Imran Khan: why I’m a believer

Published in The Daily Times on November 1st 2011

Poets like Allama Iqbal identified the pulse of the disenfranchised Muslims in South Asia. Faiz Ahmed Faiz took that spirit to define more progressive causes for Pakistanis. Though not a poet, Imran Khan has captured that sense of loss for the youth of Pakistan and given them hope

There are a few reasons I have converted to becoming an Imran Khan supporter, as opposed to choosing to not exercise my vote.

Before this my main contention with him was that he spoke of the Taliban as if they were a negotiating party and not a group of people believing in an exclusivist ideology with violent means of enforcing it. This view was formed by misreading what Imran Khan was saying all along — that we have to rehabilitate a significant part of our population and re-educate them by bringing them closer to the mainstream. This tone is justified, given that there cannot be a military solution to an ideological battle that is fought through capturing the imagination of young impressionable minds.

After having seen the bloodbath of terrorist attacks in the cities of Pakistan, where my children go to school, it is evident that we have to find a more permanent solution to the problem — a solution that cuts to the fermenting hostilities that generate steam for the terrorist movement and simultaneously present a viable alternative.

On his game-changing political rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan on October 30 in Lahore, Imran Khan did both.

The first reason for my conversion is because Pakistan has lost significantly to the crisis of credibility. Having worked in the Investment Promotion Industry both at the provincial and federal level I know this: the major reason for an absence in investor confidence is because when any deal is at its finalisation stage, the cost of the project becomes undefined because of potential facilitation fees that a large investor would need to account for in order to speed up bureaucratic delays.

This is never overt, but the pressure to close a deal simply is not as urgent as it ought to be because the people at the top want the political mileage of having brought the project to the country more than they want results. Imran Khan, with an established success as a cricketer, philanthropist and educationist, is free of the need for such credit and furthermore he has a spotless financial credibility. With him in power there will not only be the pressure to move projects forward from feasibility stages to land finalisation to operations but also have the inviting openness of a genuinely friendly investment regime.

Pakistan’s investment woes stem not from its business environment — Pakistan ranks better than BRIC (Brazil, India, Russia and China) countries in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business report in enforcing contracts and other such indicators — but from its inability to present a truly one-window operation led by a government that delivers its promise. Often a one-window operation set up in the form of Investment Promotion Agencies becomes ‘one more’ window that the investors have to pass through to reach their ultimate objective.

The second reason is because we need to reconcile the role of Islam in our politics. Religion makes people in the subcontinent tick. It is something that forms their psychology, their beliefs and their day. Nowhere is this more evident than in our language. Imran Khan, to ensure that we do indeed have the same God, has taken to a more right approach to his political slogans, but the actual objective is seemingly not to rally religious masses but to restore the loss of dignity that people have felt in the way foreign policy has been handled. Poets like Allama Iqbal identified the pulse of the disenfranchised Muslims in South Asia. Faiz Ahmed Faiz took that spirit to define more progressive causes for Pakistanis. Though not a poet, Imran Khan has captured that sense of loss for the youth of Pakistan and given them hope.

Around 65 percent people in Pakistan are below the age of 30, and this is far too significant a population bulge to toss away to a spiritless existence as they will inevitably battle unemployment and hyper-inflated educational packages.

Thirdly, there is a truckload of humanity in Imran Khan’s agenda. When was the last time we actually had a person at a podium facing over a hundred thousand, stand up and advocate more humane treatment and remuneration for household servants in Pakistan? The thought has probably not even crossed the minds of the leadership, mostly representative of the feudal, industrial or the street power. Pakistan’s domestic industry’s oppression is a severe problem that needs to have a protective safeguard. Moreover, there was a positive use of Islam in Imran Khan’s address where he said that women in Islam are given the right to property whereas Pakistani cultural practices discourage it, and that needed to be changed.

These are my reasons. Three reasons are not too many, but they are enough to cause a tipping point.

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