Flying in from London to Islamabad, I bumped into Imran Khan on the plane. There he was, sitting a couple of rows ahead of me, reading The News, with his own picture on its front page (meeting Nawaz Sharif in London). I had not yet seen the paper, nor followed that days events in London (I was flying in from Amsterdam where I had been in meetings all day). We exchanged a few pleasantries, said nice things about what we had been up to since we had last met in Chicago just about a year ago (I had reported in detail on that here).
I must say, I did not fully grasp everything he said until later after I landed in Islamabad and first saw his supporters and TV cameras lined up at the airport, and then every news channel covering his press conference in London, and its political implications. In our short conversation he pretty much covered the exact same points I saw him presenting on TV,with pretty much the same passion. I guess he had come fresh from the press conference. Since all of that is now in the news already, I will not repeat it. The one thing I did ask him about were rumors about his ‘patch up’ with the MQM leading to the lifting of the ban on his entry into Sindh. Readers would remember those rumors surfacing everywhere, including on ATP, a few days ago. He shrugged those away as nonsense and just rumors.
My own sense from this very brief discussion chat was that:
(a) he does seem very serious abut taking on MQM Chief Altaf Hussain,
(b) that he fully realizes the seriousness of what he is doing, and
(c) he seems to be doing this out of personal conviction much more than political opportunism.
I may turn out to be wrong, but my first impression was that the earnestness with which he spoke about what he was doing and why that cannot be easily faked. This, then, seems not to be a story that will fizzle away easily. Not if Imran can help it.
If this is, in fact, so then Pakistan politics will continue to become even more interesting than it already is. ‘Party’ politics may just come back into limelight, but not ways one had expected. If indeed there are to be elections in Pakistan soon then the impact of this tussle could go well beyond defining what happens to just Imran Khan and the MQM.
By the way, as it turned out it was an interesting PIA fight to be on. Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao boarded soon after me. As did Commerce Minister Humayun Akhtar Khan (returning, I believe from the WTO meeting in Geneva). They both greeted Imran with graciously, and briefly, and then then nearly all of us made teh best of the overnight flight by going off to sleep. Of course, I first watched the ‘Tribute to a Legend’ show on filmstar Muhammad Ali on the PIA channel.
P.S. In case you wonder, no, I did not speak to either of the Ministers. I do not know either of them, and would not have known what to say anyhow, especially if either of them had seen my own most recent musings on the political happenings in Pakistan.