Senator (1k+ posts)
ALL those who frown at the Imran Khan options in politics, they presumably are the indefatigable optimists who still believe that so-called progressive politics still has a future in this country; or they are people who exist at a comfortable distance from Lahore and have no idea of the long reigning monotony in the city.

For those who cannot escape Lahore and have fallen off the progressive cocoons, Imran Khan has already livened up the proceedings with his new spell. He has displayed his growing street power in Karachi as well as in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In Punjab, which he should be very keen on impacting, he has spun an impressive show in Multan and is now set to take his campaign to Faisalabad.

What is more, he has sought to fulfil the long-voiced demand of a programme from him by coming up with a 100-day crash plan on reforming Pakistan. In the tradition of a true guerilla fighter, the keyword that sustains his advance is withdrawal.

Mr Khan says that should his party come to power he is going to focus on political approaches to end the war on terror. Force will be the last option. Indeed, the PTI would withdraw from the war on terror and declare a war on corruption instead. The troops would be withdrawn from Fata and Mr Khans favourite grand jirga would be constituted to bring in peace.

The government will be inclined to say that this is exactly how they viewed the Fata situation before they were compelled to employ force as a last resort. Imran Khan goes beyond this when he promises such drastic steps as the setting up of a commission to probe rights violations in Fata and Swat, cancellation of visas of all foreign security operators, not to speak of a ban on drone attacks and a blockage of Nato supplies.

Within the first 100 days of power, Imran Khan promises: an independent accountability commission under a new anti-corruption law; dismantling of sugar, cement, fertiliser cartels; a Pakistan infrastructure fund contributed to by overseas Pakistanis; reduction in indirect taxation on fuel; end to deficit financing; elimination of the power circular debt and hawala transactions.

If not an exact opposite of the current government policies, Imran Khans 100 is anti-status quo and as ambitious a vote-catcher as one can hope for. In a nutshell, it reads like a collection of all the pro-people, anti-establishment stories the journalists have a bias for in times such as these. It is reflective of the sentiments of large sections of Pakistanis. This is not about power, at least not as yet, and not about whether Mr Khan has the ability or the right conditions to change. He may not be exactly poised for a landslide in elections he is popular enough and his calls are being reciprocated sufficiently by the public for other politicians to make adjustments accordingly. It does serve as a serious enough agent that is seeking to break the monotony of Pakistani politics.

You have to be permanently living in Lahore since the Zia days to realise how desperately some of us crave diversity and an anti-thesis to the present theme. Its been the same faces, the same politics in which the Sharifs have been sometimes only academically pitted against the PPP.

All those who have sought to engage the Sharifs from a non-PPP platform have faded away quickly. As have people who have
taken them from the PPPs platform.

The Sharifs remain, in ever diversified manifestations, but, ultimately, as one single entity. There is Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who is as vocal and possessive about his initiatives as ever. There is his son Hamza who, when he is presiding over a meeting of officials somewhere, has to be doing so as a representative of Punjabs ruling family. There are so many other MNAs belonging to the PML-N itself who do not get to chair even one such official meeting in their tenure.

Nawaz Sharif is not even an MNA. Yet he gets to chair in Lahores own imposing nine zero meetings that are called to decide important matters of the government. He was back at nine zero the Mall last week, to oversee some corrective work of very basic nature on the famed but somewhat stalled Walled City Project.

This omnipresence of the Sharifs obviously has its merits. For beginners, the old dictum that you could never accuse the Sharifs of idleness still holds true as whatever takes place in the province by way of governance carries the Sharif stamp on it.

Boring stuff, ultimately.

Imran Khan injects an element of the expected-unexpected in the air. Those who have been on the tour before Mr Khan, like the passengers on the Islamic Jamhoori Ittehads establishment-driven bandwagon, realise what miracles on-way hospitality from the right quarters can lead to. Consequently, there is visible anxiety in the Raiwind camp, which in a recent statement, considered Mr Khan to be worthy enough playing for President Zardari.

This is not about power but about something that is more profound and permanent. The increasing discussion about Imran Khan and his politics as an option signals the establishment of new benchmarks in Pakistani politics upon which the future moderates and not will be judged.

Through a long process, the Right has gained ground in the country as it has elsewhere in the world. It is now looking to consolidate. With past progressives failing to listen to pro-people stories crying out to be heard, it may essentially turn out to be a fight among the Right to decide who gets the consolidation contract. From among their ranks will emerge leaders who we are going to address as forward-looking.

Imran Khan is an important player in the game who is in need of partners. He once had a team even if he was not known for carrying out expert plans. Today he has got a plan and should go looking for a team.

The writer is Dawns resident editor in Lahore.


Minister (2k+ posts)
I've been reading the author's articles regularly and I've only seen him critisizing Imran Khan for various things. It's heartening to see him changing his views about Imran Khan. Although his last sentence is a bit puzzling. The 100-day plan has been prepared by Imran's team, so I don't see how he needs to FIND a team. About partners, he's right and PTI will probably join up with the APDM parties ultimately.