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Friday, March 23, 2018

The metamorphosis of Imran Khan: From the cornered tiger to a cornered rat




courtesy dawn.com


Imran Khan has never been known for his wit. His two major achievements in life were to be good at cricket and winning a world cup and building a hospital in his beloved mother’s memory.


His foray into national politics was expected, but back in the early 90's, he always responded to any such suggestion by saying that he was no politician. 
Then he became a politician and what he unleashed upon an expectant nation was a mediocre intellect trying to hide behind charisma and increasingly vulgar rhetoric.  His detractors, both mainstream politicians and mullahs have called him a Zionist, for his first wife was a Goldsmith; an Indian and/or a western puppet, as he has admirers in those nations and more recently, a Qadiani agent.  But one cannot find even a remotest link between him and the persecuted reformist Ahmadiyya sect derogatorily referred to as Qadianis in Pakistan.

He had initially given some indication of his intentions to champion the rights of minorities in Pakistan. This face of Khan was only shown while he was fundraising in the West.  This gave raised hopes for some who saw Khan as the change Pakistan needed.


What followed in the years to come was an ugly creature crawl out of this cocoon of false promises of reform and justice. Khan had fallen from grace at the very first hurdle. He didn't even try to scale it. The cornered tiger turned out to be a cornered rat.

He was so aware of the toxicity of the Qadiani label that during the last general elections, Imran Khan issued multiple statements to reassure the religious right that he was as bigoted about Ahmadis as them.

A few months ago Captain Safdar took to the floor of the national assembly and made an impassioned speech on the conspiracies being hatched by the Ahmadis against Pakistan. There was no apparent cause for such speech.

It became clear later that it was a pre-emptive strike against what was to come. In a matter of days, the whole country was gripped in the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat controversy.  We have seen the emergence of the colourful Sunni Barelvi maulvis. They seem set to run a huge campaign in the next election on a sectarian, anti-Ahmadi agenda. Imran Khan needs the same vote bank to succeed.

His recent maneuverings to woe  the working class religious voter should cause some concerns over his capacity to radicalize his followers.  Recruiting Amir Liaqat Hussain is another piece of evidence that Khan has completely sold his soul to the devil. And this has been a long time coming.

Take for example his recent speaking engagements. One at a shrine near Islamabad called Golra shareef. The shrine is the ancestral seat of holy men of a sufi order, well known in Punjab with a significant following in the immigrant diaspora across the western world. The shrine hosts a ‘Khatme Nabuwwat’ conference every year, which is well attended by the Barelvi clergy and holy men.

With the next general elections looming, Muslim League (N) has had its day.  The Sharifs are trying desperately to make peace with the military and knowing their track record, it should never succeed. Nominally liberal People’s party has no spine, no principles and no hope. With no other major contenders in sight, Khan seems to be the only option left for the military establishment, but he cannot win Punjab without the religious vote.  Whoever wins the populous, economically strong Punjab province will form the government after the next elections. But he also needs Karachi. With MQM in disarray, PTI may be able to gather enough support  to make some inroads into the MQM strongholds.

Khan hasn’t stopped at Golra. On 22nd of March,  he attended another Khatme Nabuwwat conference, this time in Lahore. His reputation has taken a hit due to his recent marriage. His new wife,  Ms. Maneka  is a faith healer of some description. In the past, Imran Khan has been a willing disciple to such self-made suburban Sufis. A late bloomer in religious zealotry, Khan has kept clear of the puritanical clerics until now. He prefers the populist version of Islam, the simpler variety through which he can placate his zealous followers and disarm his opponents with rhetorical piety. 

He often begins his speeches with quarter of a verse from the Quran, something which the more learned Muslims find a bit na├»ve, even in poor taste. His new wife’s teachings or faith-healing methods are not known, but it has been widely reported that the lady has prophesised Khan’s ascent to the PM house if he married her.  With the marriage out of the way, Khan has to undo the damage by replacing the lost votes from the educated class with the rural Barelvi votes that are easily mobilized by the clerics.

It seems that there will be more Khatme Nabuwwat conferences, especially in KPK to rally support from a religiously conservative province in the coming months. His yobs have contributed to the lynching of Mashal Khan who was declared an Ahmadi by his opponents. 

It will come as no surprise if Amir Liaqat Hussain, who has a history of anti-Ahmadi hate speech , may use the same tactics in Karachi to appeal to the religious right. All the indications are the Khadim Rizvi and his henchmen are being put on the back burner for now.  But come the general elections they will be unleashed  to break the backs of any politicians who harbour any democratic ambitions.  Imran Khan is not one of those politicians.

In fact, Imran Khan is no politician. He is a narcissistic sports hero who can't let go of fame.


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