So this weekend has been all about our Lord and Savior Imran Khan riding in on his white horse and saving us all from drone attacks. Which is fair enough; drones are a big (though sometimes overstated) issue for the Pakistani public, and Imran Khan is a politician, and politicians like to have people behind them. No mystery here.
Now, everyone and their grandmother knows exactly who is orchestrating this entire thing: it’s the military/ISI. They’re doing it because, suddenly, after almost half a decade of acquiescence and outright support for the CIA’s drone program, these guys have changed their minds. They want fewer drones, more information, and a bigger slice of the post-U.S. withdrawal pie in Afghanistan. Again, nothing wrong with that — organizations are allowed to change their minds on stuff.
Here’s the thing though: the ISI is usually much better at this stuff than they’ve shown here. Check out this tidbit from the News report:
The provincial party leaders expected a gathering of around 100,000, however independent observers estimated it to be ‘several thousands’. Some put it around 5,000. However Imran Khan expressed hope that the number of workers and sympathizers to take part in the sit-in on the second day would be in lakhs.
Lakhs? Haha. You must be joking. Please look at this picture from the protest:
Or this one, via @OmarWaraich:
That last one looks like morning assembly in a medium sized private school, not a large political rally. Anyway, what gets me about this whole thing is how disappointing the ISI has been. Normally when they want to make a point, they go all out, you know? Remember when that U.S. helicopter raid happened, and suddenly the border closed, and magically all those NATO tankers started being lit and burned? THAT was a message. This? 5,000 people? Kinda sad, no?
I genuinely don’t get why they didn’t use more of the JI type contacts and bus those people in. You know the Jamaats of the world would have ensured tens of thousands of people as a baseline (just recall their recent rally against changing the blasphemy law). Tehreek-e-Insaf, bless its heart, is simply not there yet, in terms of organization, number of cadres, and street support. Plus, with all the rumors swirling of a grand right-wing small parties alliance (PTI, JI, PMLQ, even MQM) being cobbled together by the ISI, you would’ve thought it would make sense to actually use one of the aforementioned to boost turnout.
Who knows, maybe the Invisible Soldiers wanted to ensure that the spotlight remained on their new prince, Immy bhai, and not dilute his worth by making it a JI event. I really don’t know. What I do know is that I’m disappointed. So much preparation time, so many lackeys and puppets in their hands, and they get only 5,000 people.
I guess that’s what you get for relying on Imran Khan. Maybe this should serve as a lesson for the generals: that is, um, don’t rely on Imran Khan? Either way, the ISI needs to pick up its game.
Update: A couple of PTI wallahs in the comments have contested the numbers. The News, linked above, says 5000 people were there. AFP says 5000. AP says “only a few thousand” were there. The highest estimate I’ve seen thus far is on the CNN website, which says between 8000 and 10,000. Irrespective of which news organization you believe, you can be sure the PTI wallahs hopes/desires/dreams/”estimates” of a hundred thousand people is complete and utter bunk.
Update II: And now reporter Omar Waraich, who actually spoke to Imran Khan about the turnout, just tweeted: “even by Imran’s own estimate there weren’t more than 10k there.” Hope that satisfies those of you accusing me of lying or misrepresenting how many people were there.