Can Imran Khan deliver a liberal progressive Pakistan?

Day 289*

Is this the beginning, the end, or somewhere in between? If you have watched Arrival, that doesn’t even mean anything. Our linear perception of time is a handicap of the language in which we think. How ridiculously simple. Simplistic, actually. An interesting thought experiment nonetheless. How would life have been if we could have memories of our future?

For an Indian civilian who has spent most of his life in the southern and western parts of the country, the term Pakistan evokes the strongest memories of the cricketing rivalries between the two countries. My earliest distinct memories of cricket (wherein I distinctly remember the entire match) start with the day-night match between India and South Africa played in Delhi on November 14, 1991. I had watched it on my neighbour’s Colour TV (we had the ultrasmall B&W TV at our place). Whether I remember the match because of its cricket or because I had a crush on my neighbour’s daughter who was about my age, is hard to tell. First crush. At the age of seven it felt like love. Can you believe it? From that age till the time I was 24, I was always in love, with some girl or the other. And it’s been a long draught since then. In the years when people typically fall in love. Talk about timing. Time.

I am acutely aware that if I keep digressing from the topic like this, I am never going to find a reader.

Anyway, after that match I started watching cricket everytime my dad would do so. And he has always been an ardent cricket follower. Unlike most other people (this conclusion has been drawn from the posts I see on Facebook), I have not shared many great moments with my father. The closest we got was when he accompanied me to my examination centres at different venues for different competitive exams. And waited for me while I wrote the papers. But they were not fun moments.

The 1992 world cup was the one fun thing that I distinctly remember having done with him. He would sneak out of the bedroom in our single BHK house in the wee hours of the morning to watch cricket. On mute. On an ultrasmall black and white TV with a grainy screen and an antenna on top of it. And I would sneak out of the bedroom into the small hall behind him. And he didn’t object. For once. Sigh. It could have been a normal life. It still can be. What’s normal? Oh, the digressions. Apologies.

In that world cup three things happened. Sachin captured everyone’s imagination. I started hooting for Kambli instead of Sachin, for some reason. If you don’t follow cricket these names are not relevant. The one that follows is. And the image of a joyous Imran Khan hoisting the World Cup — even as my parents kept repeating “They lost to India,” and I kept inquiring, “Then why are we not getting the cup!” certain that a mistake could have been made — made a lasting mark on my memory. And on the memories of many a Pakistani and Indian cricket lovers who would have watched that match. Many of those Pakistanis would have voted in the General Elections of the country, earlier this  week.


That Imran Khan, today, has been elected as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Right till my 10th Standard, our family would assemble together for dinner in one of the bedrooms (we had moved houses in 1993 to a 2 BHK flat) at 8:30 pm. And we would watch the Hindi and English news broadcasts (a slightly bigger flat also meant a colour TV) , one after the other. For some reason, the news never seemed boring. Not that there was an option. We still hadn’t subscribed for a cable connection.

When Imran Khan announced his entry into politics in the late ’90’s, excitement had gripped me. Not because I cared about Pakistan. Not because I understood politics and had an opinion. But just because it seemed like one of those news items you could gossip about in class the next day. By this time Friends had captured the imagination of most of my cool classmates. And I literally had no clue what it meant. (More on the sitcom’s impact on my life when I didn’t have access to it, and its impact on my life once I did, some other time). Tennis, politics, cricket were topics which distracted them from discussing Friends.

Over the years, I have often watched and listened to Imran Khan, the politician speak, and he has come across as a fierce liberal socialist, in the framework that Pakistan permits. I will always have qualms with any politician invoking God, any God, in their speeches. For a great politician, religion should be a private matter. But hell, even Lincoln invoked God. For me Imran Khan, was the sophisticated version of Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s Chief Minister (who I continue to admire).

Till earlier this year, if anyone would have told me that Imran Khan is going to be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan, I would have laughed her off (see I am not sexist, at least in my writing). I would also have secretly hoped that it would happen someday.

And then, from June onward, there have been media reports that Imran Khan could possibly be the preferred candidate of Pakistan’s military. And in a democracy, the army calling the shots, is never a good thing.

Well the past few years have taught most of us to take any news with a few spoonfuls of salt. Though we still haven’t figured out how to sift the true from the fake. And so there always remains the grave danger of sifting the fake from the true, the bad from the good.

And then there is always the worry – True and good need not always be the same. In the movie Valkyrie, the communications team at one point in time had to choose between relaying the communication from the Wolf’s Liar and that from Stauffenberg. It had to choose between the truth/bad and lie/good. It’s always safer to keep going with the truth though. Because good and bad are subjective.

Anyway, unable to distinguish what’s true and what’s not, Imran Khan was no longer as much a favourite in my mind, as he would have been in May 2018.

And then I watched his first address to his nation after winning the elections earlier this evening. And it seemed so positive. He talked about alleviating poverty as his top priority, he talked about strengthening the laws to protect the rights of the minorities, he talked about making the atmosphere conducive for investments, he talked about improving relations with all countries including India – in fact even when he condemned the militarisation of Kashmir, he ate a few words and could have been referring to militarisation of Kashmir on both sides of the border. What a lovely speech. Without the theatrics that the politicians indulge in back home. Maybe the media was not so truthful after all. Time will tell.

A friend, who hates Pakistan (there are a few like that in India, they are the more vocal ones though) joked that if he managed to do even one-tenth of what he’s promised, he would put up a framed poster of Imran on his wall.

That’s the fear. That Imran Khan is just a dummy Prime Minister who has been inserted by the military by rigging the elections, to suit its cause.

That’s what the Indian/foreign media has been talking about. Even the ones who do not talk about the rigging, are certain that he will not be able to have his way and the military of the country will call the shots.

An acquaintance from Pakistan is worried that he would possibly also defend ‘Blasphemy Law’ (goes by the section 295C) in the country, as he had promised the same to a fundamentalist group when he had approached it for its support for the elections. Time will tell.

The future is always uncertain. Is it the beginning of a new Pakistan? Is it the end of hope, once again? Or like the wise ones say, it’s never the beginning or the end. All this hokum is just to satisfy our urge to live/watch/read interesting stories. We were passing through time, we are passing through time, we will keep passing through time. Aimlessly.

At a time when the liberal, secular, socialist political parties in India are struggling to capture the voters’ imagination, as someone who wants India to move towards being a liberal, democratic, socialist, secular country (we or any country will never become any of those, we will always move towards being those terms, and then move away from being them), a Pakistan that aspires to be liberal, democratic, and who knows, even secular, is critical. It would nudge India into sticking to its journey towards those ideals too. More about what India needs in other articles.

A friend from Pakistan, who I met only once, way back in 2011, in Dubai (and we possibly watched the India-Pakistan semi-final in the same restaurant – I am not sure if he had come to the restaurant) had posted this on his Facebook Page.

Sehar ka sooraj gawaahi dega (the morning sun shall bear witness)

Ke jab andhiaaron ki kokh mein se (that when from the womb of darkness)

Nikalne waale ye sochte thay (the ones who were coming out were thinking)

Ki koi jugnu bacha nahi hai (that there is no firefly left to show the light)

Tab tum khade thay, tab hum khade thay (at that time, you were standing. At that time we were standing).


I think he is being overly optimistic. But hell, hope is what kills you. Hope is what keeps you alive.

All the best Pakistan. All the best Imran Khan.

PS: In June 2018, Sanju, a movie on the life and times of an existing Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt released in Indian theatres. The movie’s plot apart from other things revolves around taking digs at the Indian media. It talks about the sensationalisation of news headlines to gain eyeballs – asking interesting questions in the headline and not really having any substantiating arguments for or against, in the article. Someone today pointed out that the article I have written in no way answers the question asked in its title, and hence the title is a tad misleading. I agree. But hell, I am just a commentator – neither a journalist nor an analyst – this blog is just an attempt by a layman trying to make sense of the politics around him.

It was just too tempting a question to ask – Does a man who delivered many a toe-crunching yorkers in his heydays, have it in him to deliver a liberal progressive Pakistan?

*Day 289 — If India’s General Elections are held on the exact same dates as that in 2014, there are 289 more days/opportunities for the incumbent and the opposition to put political dead cats on the table. I have borrowed this interesting thought from an  article written by Shivam Vij, I read a couple of days before I started The Political Commentator.



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