Imran Khan: the lone ranger


A lesson not learnt

It is no bed of roses that the voters have, by reposing their trust in Nawaz Sharif and his party candidates, prepared for the elected prime minister. The reassurance, to begin with, is that Mian sahib seems perhaps a bit too conscious of the onerous task he has in hand. As a wit put it in quoting a popular joke in this country, his face has ever since the electoral victory borne the expression as to be asking who had pushed him in the turbulent waters!

The budget has, in this writer’s view, by and large set the economy and the social sector in the right direction by making handsome allocations for the areas that require immediate attention. Those include infrastructure, energy, substantial increase in the number of scholarships for the promising youth to go abroad for higher studies, the income support programme for the disadvantaged section of the population and various incentives for students as also for youth empowerment.

Of no less importance to note is the fact that the third-time prime minister has chosen China for his maiden visit abroad during his current tenure. That is an area requiring separate treatment which we intend doing in the weeks ahead.

While agreeing with the government’s stance that it be allowed a decent chance before starting to judge its performance, one would like to devote this maiden piece in Pakistan Today that seeks to revive my column “Looking Around” which has been published in various English-language national dailies of Pakistan at different stages over the past 25 years; to making a brief assessment of the Tehreek-i-Insaf’s rather poor showing in the May elections.

It’s an old story that I wish to narrate, but one whose lesson still holds true. It was way back in the early 1990s that I was approached by Mian Abdur Rahman, the well-known writer Bushra Rahman’s husband, to convey the late General Mujeeb-ur-Rahman’s request for meeting me. Now, that was a surprise. For, I had known the general during his days as the information secretary (while still in uniform) in Zia’s regime; but that had hardly been a pleasant experience when I had all but lost my job at the hands of the general.

While skipping the details of that phase here; to continue the narrative, I told Mian sahib that I would be glad to receive the general at my place in the evening for a cup of tea. When we met, the general told me that while Zia was still alive, Mujeeb had discussed with the dictator the desirability of launching Imran Khan into politics. Also, that Zia had liked the idea.

According to Mujeeb, the time had now come for Imran Khan to start his political career since he had retired from cricket after the 1992 victory of the Pakistan eleven in the world cup. He added that Imran, of course, was keen to play that role.

That all may be very well, but I wondered where I came into the scheme. The general explained that I, in consultation with him, was to write a detailed strategy for launching Imran into politics; starting with the name of the proposed party, its manifesto, organisational structure – the whole works.

That was a daunting task, no doubt. But the idea was attractive in that the general had elaborated that it was all to be done for the betterment of the nation. And, a fresh new party working honestly to ensure justice and rule of law was certainly most desirable for our sorry political tradition.

So, I got down to the task. Over the following several weeks, we two would meet and discuss how to take the writing forward. Finally, the document was ready. If my memory serves me well, we had called it ‘the blueprint for a democratic revolution’ centred on ensuring accountability and rule of law.

General Mujeeb told me a few days later that Imran had received the document and conveyed his appreciation for my effort. Now, the party was launched with Imran Khan heading it and the general as its secretary general. To my surprise, however, I read the news some time later that Mujeeb had quit the party.

I asked him why he had ditched his own baby. A disgruntled Mujeeb used a term which it would be impolite to quote here for describing Imran Khan’s cousins from Mianwali who, according to the general, had captured the party and would not listen to the general’s advice.

That is the lesson Imran Khan ought to have learned two decades ago: you cannot run a political party without taking advice from well-meaning, sincere colleagues. But, he has not.

I say that after meeting recently with a senior and highly experienced and respected former diplomat of Pakistan who had left his prestigious position in the government to join the Tehreek-i-Insaf. He, too, was a dejected man and for the same reason. When I asked him if Imran Khan listened to him at all, he just shook his head and said that the only response he had received from the party head to a detailed letter he had written came many days later in the form of a one-liner.

Together with running the party whimsically, the other major factor contributing to his party’s less than satisfactory electoral performance, in my estimation, has been the employment of aggressive tone and tenor he opted to maintain throughout electioneering.

Khan Sahib, it is not a war you wage in politics – the voters are not swayed by your bouncers but decide what is best for them with a cool head after due deliberation. The only caveat is that the killer cricket bat metaphor did work for him in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. And, that is understandable, given the Pakhtun temperament.

The writer is a senior journalist and analyst whose latest book on Iran’s nuclear programme: Iran and the bomb: Nuclear Club Busted has been recently published. He can be reached at: [email protected]


  1. One liner for you… I wonder how a person with no listening capabilities did what has never done in Pakistan; Intra Party Elections

    • Jamat-i-Islami does this for in a different fashion. It is done in a particular group of people (mostly the top hierarchy shuffles positions in its election). Hate or like him, the only thing revolutionary thing he has done in politics is conducting massive intra-party election. Though i ve doubts regarding his selection of KPP CM

  2. Everyone criticising Imran (especially media). Atleast he is not a traitor and corrupt. e.g. Look at Altaf Hussain, his letter, his speeches, party militancy.
    A party is known by its leader, so give some time to Imran khan to settle things down, and see what he does in KPK. Then decide (atleast 3-4 months from now).

  3. it's disgusting that Mir Jaffar dynasty is still on the move.In their hearts is a disease of hypocrisy.wonder how they will face Allah with their hypocrite faces.

  4. I don't think that this column starting with the praise of Mr. Sharif's miraculous budget and ending with Imran Khan has any credibility along with its writer. If so then he should also write a column about Main Sahb that how Nawaz was launched and who supported him before 1988.

  5. Comparing Imran Khan with anyone is not a comparison. Imran Khan is a clean politicians and will take Pakistan forward He did not lose elections on the contrary he is still a winner and with his honesty he got huge backing and support of Pakistanis all over the world. Intentionally in recent elections Overseas Pakistanis were not given the right to vote because Zardari and his cronies knew Imran Khan will win elections. Media tells everything what is happening and at the moment Imran Khan respect and also a bright future as a leader of PTI whereas Nawaz Sharif though he organised and won elections is still a loser. Time will tell soon my opinion is right. Altaf Husssain is on the go with lot of his associates. Playing with the fire hardly you escape He will go a long time in.

  6. Seems the writers need to reconcile the 8 missing years…
    from 1988 (before Gen Zia death) to 1992 prior to IK retirement deciding his fate and then from 1992 to 1996 once the hero is retired and the plane was ready long ago with due consideration still taken 4 years to launch??

  7. I had understood your state of mind when you praised tge budget.
    Feel sorry for the mind of the writer!

  8. Writer has extremely good sense of imagination and only himself got proof, not visible to anyone. He can write lots of children books

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