Gurgaon, Nov.3 (ANI): The speech (at least on YouTube) lasted about 50 minutes, the mood euphoric, the crowd was raucous at times and the slogans were the usual eulogies 'Pakistan Zindabad and Imran Khan Zindabad' almost in the same breath.
The Doyen, Founder and Leader of the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf Party, Imran Khan, perhaps got carried away by the response of the 100000 strong crowd (some say 200000), and said that the only other person who refused to beg was the Qaid-e-Azam that is, apart from Imran himself, he modestly announced.
Imran, the latest political kid on the block, had just elevated himself to new heights. Speaking to the noisy crowd at the Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore on October 30, Imran claimed that what he was starting was not a movement, but a Tsunami that would sweep away corrupt and ineffective leaders.
The question some ask is whether Imran had in fact arrived or had merely landed; meaning that he had a long way to travel. Would Imran be able to overcome the threat from the entrenched feudal lords who run political parties in Pakistan, win electoral battles for his party, something he has not done so far, become a force to reckon with leave alone running the government.
Imran's attacks on President Asif Zardari and Mian Nawaz, the PML(N) leader, brought the strongest approval from the crowd; anti-Americanism was popular of course, but when he mentioned Kashmir (after several promptings) did not evoke the kind of response politicians in earlier times were able to elicit. It was the economy and the corruption and the hope for change that brought the loudest applause.
A good deal of the response is because of the follies of the other two major parties in Pakistan who matter in Punjab - the PML (N) and the PPP. The PPP is involved in protecting its leader Asif Zardari with cases of corruption pending against him along with several of his close confidantes and cronies, and bolstering the other heir apparent, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
The other party, which is in power in Lahore, the PML (N) run by the Sharif brothers like a private fief is also bereft of ideas beyond trying to overthrow the PPP-led government from Islamabad. Ever since democracy was restored, in a manner of speaking, in 1988 after the assassination of Zia-ul-Haq, the longevity of civilian governments has been limited to two or three years.
The only government that lasted more than this was the military government of Gen Musharraf. The present Zardari-Gilani combine is now in its third year. Going by the law of precedence, the grace period for the present regime has run out, the people of Pakistan have run out of patience and they want change.
The powers that be in Rawalpindi, the omnipotent Pakistan Army have their own demons to handle. The US is doing a good deal of heavy breathing while showing sign of getting closer to enemy India, the Chinese are strangely ambivalent on a number of issues despite loud proclamations by Pakistani leaders, the terrorists are running amuck and the assets of Pakistan - the Haqqanis of Waziristan and the Taliban of Quetta are also under the microscope.
The Baloch are restive and sectarian violence continues unabated with Shias the main targets of Sunni groups. Continued instability in Pakistan and an ineffective government, a crumbling economy offers very little hope. The prospect of a military takeover is unthinkable for the present military leadership. Therefore, the facade of a civilian government has to be preserved.
Imran Khan not considered a serious option until recently, is suddenly emerging as the new messiah. But is that really so? One rally does not necessarily translate into electoral victory. Imran Khan has not even reached southern Punjab and Lahore is no longer Punjab.
His party, the PTI, has no standing against the entrenched parties in Sindh - the MQM in the urban areas and the PPP in the rural areas. The party has no presence in Balochistan and is unlikely to make any headway there.
The PTI may be successful in the PakhtoonKhwa-Khyber province largely due to the ineptitude of MMA and the ANP. Even in the Punjab, neither the PPP nor the PML (N) can be considered as washouts although the party could gain in urban areas.
Imran Khan had a dual image. One of a westernised Oxford educated playboy abroad which makes him acceptable outside and the other of an Urdu speaking pro-Islamic politician speaking at home which makes him acceptable to domestic audiences.
He was known to be close to the Jamaat e Islami chief Qazi Hussein Ahmed, was in favour of Islamic laws like the Hudood and Blasphemy laws. Those who have read his autobiography, feel that his comments have been restrained. But this might be an attempt at an image makeover with the western audience that may be willing to accept a man close to the Islamic groupings so long as he promised stability in a turbulent region. It is Imran's views expressed in Urdu to domestic audiences that will remain more relevant.
It is too early to say if Imran Khan will be able to make a dent in the political structure of Pakistan. One rally in Lahore does not make a Tsunami. To use the cricketing analogies that Imran used in his speech, Pakistan's best known cricketing legend, is batting on a sticky wicket. It is always possible that the forthcoming matches have been fixed elsewhere in Rawalpindi and Abpara to ensure a favourable result. (ANI)
Attn: News Editors/News Desks: The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Vikram Sood, former Secretary Research and Analysis Wing.