Is Imran Acting Out His Whims All Over Again?

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Pakistan cricket legend and PTI Chairman Imran Khan with Reham Khan after their wedding in January. Photo by Bilal Khan
Pakistan cricket legend and PTI Chairman Imran Khan with Reham Khan after their wedding in January. Photo by Bilal Khan

Doesn’t Imran Khan know that, as in cricket, timing is equally the main catalyst for success, or failure, in the arcane game of politics, particularly the one in Pakistan?

KARAMATULLAH K GHORI

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]one should expect Imran Khan to not know how important timing is in cricket. He rose to legendary heights in that sport because of his impeccable timing.

But doesn’t he also know that, as in cricket, timing is equally the main catalyst for success, or failure, in the arcane game of politics, particularly the one in Pakistan?

Imran’s critics and detractors—and there are legions of them in Pakistan as well as among the Pakistani diaspora—have long dismissed him as a dismal failure in politics. They wag their tongues with impunity to remind all and sundry that a loose cannon like him can’t be a politician in a country where traditional politicians are like clams—devious and secretive and, when so required, treacherous beyond belief.

Lately, however, even some of his followers and aficionados—those whose faith in him remains intact—have often been asking this question: does he know where he’s going?

This past week must easily go down in Imran’s diary as a horrible week.

First, there was the shocking news—as most of his fans would describe it—of his split for good with his bride of a few months—nine or ten months, to be accurate—Reham Khan. It was shocking and hit his followers like a ton of bricks because it was totally unanticipated.

And, then, quick on its heels—in fact, only a day later—came PTI’s mauling at the Local Bodies elections in Punjab. It was a drubbing at the polls in the real sense of the term; a humiliating defeat for a party with a rising graph of popularity in the country, especially among its educated classes. The defeat was so terrible that it forced the hand of Senator Shafqat Mehmood, one of the ‘wise men’ in Imran’s inner circle of advisers, to resign.

Shafat Mehmood has, no doubt, done something noble, something unheard of in the Pakistani political culture, by accepting full responsibility for his party’s poor performance at the LB polls. That’s how defeat draws blood from the vanquished in democratic societies. But don’t expect others—especially in major, mainstream, political parties, such as N-League and PPP—to take Mehmood’s morally-correct example to heart; their politics has no room for shame of any kind; their politics has a one-line agenda of going for power for power’s sake.

Look at that doddering knave, Qaim Ali Shah, for example, in Sindh; he remains glued to his seat of the province’s Chief Minister by just turning a deaf ear to all the legitimate critique of his dismal performance as Sindh’s head honcho.

Shafqat Mehmood may have volunteered to put his head on the chopping block out of sheer good grace; that’s how noble men used to react to shame and humiliation when nobility wasn’t a lost art as it is in Pakistan. It wasn’t uncommon for knights-in-shining-armor to fall on their own sword to save their name from being sullied or dishonored.

But has Mehmood been made the fall-guy, the proverbial sacrificial lamb, to take all the blame in order to absolve PTI’s Kaptan Imran Khan of primary responsibility for his party’s debacle at the polls?

Is it not a fact that the outcome of LB polls, as far as PTI’s fortunes are concerned, has been heavily influenced and shadowed by the announcement of Imran-Reham split on the eve of the election?

It would be hard to deny that Imran has faltered badly on the critical issue of timing in this whole episode.

Imran isn’t a spring chicken to not know that the dominant trait of Pakistan’s pathetically archaic feudal society is that hardly anybody sweeps before his own door, but are adept at conjuring up mountains of dirt at the neighbors’ door-steps.

Who on earth advised him, if at all, to break the story of his breakup with his bride of 9-months barely hours before the people of Punjab, and those of Sindh, were ready to go to the polls to elect their LB representatives?

The news was Manna to the Nawaz propaganda sleuths, led by that mealy-mouthed but perversely psychotic Senator Pervez Rashid—the man carrying a chip on his shoulder, perennially, against Imran. The Nawaz minions went to town with all kinds of snide comments on Imran’s character. The slogan instantly coined in that moment was that if Imran couldn’t keep his own house in order, how could he be relied upon to keep Pakistan in shape?

The bile from Nawaz’ camp was all poison and poured out in tons. That was enough for a socially-sick and mired-in-nihilistic-social-taboos people to instantly suspect Imran’s character and leadership potential.

To any jaded pundit of the Pakistani scene, there is no surprise at all in PTI getting trounced at the LB polls at the hands of Nawaz League, whose dirty politics paid them handsome dividends at the polls.

In fact, any uncharitable pundit would be prone to pronounce that PTI shot itself in the foot or, rather, it was an own goal by PTI against itself.

Yes, this bleak outcome largely scripted by Imran or whoever was advising him, invites a host of questions about his ability to keep his nerves cool under pressure and not act whimsically when a situation may demand of him a total control on his nerves and thought process. He seems to have flunked the test on this occasion.

None has any right to question his decision to part company with Reham Khan who, he might have come to conclude, wasn’t ready to be content merely playing the role of a home-maker. Perhaps, she became too ambitious about her own role and place in the scheme of things around since marrying an international celebrity like Imran—an icon to millions of Pakistanis?

Or, perhaps, Reham was ambitious, to begin with and Imran erred—badly, again—in anticipating that she would change her stripes once she’d tied the knot with him?

I’ve known Imran fairly closely in the period when he was still one of the most eligible bachelors in the world. There was interaction with him on the question of what kind of life partner he would settle for. The impression I, and some other friends of mine who were also in on the conversation, gathered was that he wanted a woman as close in social values of a wife as his mother—his role-model—was to his father: a simple, domesticated woman totally attached to her home, husband and children.

But if that was the paradigm of a wife in his mind, he obviously went against his own grain both times that he tied the knot, with Jemima and Reham, respectively.

I’d be quite happy to give him the benefit of doubt and say that he was relatively younger—though not quite at 40-plus—when he got married to Jemima in 1995. She was an international socialite who, to give her full credit for her effort, tried her best to become a wife and mother after Imran’s liking. That Imran’s first marriage didn’t work out was most unfortunate.

But he was 62 when he got hitched to Reham, with absolutely no room for him or anyone to plead of immaturity or inexperience. She was a divorcee and a mother of three. The least Imran and the team around him could have done was to try find out why her first marriage didn’t work? What her first husband, Dr Ejaz said, a few weeks ago in an interview with the Daily Mail, provided a generous peek into her ambitions.

Once again, I’m tempted against my own better judgment and sense of fair play to mull the question if he consulted anyone of those some very intelligent and bright people around him before walking down the aisle with Reham? Or was it an entirely solo flight?

It was unrealistic, if not naïve, of him to expect a woman who’d been a television person, an anchor, to sacrifice it all in order to become his model-wife. People don’t change after a certain age. Imran’s expectations of her were miscued, to say the least. The bottom line is that both entered this ill-starred union with expectations poles apart from each other.

Now that the hoped-for fairy tale marriage has ended on a sad, if not tragic, note it calls for a thorough introspection on Imran’s part because the early fallout of this episode has hugely impacted his party—and with it his political future—highly negatively.

I’m one of those viscerally convinced that in the constellation of leaders vying for the role of Pakistan’s emancipator and deliverer, Imran has the soundest and most credible credentials. He’s the only one untainted by muck of an anachronistic feudal culture that has no answers to the aspirations of the Pakistani people.

However, Imran will have to tamp his instinct of taking lead from his whims. His personal life is, indeed, his personal domain and should be beyond an inquisitive Pakistani news media that has been abusing its freedom beyond all decent limits. Imran has a lot riding on his shoulders; not since the iconic MA Jinnah has a political leader so inspired and galvanized the people of Pakistan with his promise of historic change in their fortunes as Imran Khan.

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