Imran Khan, me and democracy

Posted on July 10, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People, Politics
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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. Khalid says:

    Imran Khan may not be able to win. I dont think he will win this time either. But he is doing the right thing. That is what counts. Real leaders do things because they are right thing to do, not just because they will make them win. I think Imran has now become a real leader.

  2. Salman Elahi says:

    “If we cannot agree, let us at any rate agree to differ, but let us part as friends” – M. A. Jinnah

    If the decision to opt for Imran Khan over others is precluded only by what you have listed above, then we ought not to waste our time here and take MA Jinnah’s words as solace. If Imran Khan offers anything, than thats a resume, a CV of achievements, and believe you me, thats above and beyond anything thats put on the table by anyone else in this race. If that doesn’t suit you and you await an Ab Lincoln, a Thomas Jefferson or some sort of divine Messiah to rescue Pakistan, than you are severely disillusioned.
    We are so far behind the race that, even a figure like Imran would “just” be able to get the ball of realpolitik rolling. He will minutely, be able to set an example of a democratic setup that Pakistan ought to follow for years to come; anything other than that, another military misadventure (including the status quo) or a corrupt civilian setup will push us over the edge; at the brink of which we already stand: d=3865&page=7

    I really have no idea how to convince you that, what you are focusing on is so petty and shallow that in the bigger scheme of things it has no consequence. If character assassination is your goal then let me tell you that even Quaid-e-Azam went through that at the hands of the mullahs (they said: he eats pork, he pisses while standing and what not.) So its up to you to pick sides. Imran Khan has made political mistakes (his intitial aligning with Gen.Musharraf was akin to Quaid’s support for a united Hindu-Muslim front during his days in Congress). However, Imran has not played power politics, which he so easily could have, not once but twice. His coalition with MMA in the opposition does not by any mean imply an amalgamation of manifestos; he might as well join MMA, PML-N or PPP if he wanted to portray that. Such thinking shows political naiveness. If you get the impression that he has completely flipped than you ought to see his interview in Aghaz (ARY digital) where he tackles this bigot of a host in answering his take on the implementation of Shariah Law and his teaming up with MMA (which is a politcally corrent move for a united front in the opposition towards totalitarian military rule in Pakistan). Imran has a vision for a fair and just judiciary ; this 11 year old slogan of his, the struggle for “Azad Adleeya” is the root cause for a two tier system in Pakistan and believe me it will be 2008 elections’ “roti, kapra aur makan”.
    Again, you ought to come out this extremist-o-phobia, character assassinating political cocoon of yours and look at the bigger picture, a picture which shuns the status quo and follows a road-map towards pragmatic solutions on an emergency bases.

  3. observer says:


    There are people like Javed Ahmed Ghamdi who are far more tilted towards religion and Quran than Imarn is who I would gladly voter for. But in Imran’s case it is odd because he does not practice what he preaches.

    The Sita White affair and the recent reference against him is a case in point. And of course it is politically motivated by the MQM (whom I have absolutely no regard for) but I do think that if Imran had impregnated a woman, the honourable thing would have been for him to marry her. If he was honestly sorry about his mistake, then that was the way to handle it. Instead, he denies it for years until it slaps him in the face, not once but twice. Then he accepts it in the UK–poses with Tyrian for Hello magazine in the UK but continues to deny it in Pakistan. In my book, you cannot call someone like that principled. In fact, he votes against the repeal of the Hudood in Pakistan just so he can endear himself to the mullahs–not caring about all the poor women who have suffered as a result of the adultery law all these years–I think his hypocrisy there has come back to haunt him.

    Imran, in my assessment, is not close to the religion and the Quran but only to the mullahs, who do not generally represent our religion appropriately.

  4. Ayjay says:

    @observer, it seems anyone who tilts towards religion and Qur’an suddenly becomes ‘odd’, especially to the feminists.
    Imran is the only politician who stands up against adverse challenges and, unlike others, does not break his principle to side with the rising sun. A man of principle, I wish him the best. Even if he doesnt make a profound impact on the state of affairs, his efforts are commendable.

  5. Assad Masood says:

    i am Assad from Lahore, my best wishes for Imran Khan. All my prayers and support is with him. He is the only hope for Pakistan. Ishallah he will be the future PM of Pakistan.

    Lage raho Imran Bhai hum aap ke saath hain!

    Vote for Imran Bhai

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