October 31, 2011

Did Imran Khan just own Lahore?

Imran Khan
I know a lot has been said, is being said, and will be said about Imran Khan's insanely large rally in Lahore yesterday. Did he woo the masses of their feet? Yes. Did he prove that a lot of people support him? Yes. Did he own Lahore? I think he might just have.

Imran Khan set out to prove a point, and he nailed it into every nailable thing out there. He ripped through the Sharifs' fortress and came out the other side victorious. He didn't say anything new, he didn't surprise anyone with new promises, but he delivered a powerful speech, one that might have sent shivers down his opponents spines. He also managed to shut his detractors (yours truly included) up and proved that his followers are not only from the educated urban middle class. They come from all strata of society.

But while all that is good and rosy, there are other points that need to be discussed. There are questions that need to be asked and answers that need to be heard. Imran Khan once again continued to lick the shiny armour of the army. He recounted an anecdote involving Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the US, and Zardari in which both of them beg the Americans to save them from the Pakistani generals. Perhaps Imran Khan thinks licking the army's shiny suit would earn him the required number of points to qualify as the next prime minister of Pakistan?

He also talked about corruption and how Rs 3000 billion is lost every year in tax corruption. But once again, he failed to mention how he would eradicate this colossal negative enigma from Pakistan. He also talked about telling the Americans to talk to Pakistan on an equal footing. While these are noble sentiments, in the real world they hold no water. The US acts as our benefactor, hence we dare not say anything offensive to it. Unless the shackles of benefaction can be broken, I'm afraid Imran Khan was simply indulging in yesterday's rhetoric.

Imran Khan also spoke of ending the military operations in the tribal belts. I really want to ask him whether he's become insane? OK so he says the military fights the local Pakistani population in the tribal belt. My question is what of the many thousands of Uzbek, Chechen and Arab militants residing in those places? Who is going to fight them? Or are they "our people" too? Or does Imran Khan believe they do not exist and they are simply a figment of the imagination of a few people?

Imran Khan said the tribal elders have assured him that if the army stops taking action in the tribal belt, the terrorism will automatically go away. Of  course it will. By not fighting the cancer spurting out of the tribal belts, the Pakistan army will become complicit in letting it spread.

Is Imran Khan a very charismatic man with a lot of fan following? Yes he is. But he talks nonsense at times particularly with regards to the foreign and interior policy. While his solutions to the energy crisis are admirable and in fact extremely workable, his solutions to steering the country out of the mess it finds itself in are based on populist whims and rhetoric.

I want to like Imran Khan. But he never gives me any reason to even bother. Rather, he takes all of the reasons that might make me like him and shoots them in the head. And that makes me wonder, who am I going to vote for in 2013 when I've ruled Imran Khan out?