I Admire Imran. But Cannot Support His Politics.

Posted on June 1, 2009
Filed Under >Aqil Sajjad, People, Politics
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Aqil Sajjad

Like many Pakistanis, I admire Imran Khan and his sincerity. But supporting him politically is a different matter. He and his party – Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) – have some serious soul searching to do before people give it their political support.

Imran Khan is one of the few principled politicians we have. There is no doubt that he truly cares about the country. His bold stance on May 12 and his consistent support for the restoration of the judiciary was unmatched by any other prominent politician. His cancer hospital and the projects he has started in the field of education have been praised even by many of his critics.

Someone like myself, who is dissatisfied with the politics and corruption of the leading parties, is naturally attracted to Imran Khan who talks about principles and accountability. However, as much as I like Imran for his honesty and devotion to the country, I have some concerns about him and can not help agreeing with Shafqat Mahmood’s statement that Imran never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Being politically inclined, I have even considered joining PTI at times, but reservations about his politics prevent me from doing so.

Imran Khan has been in politics for 13 years, and this is a long enough period to develop the party into a vibrant, democratic entity. Unfortunately, PTI still comes across more like an Imran Khan fan club rather than a democratic political party. For the most part, there is an absence of grass roots forums that meet regularly where any party member can raise issues and be heard, and the party line almost completely comes from the top.

Secondly, Imran does not realize that politics requires an appropriate mix of idealism and pragmatism and confuses this balancing act with opportunism. If he wants to serve the people of Pakistan by coming into power, then his decisions should be geared towards that goal. He had an excellent opportunity to launch himself when Nawaz Sharif offered him 20 odd seats in 1997 and again when Musharraf was willing to help him become the prime minister. Instead of spurning these offers, he should have taken a few ministries and worked hard on demonstrating through performance that he was someone who could truly deliver if given a chance. This could have provided him with the impetus needed to launch PTI into a force capable of getting elected into power on its own and then implement its reform agenda.

This unwillingness to balance idealism and pragmatism also creates doubts about his ability to deliver even if he came into power some day. It makes one wonder whether he would really take a practical approach towards addressing the country’s problems.

On top of all this, Imran Khan has a very confused stance on the Taliban where he still falls well short of fully condemning them.

He has been very consistently and forcefully bashing the Americans in recent years but the same kind of condemnation for the Taliban has not been forthcoming. This sharp contrast, when the Taliban have killed many more Pakistanis than the American drones, and when they are directly trying to destroy the state structure to establish their own rule, is hard to understand. It has taken some strong criticism for Imran Khan to finally make a few “too little too late” statements criticizing the Taliban, whereas what one expects from a good leader is the ability to clearly identify and point out a problem well ahead of time.

His stance on the current situation in Swat has again left a lot to be desired. He first vehemently opposed the military operation but did not explain what the government should do when the Taliban break a peace agreement and keep on expanding into neighbouring districts as they blatantly did after the Swat deal. Only after coming under regular fire has he finally accepted that a military operation can also be an option. He rightly says that bombings should be avoided and the operation should be carefully targeted, but the national debate could have been more focused on discussing how military action can be carried out in a way that minimizes civilian suffering if he and others had not been creating confusion by insisting that there should never be an operation.

In yet another example of muddled thinking, he now argues that before sending the army, a group of politicians should have been allowed to go and try to convince the Taliban to abide by the Swat peace deal. This makes one wonder why he did not publically propose this in the days leading up to the operation and what he is trying to accomplish by undermining the military’s efforts now that the time for this idea has clearly passed.

I really admire Imran Khan for his sincerity, but these are some of the serious issues that he and his party have to come to grips with, before PTI can make serious headway in realizing its full potential.

105 responses to “I Admire Imran. But Cannot Support His Politics.”

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  2. sam says:

    Yes…an article that PERFECTLY articulates my feelings about Imran Khan. No one can deny that as a social worker he is the best–his cancer hospital is truly world class and I’ve heard NOTHING bad about it.

    However, his vision and political flip flopping leave so much to be desired. He’s no dummy but true courage would mean challenging the status quo in an intelligent way and not apologizing (or appearing to) to the Taliban and extremists. Imran, you are above this.

  3. Khawaja says:

    My friend. i just wana say you that you say Pragmatism and all that..i ask you why Our beloved Prophet (S.A.W) adopted the way of struggle as he was also offered so many things for which he said If you place Sun on right and moon on left hand even then i wont stop my mission. dont take it as religious thing take it as wordly struggle. He would have started to oblige tribesman and their lords to bring change..why did he started by Hazrat Bilal , Abu Bakar ( may Allah be pleased with them). If he had joined Musharraf or Nawaz Sharif then whats the point to make a new party..We have to be visionary that on one hand we say these are corrupt and dont want change and then we join them to bring change..its a contradiction in terms. I ask supporters of Musharraf that what change he brought in his tenure..though i also supported him initialy and felt blessing in disguise as we were sick of our politicians..but what he did laters..we were sick of PPP and PML but he joined both of them..i ask u was Faisal Saleh Hayat a new face or sheikh rasheed? Aftab Sher Pao or Wattu? Wasi Zafar or Mqm? we have to open our hearts and minds then we can understand what is the reality and what is the way to bring about a change.

  4. abbasi says:

    Dear Aqil Sajjad, from your article it reveals clearly that not Imran Khan but you are a confused guy with lack of analytical skills. If according to you, Imran Khan is not directly and openly opposing Talibans, then same is the case for you. Neither a full support for him nor a complete disagreement!!!!
    Imran Khan is the only ray of hope for the politically deceived public of Pakistan and nation has associated hopes with him now. You follow the same negative strategy of power politics with compromising on the principles, as you mentioned in your articles that joining hands with Nawaz Sharif jsut for a bunch of seats was a suitable option for Imran Khan. If he had done so, then what the difference between him and other cunning hypocrite politicians of Pakistan??
    The Imran Khan’s stance over military operation is very justifiable if you go back into the history of such operations!! Look at the 1971 East Pakistan operation–resulting into the partitioning of the country. Look at the Baluchistan operation–resulting into the anti-Pakistan sentiments in the general public of that provicne, look at the Lal Masjid operation–resulting in a high rise of terror activities in the country.
    Fire and bullets never bring peace and harmony rather they have very bad ripple effect which further worsens the scene. This is the philosophy of Imran Khan and we LOVE IT.

  5. teetoo says:

    dear Aqil,
    If you correctly think that Imran Khan is the only sincere leader on the political horizon, then why not join PTI and try to iron out the shortcomings that you see in him. I am sure there is nothing that cant be changed. And Imran Khan is about change, change the current rotten political system where a good politician is the one who can more easily deceive people.

    If you think that you’ll get a politician who is tailor made to your requirements, is sincere, talks and acts just as you think; then that is not going to happen. You have to start with a good person, support him and polish him. Just writing these articles condemning the only sincere “politician’s” shortcomings wont help anyone.

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