Why Doesn’t Imran Khan Just Shut Up And Go Away?By Ahsan Butt Feb 25, 2008 12:47PM UTC
PAKISTAN Tehirk-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan urged the new parliament not to take oath under the amended constitution while stating the PTI held reservations that both PPP and PML-N might renegade on the judiciary restoration issue under pressure from the US.
The PTI Chief was addressing a press conference at PTI central office here on Sunday after a two-day PTI central executive committee meeting. He was accompanied by PTI central secretary general Dr. Arif Alvi, central information secretary Omer Sarfaraz Cheema, Punjab chapter president Ahsan Rasheed and Amed Owais.
Speaking on the occasion, Imran maintained that if both the majority parties PPP and PML-N announced to take oath on the condition that first deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry should be restored and President Pervez Musharraf should resign, then President Musharraf would step down in 48 hours. He asked the opposition camp to refrain from forming a government until the resignation of President. Imran congratulated both PML-N and PPP leadership on the huge victory in 2008 polls while expressing concern that US was influencing the joint declaration by PPP and PML-N to restore judiciary. He termed the statement by US Foreign Secretary an interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and called upon PPP and PML-N to shun American dictation. “Both PPP and PML-N should stand their ground on the issue of judiciary since it is an issue of national concern,” Imran said. He said PTI had took a principled stand on the judiciary issue from its inception and the reinstatement of deposed judges was the top priority of his party. He linked the restoration of judiciary to strengthening of democratic values in the country while saying PTI would work to convince democratic forces for restoration of judges. The PTI will be an effective opposition even sitting outside the parliament, he said.
Hilarious, isn’t it? Who, one may wonder, does Imran Khan think he is? Why does he think he is qualified to give advice to the two biggest parties in Pakistan? Why does he think he matters?
Time sometimes sneaks up on people – it certainly does on me, particularly when I watch Barcelona and realize that their youngest players (Bojan, for instance) were born in an altogether difference decade than I was. So it may surprise people to know that it has been twelve years since Imran Khan founded his party, Tehrik-i-Insaf, or Movement for Justice (presumably, he got tired of the West and its “fat women in miniskirts”, not to mention its “addiction to sex and obscenity” and decided Pakistan politics would be more fun).
Since the founding of PTI, there have been three National Assembly elections. In the first, him and his party got floored. Understandable, perhaps, since he was stepping into uncharted (and murky) territory of contesting an election one year after the formation of his party, though it bears explaining how little 5 million pounds can buy in terms of electoral power on the streets of Pakistan. Nevertheless, we can write off this campaign to his inexperience and, um, inexperience I guess.
In the second, a full six years after his debut in politics, PTI won a whopping 0.62% of the popular vote and managed to procure a grand total of one seat – one! – out of 272. In terms of the popular vote, the PTI narrowly beat out such political luminaries as PML-Z (the Z stands for our good friend Zia), the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (aka PKMAP), the BNP (not that BNP), the Jamhoori Watan Party, and the PPP-S. The PTI narrowly followed on the heels of those erstwhile political heavyweights, the PML-F (F for functional, I kid you not) and the PML-Junejo. This is the company the PTI kept in terms of political power after the 2002 elections. It’s all there on the Wikipedia page – go check it out when you’re done reading this.
It should be noted that six years is an awfully long time in Pakistan politics. Consider that the ZAB founded the PPP in 1967. By 1973 he had won one and a half elections (we know how the half turned out, don’t we?). You may object and say ZAB was a once-in-a-generation politician, and that comparing him to Imran Khan is a nonsensical comparison.
[We interrupt this blog post to narrate a ZAB story I got from Owen Bennett-Jones' book. When ZAB was foreign minister, he met President Kennedy for talks. The latter was highly impressed. "If you were American," JFK told ZAB, "you would be in my cabinet." ZAB shot back: "Be careful, Mr. President. If I were American, you would be in my cabinet." Classic.]
Ok, so ZAB is a bad comparison. What about roly-poly, low-IQ Nawaz Sharif? Dude was thrust upon Pakistan by the ISI in the 1988 elections. Six years later, he could more than hold his own, and was a political heavyweight (no pun intended) in his own right.
So suffice it to say, six years is a long time. If you’re winning less than one percent of the popular vote, and are getting one seat out of 272 a full six years after your party was founded despite instant name recognition, a clean slate in terms of reputation, and foreign money behind you, it’s safe to say that you’re kind of a loser.
As for the third election, only those completely unaware of Pakistani politics will be unaware that the douchebag sat out the election, protesting Musharraf’s actions against the judiciary.
So to recap: twelve years, three elections, two pitiful ass-kickings, one very convenient boycott.
Now, I return to my question at the beginning of the post: why does Imran Khan matter? Why are his pronouncements treated so referentially? Why do journalists seek his opinion on political issues of the day? Shouldn’t the threshold for political relevance be slightly higher than one seat and 160,000 votes? (Seriously, if I tried, I could get at least one tenth of that. Give me one-tenth his money, and I promise to deliver 16,000 votes. Hell, Five Rupees’ readers, their friends, and their families at least guarantee me 1000, right?).
Why is his name even in the papers? Again, I return to the company he keeps. Do you ever read about PKMAP or the PML-Z and their stances on the judiciary issue? If not, why is Imran Khan afforded such respect? Can someone please explain this to me?