nazia
    Dec 4, 2014 - 11:00PM

    A great article pin-pointing to the rise of Imran Khan. Yes, the youth believe in him and trust him. If Khan says he will do certain thing he will really does or at least he will try his best. I like him plan of investing in the people ie in education, health and employment. In KP he has done it. One more thing kaptaan will do for sure as in KP maintain law and order and make police independent and accountable which is very important. The youth want to see him as PM asap so that the whole Pakistan enjoys the good governance.

    Recommend

  • anwaar bugvi
    Dec 5, 2014 - 7:53AM

    A true reflection of PTI and IK. He is indeed a new hope due to his fair analysis,simplicity and sincerity. He is a real threat to status qou, corruption and other ills created by traditional politicians and rotten system which is serving them well. No doubt IK is gaining momentum with every passing day. Thanks to Nawaz who helped him to create awareness,educate and organize Pakistani nation.

    Recommend

  • Saima Khan
    Dec 5, 2014 - 12:53PM

    Those with Ostrich Syndrome who think that elections were not rigged should keep a track of elections tribunals decisions wherein massive rigging and bogus votes were laid bare in recounting. Even for a moment we say its not the case then please display form 14, 15, and 16 ECP website. Even Imran Khan’s biggest detractors say that he could have lost as per elections’ results but not against Ayaz Sadiq in Lahore.

    Recommend

  • Saima Khan
    Dec 5, 2014 - 12:53PM

    Those with Ostrich Syndrome who think that elections were not rigged should keep a track of elections tribunals decisions wherein massive rigging and bogus votes were laid bare in recounting. Even for a moment we say its not the case then please display form 14, 15, and 16 ECP website. Even Imran Khan’s biggest detractors say that he could have lost as per elections’ results but not against Ayaz Sadiq in Lahore.

    Recommend

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