The people of Pakistan want change. They are not happy with the status quo and want to get rid of the corrupt turncoats, the regressive clerics, and the meddling retired generals who currently share power in Pakistan and are responsible for the state we are in. But is Imran Khan capable of bringing that change?
Malik Zaheer Abbas Khokhar won the 2002 elections on a PPP ticket. But when he realised his party was not ready to side with a dictator, he rebelled and became part of a group of PPP dissidents that joined the Pervez Musharraf government in return for favours. Eventually, he joined the establishment-backed PML(Q). The PML(Q) lost in 2008 and the military ruler fell. In 2010, Malik Zaheer Abbas Khokhar made a comeback. He contested a by-election in Lahore on the ticket of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.
Ijaz Khan Jazi belonged to the faction of Muslim League led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. After General Pervez Musharraf ousted Nawaz, Ijaz Khan was one of the many turncoats who parted ways with Nawaz. After the fall of Musharraf, Jazi Khan also made a comeback in 2010. He contested a by-election from Rawalpindi on the ticket of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.
One key member of the establishment-backed PML(Q) in Punjab was Mian Mirajuddin. He was the senior vice president of PML(Q) Punjab and a provincial minister for Excise and Taxation in the cabinet of chief minister Chaudhry Pevaiz Elahi. After the fall of PML(Q), Mian Mirajuddin did not resurge. But his son entered politics in 2010, contesting a by-election in Lahore, on the ticket of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf.
Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, who is credited with organising this week’s surprisingly large public meeting at Minar-e-Pakistan, was a nazim of Islami Jamiat Talaba, an organisation accused of sabotage, violence and moral policing in a number of universities in Pakistan, including beating up girls and boys who interact, and professors who resist the group’s authority. In 2007, when Imran Khan arrived at Punjab University to speak to students as part of his campaign against Gen Musharraf, members of the IJT beat him up, dragged him around, and then shut him down in a room until the police arrived and arrested him. In 2008, Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed was made the president of PTI Lahore, ad hoc.
Shireen Mazari was the director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, a think tank funded by the foreign office and linked closely to the security establishment. She continued to work with the institute until 2008, despite Pakistan’s decision to support the US in its war on terror. In 2008, she fell out of favour and was removed. In November the same year, she joined Tehreek-e-Insaaf after a meeting with Imran Khan and was then made a vice president without elections.
Gen (r) Hamid Gul was one of the architects of Pakistan’s policy of strategic depth in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The policy involved creating private religious militias with weapons and money from the US, and it backfired when many of those groups began to resist the authority of Pakistani state and committing acts of terrorism in Pakistan. Veteran columnist Haroon Rasheed said in a column in August this year that Hamid Gul had sent him to Imran Khan to persuade him to join politics. The two have recently been accused by philanthropist Abdus Sattar Edhi in jointing PTI. Hamid Gul is Imran Khan’s mentor.
Flanked with people who are part of the problem, how is it possible for Imran Khan to be able to identify and resolve it?
Imran Khan held a huge public meeting in Lahore this week. Tens of thousands of his young followers see him as a messiah. But that reminds me of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Someone who had come to rid the town of plague was not paid what he had been promised, and took away their children. The story probably refers to Nicholas of Cologne, who claimed to have had religious visions and lured away a great number of children on a disastrous Children’s Crusade in 1212. Imran Khan has claimed similar religious visions in his new book. But the establishment will not give him what he wants, and he may lead our children away to somewhere they might never return from.
The writer is a media and culture critic and works at The Friday Times. He tweets @paagalinsaan and gets email at [email protected]