Dr. Haider Shah

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance (Plato).

OVER A COFFEE: Exploring the Imran Khan buzz 22 Oct,11


OVER A COFFEE: Exploring the Imran Khan buzz —Dr Haider Shah

With no clear policy framework, arguably Imran Khan seems to have been launched this time to target Nawaz Sharif in Punjab

Before I set out exploring the political buzz created by Imran Khan, I must make an honest admission. At one stage I also happened to be one of those who consider Imran Khan to be a credible alternative in the murky waters of Pakistani politics.

Despite my continued liking for the person, I no longer subscribe to that view because the lofty role of a saviour of Pakistan needs a person who has a clear vision and sagacity to deal with the following core questions. One, how will Pakistan repair the serious damage done to its international image because of its entanglement with militant jihadi outfits? Two, and related with the first one is how will Pakistan improve economic growth by increasing its trade with the regional and other major trading nations? Three, how will the rule of law, accountability and transparency be promoted? Four, how will institution building be promoted in place of a personality cult? Five, how will the marginalised sections of society such as religious minorities, women, disabled persons, and economically deprived communities be empowered? Six, how will the demon of radicalisation and intolerance be exorcised? And seven, how will the civil-military relations be rationalised so that the civilian government is able to take full control of domestic and foreign policies?

To a great extent the seven policy level questions are interrelated and no saviour can succeed if even one question is ignored. Any political leader that poses as a saviour must provide a clear answer to all these questions and should be assessed on the basis of this seven-question framework. Now let us appraise Mr Imran Khan on these fundamental questions. Our basis of appraisal is his rhetorical discourse that we hear in the talk shows of the electronic media where the hosts often act as his promoters.

Imran Khan’s discourse revolves around a few rhetorical sentences. The most frequently heard is that all other politicians are corrupt and therefore he deserves to be the leader of Pakistan. Who can disagree with the need for rule of law, accountability and transparency? He is however often thin on details about the specifics of his policy. His oft-repeated magical solution is that politicians should declare their assets. Of course, not only politicians but all asset holders should make correct declarations, not just for greater cleanliness in politics but also for working out correct tax liabilities. However, Imran fails to appreciate the fact that corruption is multifaceted and a simplistic solution obscures the need for a more long term multi-dimensional eradication strategy. Contrary to the conventional generalisation, empirical research in an IMF paper shows that a strong positive correlation between the traditional governance features and economic growth of the developing countries is not established. The analysis reveals that while governance and anti-corruption are good ideals to pursue, there are other capacity and institution building factors that largely define a country’s ability to sustain high economic growth. It is, therefore, important to note that a government of angels alone will not necessarily usher in an era of economic development. How our country interacts with the international community is equally important.

Imran seldom speaks about the contours of trade policy; the most important determinant of economic growth. How will he promote regional trade among SAARC member countries and with other major trading countries of the world? What will be his policy on access to the US market for Pakistani textiles and other export goods? Yes, his supporters can argue that he is not against the promotion of trade and economic growth. His stance on many other issues, however, does suggest that he has not clearly thought through the sensitive link between external trade and perceptions about internal security. By assuming the role of a propagandist for religious extremists and militants in Pakistan, he does not place himself in an admirable position for winning the confidence of the international investors. No business is ever willing to invest in a country where militant groups roam around under official patronage. Imran loves referring to Iran but Pakistan has not got Iranian or Venezuelan oil, so imitating them is not an option.

The second most noticeable strand of the Imranian discourse is his support for the Taliban and their sympathisers in FATA. It is this aspect of his personality that has severely undermined his reputation as a statesman. I do not like branding anyone as an agent of local or external establishments. However, by promoting Pakistan’s deadly embrace with militancy and actively instigating the Pakistani youth by the use of jingoistic phrases he does appear to be speaking the language of the radical elements of the Pakistani establishment. He is not alone in that club. Mr Zaid Hamid and many Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are also doing the same job.

Imran was in the forefront of the campaign in support of ‘qaum ki beti’ (the nation’s daughter) but not a single tear was shed by him in public when the nation’s son Saleem Shahzad was brutally murdered in the line of duty. He opened his guns against the civilian government after Osama bin laden was eliminated by the US commandos in Abbottabad; however, no salvos were fired against the security establishment for the safe housekeeping of OBL in the first place and then not being able to protect the valued asset. Similarly, he never questioned the role of behind-the-scenes operators in the wake of the Raymond Davis affair nor could he mutter a single word over the militants’ attack on the Mehran Base while he was busy in his dharna (sit-in) over drone attacks against those militants.

Bill Gates has spent about $ 25 billion for charity work but he has not used his philanthropist work as a launching pad for a political career. Even in Pakistan, Abdul Sattar Edhi once revealed that he refused to offer his services for political purposes when he was approached by Hamid Gul and Imran Khan. With no clear policy framework, arguably Imran Khan seems to have been launched this time to target Nawaz Sharif in Punjab. Of the entire political leadership, Nawaz Sharif has not been behaving properly as per the required standards of the establishment. If Imran cannot win elections, he can at least prove a spoilsport for Nawaz Sharif. This way the security establishment would ensure that a docile and subservient political set-up will continue in the future as well.

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of Rationalist Society of Pakistan. He can be reached at hashah9@yahoo.com

Author: Dr. Haider Shah

Academic, Researcher and Writer

8 thoughts on “OVER A COFFEE: Exploring the Imran Khan buzz 22 Oct,11

  1. Lets analyze this piece of “Personal mis-informed targeted opinion”.
    The headline … launched to target nawaz sharif …. What is the source of this conclusion of yours? where is the evidence? Imran Khan’s stance is based on principles and has never changed since he set foot in politicis. On the other hand, nawaz, like any other politician, has one principle. “To get into power”. Evidence of this ….. right from where he started. Priased Gen.Zia like a saint because Gen.Zia made him what he is. ISI formed the alliance IJI to help him get into power. This is a fact accepted by Gen Rtd. Hameed Gul, Ex ISI Chief. So he used dictators and ISI to get into power. Gen. Musharraf didnt like him so he suddenly hates dictators….. not because he truely hates them but because musharraf kicked him out of office. Remember APDM? the alliance against Musharraf? APDM decided to boucott the elections, nawaz agreed with APDM, only to stab the whole alliance in the back by contesting elections at the last minute. Remember how PMLQ was formed and how much N and Q hate each other? Recently Nawaz invited all PMLQ, excluding Chaudhry brothers ofcourse, to come and join PMLN again. WHY? I wonder how ethical and principle based this invitation is. Oh but there is one principle behind this. Nawaz needs them to get into power. Sadly there has been a big miscalculation on part of PMLN. They agreed with PPP to allow them to rule for 5 years no matter what on the understanding that PPP will then return the favour. Fortunately, the media has exposed most of these secret alliances and the true faces of these politicians and PMLN has now realised the fact that there is a serious threat to them in the shape of PTI/Imran Khan. That is the whole reason why PMLN is going mad and using every forum and means to attack Imran Khan. Imran Khan is not the one responsible for the anarchy in Pakistan at the moment yet most of PMLN supporters are targetting him instead of Zardari. I ask why? and I have already told you the answer. You can hear Nawaz now saying “zardari hatao mulk bachao”. Dont they have enough brains to come up with atleast an original campaign slogan? Imran Khan has been protesting for almost an year now with the slogan “Hakumat hatao mulk bachao”.
    Next, your 7 questions. You have presumed your answers to these questions instead of making an effort to get in touch with the great leader himself and ask him these in person. It would have carried more weight and credibility had you gone through the trouble of making “a single phone call”. I have absolutely no doubt that Imran Khan has a plan for every single problem and that there is no doubt as to how he is going to rectify the situation. I can try and answer those for you but I will be doing the same as you have done … presume his response … which will not be fair. But I ask a question here. Having been a prime minister TWICE, can you explain to me the solution to all these problems as nawaz sharif plans? What did he achieve in his two terms? What was his policy and where did it go wrong for him? and how has he changed his policy that can give us re-assurance that this time it will succeed?

    On the issue of Taliban and terrorists, I am most disappointed to hear your views of Imran Khan. He has never supported any violence or terrorist activities. If you provide one proof that Imran Khan has back or supported the terrorists or the Taliban then I will personally come to your door and beg your forgiveness. Having said that, he has always disagreed with the strategy the government and the western allies have dealt with this issue. In his mind, military action will never solve this issue, rather it will make things worse which has been proved. There is more violence than there ever was before despite a decade of military action. And THIS is the reason he is against the army going after these people …. and NOT because he supports Taliban.

    And the fact that you make fun of Imran Khan’s demand of declaration of assets by all politicians makes me wonder if you really have all the qualifications you claim on your profile. Anyone with a tiny bit of common sense will understand the importance of it in a corrupt political society like Pakistan. And for someone who is so “qualified” as you appear, not to actually support it but to mock it, brings only one thing to mind … how much has been paid?

    I hope this response is decent enough for you to actually post it on your website and reply to it.

    • Thanks for your reply and would only say, as I often reply to all my critics in Ghalib’s humour …..’gaalian kha ke bemaza na hua !’. Your right of holding a different opinion is fully respected. I intend to write second piece in coming saturday Daily Times. Just to keep the record straight I have no association with any political party and make my assessment on the basis of discourse analysis. I might err and arrive at an erroneous opinion. But expressing my opinion is a sacred right which I am not ready to forego. I shall be posting the next piece on my blog again and hopefully some responses would be found there. Regards.

    • You have made all false and emotional allegations with out any stand only for the love of Imran Khan. Spoiled readers time to read your reply.

    • Dr. Amjad Ali, Sorry for a possibly a little offending reply as yours. I don’t agree with your opinion, does this makes your qualification shady? You are referring to the fact accepted by Hamid Gul, then you must search for another fact he accepted about Khan, Google it! Does any sane person not analyze that how an anti-establishment party is being downed in Punjab by a poster boy of theirs(Thanks to Dr. Haider Shah for the term poster-boy)? If PML(N) was made by Generals, then was the Bhutto, JI (IK’s spine) and IK himself (Again you can google the relationship of Khan with them, you will find dozens of memoirs, pictures and videos). You said what has PML(N) given in two terms, I am no supporter of another Jihadi Party but let me remind you that those were not two terms, those were collectively less than a single term and both times IK’s favorites did wonders, and Motorway, Nuclear Missile test (Don;t tell me its Bhutto’s program, I know this, but it is not Imran’s anyway, :D), and off-course they are doing positive politics at the moment, a sensible support to democracy. For Taliban, I think you might have missed the Rah-e-Rast operation scenario, both before and after, It is a perfect example of application of Imranist as well as realist approach.

      Last but not least, how much have you been paid by IK or sandbags?

  2. In the presence of Two Doctors I am not feeling anything to add or say but only one thing….why we always choose negatives to write? why don’t we choose positives? Off course we all are not Mr. 100% and we cant be as human being….but still we must have (everyone of us ) at least some positives in ourselves, isnt? why we just do not encourage those positives which could help to in crease the percentage of positives not only in ourselves even for our leaders we could become some motivations, influence, some pressure, some lesson or some example.
    “When we will lead, the leaders will follow !!!”….then there will be no questions or at least will not be too many question 🙂

  3. His recent false popularity and hope to have grip on power has already changed his stance. During APC, he did not utter a single word against America and Drone attacks. If it was not enough, he signed the statement which is the same policy document since Pakistan joined war on terror. He forgot all his previous statements and joind the band of those who have destroyed all our hopes. It is one of the most famous U turn of our times. Thank you Imran for showing us your true face.

  4. I wonder if we need to digress into byzantine polemics to determine a man’s standing by producing fuzzy questions. The only thing to look at is to measure what already is on the ground. Clearly if we do so we will find out that things are not very pretty. Pakistan is in a sorry mess. It has been raped and pillaged for whatever its worth for decades. Two incompetent buffoons, who have looted, plundered and misruled for ages on the musical chair of the nations highest office are vying with each other for the topmost honors once again. They have nothing to show for progress in their corrupt alternating misrules for more than two decades, except filling up their pockets from public coffers, and at a price affixing their cohorts upon sundry important public offices. Clearly time has come to wake up and first boot these corrupt plunderers off from their pedestal. As opposed to them, Imran is at least western educated, has led the cricket team to a successful culmination at the world cup, built a fantastic cancer hospital, and an equally fantastic university. Now he is asking to be given a chance to rid the nation of the scourge of corruption, and to boot out the thugs who have been looting the nation. Is it so bad a proposition? Or do we rather masochistically persevere the thugs as they are all well experienced in whatever they do, whereas on Imran we can not answer a few fuzzy questions. Thanks.

  5. Aki Khan, PTI or Imran Khan doesnt need to pay me as I am not an opinion maker, unlike the author of this column, who by the is only expressing his opinion rather than facts as he admitted in his reply. Unfortunately its the opinions and facts are confused in our society which has resulted in this mess and confusion. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. I support PTI and Imran khan because, as far as I am concerned, I can not see any other politician who is more credible than him, more honest, sincere, educated and under least foreign influence. Plus he has absolutely no other motives in joining Pakistani politics than to try and solve the common man’s problems. Before he stepped into politics, he was enjoying international popularity and respect, had more than enough resources to enjoy a nice comfortable life. He does not need to be in power to protect his assets or to attain more. That is why I think of all the people currently in politics, he is more likely to be the one who can solve our problems. The fact that these problems can not be solved in short term, as the author mentioned in another column, DOES NOT mean we let things be as they are, in the hands of the most corrupt.

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