Imran Khan, me and democracy

Posted on July 10, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Politics
Total Views: 37045

Adil Najam

This Friday and Saturday I was in Chicago to speak at two different events that were part of the Annual APPNA Convention (APPNA is the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent in North America). On Friday my talk was about the future challenges related to the 2005 earthquake.

On Saturday, however, I was part of a 2-person panel on ‘Building Democratic Institutions in Pakistan,’ organized by the Pak-American Democracy Dialogue (PADD). The other featured speaker on the panel was former cricketer and now head of Tehrik-e-Insaaf, Imran Khan. I guess, to be honest, I (and not Imran) was the ‘other’ person.

What I had to say during my presentation and the hour-long Q&A session was of little significance (and not very different from what I have published elsewhere or written on ATP). But what Imran said should be of interest to many; and since you won’t find a report on this anywhere else, I guess we can say that this is an ATP Exclusive!

But before reporting on what he said, let me just say a few words about my impression of him based on this two-and-a-half hour interaction. As always, he came across as extremely passionate, clearly sincere, and quite principled. He also came across as rather angry but also determined. The first time I had met him was in the late 1980s; he was then a cricketing god, and I a sports reporter for the now defunct Daily Muslim. At that point, and in some subsequent meetings, he did come across as rather arrogant. I must confess that this time he did not seem arrogant. The characteristic self-confidence, charisma and an uncompromising posture was still there. But there was also an odd Imran-like humility. Maybe age combined with accumulated political experience of failure can do that people. Over all, I must confess, I came out being more impressed than I had thought I would be. I also surprised myself by agreeing with him more often (though not always) than I thought I would.

So, here are a few things he had to say–you will note that a number of these are interesting predictions and things we have not heard him saying before (these are based on the notes I took, and may not always be exact quotations)

On his relationship with Gen. Musharraf. I now realize that our good relationship in the beginning was based on two wrong assumptions. He assumed, wrongly, that I wanted to be Prime Minister. And I assumed, wrongly, that he was a genuine reformer.

On politics in Pakistan. You have to realize that what we have in Pakistan is not just feudal politics, but ‘political terrorism.’ People are not forced but coerced into voting a particular way, through the most violent means.

On the ‘English Medium’ class: It is sad and ironic that the very people on whom we spend the largest amount of the nation’s educational resources–the ‘English Medium Class’–are the most deculturalized from the essence of Pakistan and the most depoliticized from the politics of Pakistan. They are the first to pontificate on what is wrong with politics and democracy, but the very last to vote. In fact, they usually do not vote at all.

On the next elections. We are approaching one of the most exciting phase of our country’s political history. You will see mass movements starting in September. And the next elections–if they are held–will either be like the 1970 elections or like the 1977 elections. Either, they will witness a total change of faces and everyone, including the authorities, will be surprised. Or, they will be so transparently manipulated that people will come to the streets to overturn the results.

43 responses to “Imran Khan, me and democracy”

  1. Mukhtar says:


    Hawa hai goo tund-o-tez laikan chiraag apna jala raha hai,
    Woh mard-e-darvesh jis ko haq nay deay hain andaze khuserwana, ….. Alamah Iqbal

    Allah Bless you Imran: Remember: Success has many fathers and failure is orphan”.

  2. MansoorC says:

    Dear Owais,

    You may have already read Edhi's book (apologize if you know this already) – in “A Mirror to the Blind” he goes in great detail about his interactions with Imran, Hameed Gul, and some other unnamed generals. Please read if you have not done so already.

    In a nut shell, while Edhi respected Imran for his charity (he donated himself to SKMH cause), he did not believe that solution to Pakistan's problems was in another revolution and another autocratic government. Edhi believed in a silent slow grass-root change that comes from within the society.

    For someone with very little formal education, Edhi has remarkable insight into our society's ills and enduring solutions for them.

    Book: A Mirror to the Blind – Edhi Autobiography – As Narrated to Tehmina Durrani

  3. salman says:

    I was completed a worrie man 10 years ago, that this man (Musharraf) is going to destroy this country and this nation and no one was able to say or to react. but for the last two years i am watching another man (Imran khan) who is terror for all the odds.whether its Mushshi, Altaf, or the newlyborne Hero Zardari(Mr. 10%), oh MyGod! what type of people are deciding the Fate of this pover nation. May Allah bless this nation with 1000 more Imran Khans.

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