O Captain, My Captain! What’s Imran Up To?

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What a sorry figure the man with the reputation of Pakistani politics’ matinee-idol cuts today in the midst of a gathering storm on the horizon.
What a sorry figure the man with the reputation of Pakistani politics’ matinee-idol cuts today in the midst of a gathering storm on the horizon.

The danger that all judicious well-wishers of Pakistan can smell because of the macabre antics of Imran Khan is that it may force the third force—the so-called Third Umpire—to step into the fracas

KARAMATULLAH K GHORI

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] could’ve titled it differently: ‘What’s wrong with Imran’? Or I could’ve said: ‘What has gone wrong with Imran’?

What’s in a title? Nothing, to be fair. What matters is that Imran Khan, an icon to millions of Pakistanis of the younger generation, in particular, is making a laughing stock of himself, and that’s something that hurts me as much as, I’m sure, it must be hurting many of those who saw in him a leader who could’ve turned Pakistan around and made a difference, real difference.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve known Imran since before he donned the garb of a politician, and he counts me among his well-wishers and supporters. Not that I wish to covet any extra privilege because of it but I had stuck my neck out for him as an ambassador of Pakistan and, because of it, incurred the wrath of BB. But that’s a story that has no relevance to the Tamasha—the bizarre carnival—that has been on in Islamabad for days and in which Imran is as much a villain as a hero, along with that juggler and sorcerer of vacuous words and empty rhetoric, Tahir-ul-Qadri.

No, I’ll not waste my time and yours talking about Qadri, the magician, whom I see—with evidence that I shouldn’t be disclosing at this stage—as an implant of the lunatic ultra-right fringe of the Pakistani establishment. Suffice to say that Qadri brings out to the fore the worst fallout of a semi-literate nation’s infatuation with religious bigotry and hypocrisy.

My real disappointment is that mind-boggling game that Kaptan Imran has been playing in the heart of Islamabad, which is straining the sensibilities of every right-minded Pakistani glued to the TV screen and eager to keep abreast of what’s going on there. He looks a pale shadow of that determined, resolute and sure-footed Captain of the Pakistani Cricket team that brought grand accolades to the country under his dynamic leadership.

The antics that he has been performing on top of his container aren’t worthy, at all, of the man who was sworn to bring change in the real sense of the term to Pakistan’s arcane political culture. But far from being a harbinger of change he seems to have become an indistinguishable part of that very same—ludicrous and deplorable—culture of opportunism and mediocrity that he so much decried and ridiculed.

No, I shouldn’t attribute his eerie shenanigans to senility—that common affliction of ageing that paralyses and atrophies men in their old age. At 61 or 62, Imran is much too young to be consumed by it.

So what it is if it isn’t the age-induced moth-balling of one’s mental faculties?

To my mind the only logical explanation for Imran’s Qadri-like rhetoric and stage-specific theatrics is bad advice he has apparently been receiving from the cabal of minions, cohorts and factotums crowding around him. So brazen and unguarded are some of them that they don’t mind at all whispering into his ear, right in the middle of his daily sermons from the container-top pulpit, in full glare of television cameras.

Imran’s body language shows that some nuggets of advice poured into his ears ends up confusing the braveKaptan who, then, gushes out of his mouth words and phrases that he must regret saying in sober moments.

It’s a motley crowd that has his ears so regularly. Some of them are intelligent, no doubt. An odd one or two are brilliant, to be fair to them. Many, without doubt, mean well and are well-wishers of his, the party and the country.

But it’s the ‘heavyweights’ of his inner circle that loom so large over him and must bear responsibility for tendering him the advice that has been goading and guiding him all through these tense and crisis-laden days.

Who are these heavy punching pugilists who have landed Imran in the eye of the storm—the biggest of his nearly two decades in the turbulence of Pakistani politics?

These characters mostly hail from that privileged class of ‘traditional’ politicians that has lorded over Pakistan and hogged its political space in the past six or so decades. Imran was thought to be allergic to them and initially kept his distance from them. It made all the sense for him to not let them near him because they were denizens of the privilege-friendly status quo that he sworn himself to bring down and replace it with change in the underlying chemistry of governance in Pakistan.

Imran got nabbed by these status-quo aficionados because they were ‘winnable’ candidates at elections and had impressive track records of triumph at every general election in Pakistan. So Imran made the Himalayan blunder of falling for their winning ability at the polls. He has since been paying the price of opening his tables to political animals that didn’t belong there.

Impatience is one word that could be offered to explain the tight—incredibly unenviable—corner where Imran has painted himself. He looks to me like that desperate trapeze artist who has climbed to the top-most perch of the circus but finds, to the dismay of all those wishing him safe landing, that there’s no safety net spread out underneath him.

The meandering trajectory he has traversed since the launching of the ongoing agitation against Nawaz Sharif vouches sure enough for his bizarre and senseless impatience to climb to the pinnacle of power in Pakistan in a jiffy.

Imran had started off well in his agitation blaming the Sharif clan and cronies of brazen theft at last year’s polls. His articulation that the people of Pakistan had been robbed of their mandate hit the right chords with most people who had their doubts, in any case, about the credentials of the Sharif Brothers; their reputation of bartering on principles to grab power had preceded them. Also sitting well with most people was Imran’s demand for a recount in a number of disputed cases where the winners, invariably, were the Sharif cronies and minions.

But, then, Imran quickly lost his marbles by donning, inexplicably, the blind man’s buff, to the horror of his well-wishers, and hitting all and sundry with brick-bats. He roped in the former Chief Justice, Iftikahar Chaudhry, and the former Chief Election Commissioner, Justice Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim

(Fakhroo Bhai, to many) in his tirades for being complicit with the Sharifs in stealing the people’s verdict.

Well, few mourned the targeting of Iftikhar Chaudhry. The erstwhile ‘good judge’ for whose rehabilitation Imran, too, had waged a relentless campaign, had lost his lustre by the time he vacated his august office. There were more reasons than one for the buffeting Chaudhry’s popularity graph received as he’d neared the finish line. The man had politicised the office of CJ; the last nail in his coffin was hammered by the shady deeds of his son.

But Imran’s own popularity graph plummeted because he lost the focus. Instead of keeping it riveted on the Sharifs he went on a rampage to denounce and character-assassinate whoever raised his ire by hurting his Himalaya-high ego.

Imran’s ego-centric proclivity explains why he stands alone, today, on the nation’s political stage while all other political parties and leaders—with representation in the national Assembly—are standing behind Nawaz in as far as Imran’s inane demand for PM’s resignation is concerned. What a sorry figure the man with the reputation of Pakistani politics’ matinee-idol cuts today in the midst of a gathering storm on the horizon.

It makes no sense at all for Imran to insist on Nawaz’ scalp as a precondition to end his Dharna, all the more in the face of Nawaz agreeing to almost all of his other demands, especially the one calling for a judicial inquiry of bungling at the polls. Why should Nawaz step down without a guilty verdict against him? Mere accusation by one party or leader doesn’t make him culpable of the crime attributed to him. He’s innocent until found guilty. That’s morality’s call. That’s what the law of the land says in Pakistan.

Imran is intelligent enough to know that he isn’t the Biblical Salome whose lust for John-the-Baptist’s head had to be catered. This is Pakistan of the 21 st century with some semblance of constitutional rule still intact in its expanse.

The danger that all judicious well-wishers of Pakistan can smell because of the macabre antics of Imran is that it may force the third force—Imran’s putative Third Umpire—to step into the fracas. The army doesn’t want to come up front and bring the curtain down on Pakistan’s wobbly democracy. But there’s every reason to suspect that in his incontinent rage against Nawaz Imran may end up being the Pakistani incarnation of the Biblical Samson who brought the temple down on himself.

One feels sorry—I certainly do, with deep remorse—for the tragedy that Imran, wittingly or unwittingly, seems to be striving hard to enact for his own political career and the demise of his political party. The change that he touted with so much elan is dissipating fast in the cacophony of sounds from two different pulpits in Islamabad.

Imran had started off with so much promise as a messiah of change for the baffled and bemused people of Pakistan burdened by the rogues and scoundrels lording over them for so long. Look at the cast of ugly characters that has ruled over Pakistan in the past 15 years. We’d that cavalier Bonaparte, Musharraf, for 9 long years who bartered the nation’s honour and sovereignty for his own longevity in power. Then there was that charlatan, Zardari, who’d sell the last shirt off the back of the people of Pakistan to top off his burgeoning chest of looted treasures; and since his exit we’ve been saddled with the two Sharif knaves and their gang of thieves to whom power is only the means to enrich themselves, endlessly.

The bottom line is that the carnival and the circus crying themselves hoarse in Islamabad promise no change from the status quo. That’s a colossal tragedy.

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All opinions and views expressed in columns and blogs are those of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Caravan

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