Imran Khan: the tiger roars


His ragtag pack is no pride

When Imran Khan lost the 1997 elections, I wrote: ‘The Tiger Will Roar’. When he was arrested I wrote, ‘Tiger Caged’. Now, after 15 years roaming the political wilderness, the caged tiger is unleashed, roaring before a sea of disaffected city dwellers excited by the emerging ‘I-Factor’ – ‘I’ for Imran, not ‘me’. Better than the Lucky Irani Circus we have suffered forever, for he claims not to be part of it. The tiger’s prey better watch it. Or should they? This tiger has his own act. Or does he? The tiger should watch it too.

Unlike the lion, which lives in a pride, the tiger is a loner. So it is with Imran. When a loner tries to form a pack he is being unnatural. A tiger cannot change his stripes. This is where Imran should be careful. No lion would ever accept a weak or compromised animal in his pride leave alone a gaggle of chameleons. Any undesirable offspring or member is either expelled or killed. Those that Imran is out to fight are very savvy, very sly. A leopard may not be able to change his spots nor a tiger his stripes, but chameleons can change colour at will to blend in with new environments. The day before yesterday they were religiosity personified, yesterday morning centrist ‘nationalists’, last night pseudo socialists and today the tiger’s ‘revolutionaries’. They swivel like weathercocks with each passing gust and revolve like mad in a tsunami. Bereft of ideology, they prevent tsunamis because their purpose is to protect the iniquitous status that benefits them – unless they become beneficiaries of the tsunami too. Coldblooded animals, chameleons seek not cold tsunamis but the rising sun to warm themselves.

It’s not going to be easy. Young Imran talks revolution when actually he’s talking absolutism – “My way or the highway”. Revolution cannot happen by co-opting the targets of revolution. A cancer cannot cure itself, nor can tablets and drips when surgery is needed. If Imran seeks medication from those that have infected the country, the infection will multiply.

Similarly, you don’t overthrow a system by becoming part of the system. Before you know it, the system will pollute you. Try growing a rose in a gutter and soil your clothes. Revolution comes with relativism, proportionality, else its anarchy. Anarchy may topple an iniquitous status quo but not necessarily replace it with an equitable one. By sleeping with the enemy, you don’t necessarily produce a normal offspring.

Imran entered politics to fight the corruption of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. So disgusted was he that when Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto came to his hospital after a blast, he refused to receive her. Came the day when he was photographed with both ‘great’ leaders in self-exile: he was slowly becoming part of the system without realising it. The idealist was becoming a realist, and I use the word ‘realist’ pejoratively. Revolutions are made by actions, not words. Rhetoric is no substitute for action. The gap between profession and action must be very narrow. One has to be a pragmatic, no-nonsense idealist, practical without losing purpose.

While realism and pragmatism are tactically necessary, they can silently become copout. Our Prophet (pbuh) was an idealist to beat all idealists and a realist to beat all realists. So was Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Without idealists, history would be static and truly end. Its course wouldn’t change nor new faiths and ideologies be launched, liberation won, states created. But idealism alone is not enough; there must be fire in the belly too. Those with both are makers of history. Without the fire they become dreamers.

Imran has enough fire in his belly to run a nuclear power plant. He demonstrated that with stunning success in cricket and by establishing his hospital, both against tremendous odds. Sheer tenacity got him there. How many people don’t I know who had great natural talent but achieved proportionately little because of lack of fire in the belly, like black roses with huge buds that hold great promise but never blossom?

People were glad to see those diehards who had stood by Imran through thick and thin next to him on the stage in Lahore. In Karachi, they were sad to see chameleons alongside Imran while the diehards played second fiddle. Worse, they had to suffer their same insufferable harangues that they have suffered for years. “I’ve seen a new beam of light in Imran” – is the typical chameleon ‘justification’ when colour changes. How many ‘beams of light’ are they going to see in their lives? What happened to those previous beams? Did they mistake them for the light from oncoming runaway trains hurtling towards us in that tunnel that has no light at its end? Champions at skipping out of the way and clambering aboard the next beam, chameleons leave the people to be run over by the runaway trains of runaway corruption, nepotism and ineptness. Imran needs to clear away the mist of euphoria lest his new pet chameleons eat him.

A man is judged not by his actions alone. He is also judged the company he keeps – you know, “birds of a feather” and all that jazz. Imran’s stock would have risen a thousand-fold if he had politely but publicly told the chameleons, “Thanks, but no thanks” for you are the products and protectors of the status quo that I have come to change. If stay in the system he must and bring revolution from within – which will be a first in history – then he must raise his stature so high that neither sticks nor stones can reach him and he doesn’t need chameleons to win elections. His message should be so clear and compelling that that it fires the imagination of the people and it matters little who he puts up for election. In 1946, Mr Jinnah put up ‘lampposts’ and won. In 1970 Bhutto’s lampposts defeated many a chameleon in Punjab and Sindh and Mujib’s in East Pakistan. To reach that level, Imran’s grasp must be beyond his reach, else what were the stars made for? Wish lists are neither vision nor plan. They are just dreams. We do not need to know what. We need to know how.

There is no doubting Imran’s vision and resolve. He has always been a slow starter but with sheer grit and determination has reached the top. But in politics, the way to the top is a long and slippery slope with many paths. Take the wrong path and lose the sheen from your shine.

Acquiring or sharing power is not difficult. It is delivery that matters and democracy is delivery. The best strategy for Imran would be to stay with principles. If he breaks them for the sake of tactics, then before he realises it tactics will become strategy. Jihad means struggle and no jihad remains a jihad by breaking or compromising with principles. Therein lies Imran’s greatest enemy – the enemy within. Crowds can easily be disappointed and evaporate faster than they form – like pigeons that fly away together when frightened but return one by one.

Some chameleons may seem very nice and decent; it is the status quo that they are products of and represent which is the problem. By taking into the party chameleons that symbolise the iniquitous status quo is to frighten the pigeons away. The excuse that chameleons may not be awarded election tickets is so much balderdash. Who buys that?

The writer is a political analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected]


  1. In my opinion Imran has two option:
    1) Stay an idealist and become the next Asghar Khan
    2) Win over some electables and try to accomplish something positive in power.
    I personally prefer option 2 but people have a right to vote for option 1

  2. Excellent and poetic. Like the animal analogies. Sometimes revolutionaries come from strange quarters. Take Chou en Lai. He came from a rich aristocratic background and was loyal to the revolution to the end. His torn vest and towel displayed in Beijing showed he had left possessions behind.
    Among the chamelions there may be some who needed an opputunity to break out of their cages in our politival Zoo.

  3. If winning is the need of the hour, even a chameleon can play a graceful innings, everyone in the jungle owes one to the Tiger. InshAllah.

  4. Nice article. In electoral politics of Pakistan, one need electables for rural areas. PTI policy is that our of 1000 candidiated 70% will be new and young while 30% may be old which is fair enough in Pakistan politics.

  5. Thank you for such a constructive criticism … It was without the usual pinch of salt common in critical articles now a days.

  6. Nice analysis. However, we must not forget the well entrenched status quo powers of pakistani politics who need to be dismantled by some one. Apparantely, there are two ways to do that, ONE, by bloody military or civilian quo, SECOND, by peaceful revolutionary way, And Imran is trying this. And keeping in view the well established order of these powers for the past 60+ years, Imran has to make some compromises which even the great Muhammad Ali Jinnah had to make in his epic struggle for pakistan.
    Hence, Imran present moves shall be viewed in this perspective. But as the author said Imran is a man of great resolve and wil power so let us put our trust in him and he is wise and capable enough to deliver what he has promised

  7. i know that imran khan has no vision and resolve except to increase all the crimes in pakistan and to legalize gambling and prostitution as his character,actions and party members and leaders are enough to show and make people realize his vision of destroying pakistab

    • You must either belong to JI/JUI or Dumbo nawaz Sharif. This kind of a comment comes from those whose faith is like straw, self confidence Zero and their profession is to see every thing through prism of pessimism and contorted religiosity.

  8. Beautiful Column – There is No Doubt that Imran khan is only Honest and Sincere Leader in Pakistan ….and inShahAllah he will Bring Change – PTI always appreciate Positive Criticizm …

  9. well said…surprised no one had said that before.
    However we should be mindful that Imran can't ask for frishtas to come down to do the dirty work of politics neither could Jinnah.
    Mr. Jinnah was by far the noblest and brightest politician of his era including all his contemporaries including the British. However he had live with Muslim leaguers.
    Imran is using the same tactics he deployed in the Word Cup…defense, Aggression and leadership can make a difference. He won the world cup when he and javed were both over the hill with sheer determination and with a man who never got along.
    So let us not question what he is doing but you point should be well taken/

  10. “Remember, if you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns!" ~Allison Gappa Bottke

  11. Imran's vision of having a Pakistan free of corruption is a long term goal.
    Even he knows that to reach that goal he will need the support of those Pakistani politicians who may have had a somewhat shady past but are not corrupt themselves as opposed to those that are corrupt through and through.

  12. what if the tiger reigns with services of foxes,leopards and mice etc,, the tiger is after all the king of the jungle. And if the fox etc tries to manipulate him for their own means then the an entity with the attitude and behavior of a tiger(animal) and intelligence ,determination , will and wisdom of a human can overpower them. Hence , those foxes should be better if they only carry out the orders because this tiger is not a "balled" One like Nawaz Sharif.

  13. I think it's a very constructive piece that will further the debate on pro-status quo vs revolutionary identities. Whether Imran Khan is successful in what he's set out to achieve, we still have to wait for it.

  14. both pml n and pp have a good collaboration of loot khasoot. we really want a change who ever brings it .but all of us think it but no one dares it . imran dares it and we stand with him

  15. I am reminded of what the mother of a colleague of mine, God Bless Her Soul, used to say as an example ……… No matter if you make or have made a beautiful wooden chair, but if the quality of the wood is bad, its no use. It will not last ….. ! Will this hold true for what Imran Khan is accumulating in his party? Lets wait and see.

  16. Its not a "One Man Show" like in punjabi they say – Aay akalay banday da kum nahin ay.

  17. imran khan represents hope. who can free us from the clutches of nawaz and zadari family rules. who have been taking turns. and there is no one else in sight who can break this partnership.

    I hope IK takes these two wickets in one ball. and break the status quo. If he is sincere, he can only do better then the nawaz zardari family duo.

  18. You have to give him a chance

    He will not disappoint anybody

    He is committed to change the system

    He has a vision and a plan

  19. Thank you for making it simple and understandable .see the response and comments.Every word and description is beautiful;l.GOD bless you and Pakistan.Pakistan abounds with far taller,honest,principled visionary persons;one man revolution{one man army where Imran falters in principles but they would not .Their abject poverty hinders the lime light they desetrve.Thank you once again and GOD bless.

  20. Imran Khan is honest and competent? Just look a bit closer. Please treat Imran as a politician now. It does not look fair to other politicians. When one yardstick is used for other politicians, and another for Imran Khan.

  21. Zardari's squeaky slogan is Bhutto (ZAB) zinda hay! BB jee Zinda Hai. If that could happen by some quirk of nature it would Zardari's worst nightmare. I know personally that even his father was never allowed near ZAB, leave alone this maverick. How he treated BB is not a secret but hypocrisy has been the winning trait after the Founder died gasping for air in a broken ambulance. Zardari may be a hypocrite personafide,yet, he has proven Murphy's law to be right; what can happen will happen. What he does not believe that nature's law is that nothing is permanent except change. So change is inevitable. The Pakistani ignoble voter has brought the reprobates who rule the roost as helmsmen and parliamentarians. They have a moment in their wretched history to change and chose foxes or toothless tigers of Punjab or a man of destiny-who does not lie unabated like Gilani, Zardari and their mob. Mario Puzzo would be lost if he was to write God Father Pakistani style.

  22. well great analysis.. but i thnk IK is much intelligent and he would giv his opponents a tough time. well best wishes for PTI seriously Pk need a change

  23. Very factual & realistic analysis. Good diagnosis, excellent X-ray and SWOT analysis. Based on the credentials of IK as spelt out in the colum let's strengthen his strengths. In the prevailing political landscape no other leader matches IK. He is honest, sincere and has good intentions substantiated with excellent track record. Everybody uses the maximum 26 letters of English Language but only one gets the Nobel Prize. All depends as to how the leader uses them. IK need to strengthen NAB. Judiciary is independent but the govt is not implementing it's verdicts. Media is active and IK cann' t afford to ignore to practice which he is preaching. He must incorporate in Party Menifesto to uphold merit in the country and focus on knowledge based economy. Strengthen HEC and revive the establishment of 7 universities initiated by Dr. Ata-ur-Rahman. Utilise the services of persons like Dr Ata-ur-Rahman, Dr Ishrat Hussain. Introduce Agriculture Tax. Privatise
    sick Public Sector organizations Pak Steel, Railways, PIA etc. Introduce austerity in all around in the Nation. Let' wish all the best to Imran Khan

  24. Very factual & realistic analysis. Good diagnosis and excellent X-ray & SWOT analysis. Based on the credentials we are hopeful and confident that IK will usher a new era of Justice, merit based and knowledged economy.

  25. i didn't read the column completely but more than half. i am totally disagree with you on one point that why imran khan is taking old faces and sideline the old diehards. they are not going to be sidelines.
    i have two questions to be asked from all of those who are against this decision of khan. one the that if you all wanted new faces then why khan loose the election in 1997 and 2002. and 2nd question is if you want clean people then why Asghar Khan never become our prime minster. he is a very clean man.
    we are living in a very dirty system i can prove it that after a huge damages to the Nation still many people like Zardari and PPP. they will still give vote to Zardari. its the hight of nonsense and dirtiness.
    before 30 october's great public meeting in Lahore no one was taking seriously to Imran khan and saying that he will be the next Ashghar khan. and many were confusing the if they join imran khan will they win or not. but after watching the support from people they decided to enter in PTI. there confusion is removed now. and another thing is that everyone is talking about imran khan. Nawaz sharif zardari molana fazal ur rehman altaf hussain musharaf . each and every politician is now talking about khan. that proves khan take the right decision.
    one more thing many people says that these are same old faces. i said if you want new faces then bring a new nation throw this old nation in sea. that is the same nation who mix water in milk who are involve in bribe. and do many other bad and illegal things. sale meat of dead animals how they will change. so throw them in sea. then bring a change.

  26. great piece of advice from a friend,but sir people don’t vote candidates for their educational backgrounds,their vision,their integrity,and so on.they vote people because they are already powerful,and come from socalled respectable families.pathetic,yet true.khan is great ,but he seems to be caught in a dilemma.GOD BE WITH THE MAN.

  27. Where is my candid comment? After the Quaid we have not had a single politician in civvies or uniform who was both financially or morally clean. Asghar w
    Khan was a divine choice but this wretched nation could elect the not so Sharifs, nawazkhokar, Choudaries and Zardari mob but not Asghar khan. Now they have really a Hobson's choice provided they have developed some sense for self dignity to at least THINK before they act. The ballot box is a fraud and an idiot box where the ignoramus vote for symbols not caring who stands or lurks behind those symbols of a Tiger, albeit toothless, or God forgive the blasphamists who used the Wholy Koran and Jahils when asked said they voted for the Koran. Such is the spurious facade of elections, hence the band called parliamentarians and then they chose the head honchos, all in the same frame of mind……. How to make hay…. Sunshine or not. The darker the better .

  28. With due respect Sir,
    In this political game, your analysis fails to take into account the huge psychological impact PTI's strategy of inducting the electables is having on its rival parties who in fear of breaking at the seams are panicking…and amongst those joining, yes there maybe a few opportunists and vultures but along with them have also come some extremely capable, experienced people that have strengthened the party…in some of the most successful organisations and set ups wordwide you have all kinds ppl, some in there for self glorification and interests, some pursuing higher ideals that the organisation aspires to and some just doing their everyday jobs…it is the leaderships job to ascertain and put in place people best utilising whatever they bring to the table and help achieve its overall objectives….and as Imran has said repeatedly….if the core idealist team of PTI and Imran himself end up getting hijacked by a minority of these "go where the wind blows" opportunists they dont merit being leaders in the first place!!

  29. Best wishes for imran khan, the only hope for prosperous pakistan. Vocal ones criticize that Imran khan has not so far told the public about his manifesto, his strategy to bring revolution in the society? As a matter of fact, the word "Tehrik-e-Insaf" is itself is his manifesto that covers every thing. If justice could be implemented in the country, every thing would be taken care of automatically and country will start progressing by leaps and bounds. long live imran khan.

  30. As a PTI supporter the sight of many of the people joining the party disgusts me. I share the suspicion that the revolution will fizzle out because of these "jera jittay odhay naal" types. It is better to lose honourably than to be a tool for unprincipled opportunists.

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