A hope or another One-Man-Show?

The historical PTI Jalsa (rally) has not only shaken many big mouthed veterans in the political arena but most importantly seemed to have kindled a political lamp in the hearts of many a muted-but-concerned citizens of Pakistan. That really means something. It was inspiring to read the running commentary of the Jalsa, on social media, by youngsters who normally shy away from political circles. Many attendees of the Jalsa I know never attended a political rally in the past.

PTI deserves a big applause on achieving this moment of glory, as Tamreez puts it, but a BIG question looms in my mind. Is it really PTI that I should applaud or the lone efforts and leadership qualities of one person, and that is of course Imran Khan?

Going with the cricket analogy, that Imran Khan so often reverts to, I would like to ask: Who are the Wasims and Waqars of his bowling attack and when are we going to see the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Miandad, Saeed Anwar and Inzi strengthening his batting line-up? or maybe the plan is simply to pull off another 1992?

No doubt, 1992 was one of  the rare victories in our history. But why is it that we are yet to repeat that feat? It is because we failed to nourish leadership in our ranks; solid batsmen in our batting line up who are consistent; our bowlers, although incredibly talented like Shoaib and Amir, lacked that vigour and vision or know-how of winning matches and you all have seen their careers.

I fear that Imran Khan might fall into the same trap as others did in the past in Pakistan. What PTI really needs is ‘Leaders’, like Imran Khan, who can rally the same support as he can and sadly I don’t know anyone else in PTI who can. We have seen enough of history repeating itself. I know it sounds idealistic but we should aim towards a “solution”, rather than a one-off victory, that stays solved for some time.

My request to Imran Khan is that he should let his other party leaders also stand with him in the front-line (they are not visible enough); get them seen and heard by the masses and make them leaders who know how to WIN. I think a true leader is the one who knows how to nurture leadership. If we are to challenge the big guns, that’s what parties like PTI should focus on. It is the only way to get somewhere in winning some stake in the 342-seat parliament. It’s all fair that Imran Khan has something to offer that’s better than other politicians but when it comes to elections what matters is who wins the most seats in the parliament. Does PTI have enough blood? That remains a question.

Saying all that, Imran Khan certainly seems to have scored high in the books of one influential entity in Pakistani politics: media. The media has become one of the most powerful stakeholders in Pakistani political affairs and I really believe they will decide who wins the next election, even more so than the army and intelligence agencies. No wonder stakes are high for the top anchors and some of them happily shift from channel to channel. PTI probably has no such influence yet but the last couple of days belonged to Imran Khan and finally his true entry into Politics (in the words of Sheikh Rashid of AML). Although MQM had a rally on the same day and that did try to steal the limelight but PTI’s Jalsa got a lot of post-Jalsa media mileage. The terminology used in the news tickers on various channels and by the analysts/anchors certainly hinted an inclination towards supporting his campaign for the next elections or it was probably just a frustration of the long standing PPP-Nawaz partnership. Let’s see if Imran’s bowling attack has the depth it needs to break that partnership.

The run up to the next elections cannot be more exciting and I hope the sleeping giant (the Pakistani public) finally wakes up.

Savouring the PTI Moment

PTIJalsaWhen was the last time you felt excited about Pakistani politics? I really can’t remember. But watching Imran Khan’s historic jalsa yesterday I felt a thrill similar to what I had felt watching the events unfolding in Tahrir Square a few months ago. Could this be the start of a Pakistani revolution? I don’t know, but PTI would have us believe so.

It was heartwarming to see that families had come even with young children, putting aside security concerns. Celebrities were there to add glitz and glamour to the proceedings, leading some critics on Twitter to question whether this was a political gathering or a concert. Shehzad Roy was a hit and Strings’ performance of “mein bhi dekhoun ga” worked really well on the crowds, but what brought tears to my eyes was the good ol’ qaumi taraana. And it must’ve been for romantics like me that they played the national anthem twice in the proceedings.

After hours of speeches and song performances, finally Imran Khan took to the stage. I guess people’s expectations had been built to unrealistic levels by the historic venue, massive size of the crowd and the long wait. While there was some substance, a few cricket inspired puns and a bit of wit, overall it was obvious that oratory is not one of Imran Khan’s many talents. Fortunately, on the personality front his star status and charisma somewhat compensates for this. If only he could hire a great Urdu speech writer and improve his speaking skills, we could have our own desi Obama.

Yesterday’s jalsa was historic in more ways than one. Not only was it the largest crowd ever gathered by PTI, it was perhaps also one of the largest ever convened at Minar-e-Pakistan. Also significant was that the PTI crowd was at least a few tens of thousand stronger than that which gathered just two days prior to hear Shahbaz Sharif speak.That’s saying a lot given Punjab is a PML(N) stronghold.

On a more superficial, yet significant note, never before have we seen the urban westernized youth attending a political rally in droves as it did yesterday (commentators have been using the term “jeans wearing” and “English speaking” to describe them). Their presence was significant for two reasons: First, this segment of society, epitomized in depictions such as ‘Slackistan’, is known more for its apathy than activism. Second, and more importantly, the youth comprises about 70% of Pakistan’s population and Imran Khan has been pinning his hopes on them, even dedicating his latest book to them. Many of them would be first time voters in 2013 and if someone can tap into this vote bank, it could really be a game changer.

I purposefully don’t go into policy, strategies and substance in this post. PTI achieved yesterday’s milestone after 15 long years of struggle. So before we ask hard-hitting questions and poke holes in their agenda and policies (or lack thereof), let us allow them this moment of glory. It is only fair.

No matter what one’s misgivings about Imran Khan and his party, one thing cannot be denied: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has finally arrived.

What we’re reading…

imran-khan-jacket After a long time, Asim and I are reading a book together. The last one was Three Cups of Tea. This time, each of us has got a copy of Imran Khan’s new book ‘Pakistan: A Personal History’. Asim is reading his on the Kindle while I’m content with my hardcover.

I’m not going to go into a review at this stage (halfway at the moment), but the reading process is exciting. Not that its thrilling or something we don’t know, but it’s given us a topic for lively discussions. Asim and I have always had our differences of opinion about Imran Khan and especially the PTI. The book is giving us insight into the background of the party and Imran Khan’s stance on certain issues (most of which he has already shared on numerous other forums).

A book review will follow shortly. We might consider a joint one, given our thoughts aren’t too divergent.

ps. Asim has been making fun of me for taking notes on every chapter!

I’m not giving up on my dream :)

Those of you who read my last post know that I was writing in despair. Although I won’t really take back all that I wrote, it is not completely reflective of what I believe in. All of us go through hard times and face disappointments. Perhaps it’s better not to voice your thoughts in the heat of the moment so-to-speak, but it can also be therapeutic. By sharing my gloomy thoughts, I was hoping for others to inspire me and help me get out of that phase. Because I know that if we stop struggling for what we believe in, there is no point to life. So I was really excited today when I came across this talk by Imran Khan titled "Never Give Up on Your Dreams". It was exactly what I needed.

One of the things Imran said really struck me: the higher the goal you set, the bigger the setbacks you should expect. And if you can learn to deal with the setbacks then you’ll be successful. However, one of the common mistakes people make when they come across a setback or hurdle on the path to their dream is to scale back the scope of their goal. Instead of dreaming big, dealing with hurdles and still working towards the goal; people will instead dream small and play it safe. I’ve found myself doing this a lot in life.

In 11th grade after I’d gotten my chemistry results, the marks were pretty good but not stellar. I didn’t really expect praise from the teacher but what I didn’t expect was for her to rebuke me. I still remember what she said: "These aren’t bad marks, but you know you could’ve done better. You never fully apply yourself". In retrospect, I know how true that comment was and still is. I’ve always worked hard, but never in a disciplined or sustained manner and at the first sign of setback, I’m willing to rescale my goal. I’d rather set ‘achievable goals’ and accomplish them than be faced with failure. I’m very risk-averse and nothing scares me more than failure. Let me give you a few small examples. I failed my driving test when I tried for manual. So instead of retaking the manual test, I passed on automatic. When I used to apply for jobs, I would only apply to those where I matched the criteria a 100% and aimed for entry level jobs even though I knew I was capable of more. Asim would keep telling me to apply for more ambitious roles, but I was terrified of rejections. Every rejection I got really dented my self esteem. In relationships, it’s easy to say "oh my family is this way and we can’t be any different" than accepting that relationships need time and attention and sometimes things aren’t always pretty, but you have to keep at it. So over the years, I’ve learnt that things don’t always come easily in life. More importantly no matter how bad they get, they almost always get better. You sometimes just need to sleep on them and then try again.

Although the talk didn’t go a lot into solutions for Pakistan (there’s so much one can squeeze into a 20 minute talk and we’ve heard Imran Khan speak about his policies on many other forums), one of the things that rang true was when Imran said there is a lot of potential and talent in Pakistan but "the only problem in our way is apathy". He couldn’t have said it better.

So in the context of the last post I wrote, I haven’t given up. Yes, it’s true that things do seem pretty bleak in Pakistan at the moment. But I also know that change is possible, even if all we can accomplish is one little thing at a time. If nothing else, I want to be satisfied that I continue to work towards my dream. My friend Hafsa shared this parable with me. Even if you’re not religious, you will definitely appreciate the attitude.

‘When Nimrod built a pyre to burn Allah’s prophet Ibrahim, the hoopoe carried water in its beak and released it onto the flames from above. An onlooker, asked the hoopoe whether it thought the two drops of water would put out the mighty blaze. ‘I don’t know,’ replied the bird. ‘All I know is that when Allah makes a list of those who built this fire and those who tried to put it out, I want my name to be in the second column.’