By Nadeem F Paracha
June 28, 2011
A fantastic cricketer, Imran Khan once seemed to possess all the right ingredients to become a truly progressive politician. Unfortunately, he landed on his face. Now it is all too obvious who is trying to pick him back up and that too for all the wrong reasons!
What can one say about Imran Khan? A great former cricketer, a compassionate philanthropist... and a sorry excuse for a politician? But his continuing forays into bad politics and tactical blunders can be excused, for he is yet to understand that politics is not a game of cricket and that the democratic election process does not follow the selection policy he enforced as the captain of the Pakistan cricket squad.
The truth is Khan’s penchant for picking up talented players seemed to have gone haywire when he decided to pick his early political mentors. By the time Khan officially entered politics sometime in late 1995 it wasn’t his pristine education at Oxford University or a more insightful understanding of Pakistan’s political history that was informing his political make-up.
On the contrary, his ideology was weaved from the usual reactionary claptrap one expects from former ISI men and political Islamic parties, especially those who got emotionally involved in Pakistan’s counter-productive Afghan jihad project in the 1980s. Thus, the next logical step for him, was, of course, going further down the reactionary rabbit hole. This hole is the same one into which a number of urban, middle-class Pakistanis have decided to fall, becoming an isolated (albeit growing) cult of sorts with its own set of prophets that include certain music and fashion celebrities, TV personalities, cricketers, journalists, televangelists et al.
This cult also has its own understanding of Pakistani politics, society and the faith. Its worldview espouses a narrative that puts Pakistan at the centre of the universe around which malicious anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam forces (mostly Western) are constantly trying to undermine the country’s political and cultural wellbeing and sovereignty. But the funny thing is that a majority of those following this cult are rather westernised in their habits and many are also well settled in various European countries and the US.
There is a clear lack of self-awareness on their part due to which they seem to completely miss noticing the ideological and existential dichotomy that their outlook exhibits. It’s like knowing the spelling of the word hypocrisy but not knowing what it means. This cult’s messiahs too demonstrate similar dichotomies.
For example, it is ironic hearing men such as Imran Khan, Hamid Gul, Munawar Hassan and Zaid Hamid spout lectures and speeches on corruption, sovereignty and patriotism, when the truth is that much of what these gentlemen are spouting is nothing more than a populist version of a slippery narrative propagated by a political and economic elite. Their roots are not in the so-called masses but in the smoky corridors of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and in the comfortable TV lounges of the country’s urban middle and upper classes.
Since lack of self-awareness is the highlight of this cult’s gung-ho behaviour, I wonder if Khan is conscious of the fact that much of what he chants in the name of the poor people, free judiciary and national sovereignty is largely a by-product of the nonsense generated for years by the country’s economic, military and social elite groups. That’s why even though the media and politicians have only just begun to suggest that Khan might be being propped up by certain sections of the intelligence agencies, the truth is, as far as his political beliefs are concerned, he was always the establishment’s man.
This cult of ‘leaders’ that Khan belongs to is somewhat oxymoronic. They are being used to preach a revolution from above so that a genuine revolution from below (ie from the masses) can be kept in check to safeguard the economic and political interests of those sitting at the helm of Pakistan’s establishment. But is Khan really such a novice? Since he has not been above hypocrisy and contradiction himself, blundering over and again by questioning the moral make-up of various politicians, from Mr Asif Ali Zardari to Mr Nawaz Sharif to Mr Altaf Hussain, in response, he has constantly faced some ugly reminders of his own not-so-moralistic past.
This can let one assume that he is conscious of the said dichotomy, but more so, also conscious of the fact that in a country like Pakistan such dichotomies get lost in the usual hullabaloo about honour. An honour that has more to do with imaginary wars and mythical warriors rather than something a tad more realistic.
What’s more, the more tenacity mainstream political parties in Parliament exhibit in the face of a rabid onslaught against its character, the more frustrated this cult’s leaders and supporters get, consequently becoming more audacious and absurd in their attacks. They foam at the mouth, blasting incoherent rants about patriotism and Islam, sometimes sounding as if they are suffering from a rapid case of reverse evolution.
A man like Imran Khan with such a fantastic cricketing career and an impressive record of philanthropy, a man who once seemed to possess all the right ingredients to become a truly progressive politician, has, unfortunately, landed on his face. It is all too obvious now who is trying to pick him back up, and that too for all the wrong reasons. His supporters, mostly through social media, are just fodder to feed his delusion of being the messiah that Pakistanis await.
The writer is among the most popular Pakistani columnists. He writes for Dawn.
Source: The Dawn, Karachi