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Kings and kingmakers: A comment on Najam Sethi’s article on Imran Khan

Here is a quick comment on Najam Sethi’s editorial on Imran Khan (TFT: “Prince who would be King“):

It is possible to identify four key issues:

  1. An uncritical recycling of the Gallup poll data: Gallup Pakistan is utterly discredited due to right wing and pro-military establishment biases and interpretations which are its consistent hallmark. A similar decontextualized version of macro-economic data is presented with an implicit aim to discredit the democratic government and the political class. Mr. Sethi refers to “the collective failure of these parties [PPP, PML-N, ANP, MQM, PMLQ] and their leaders to improve the human condition of Pakistanis and then refers to low economic growth, failing education and extraordinary instability and insecurity reported by the Legatum Prosperity Index 2011. Doesn’t Mr. Sethi know that the extraordinary instability and insecurity is an ongoing gift and legacy of the Deep State which in turn has an enduring adverse impact on economy, education and general well being? Is it a coincidence that while while Pakistan is declining on macro-economic and human development indices, its military generals retain their place in the Forbes’s list of world’s most powerful people in 2011. According to the list, Gen Kayani is described as Pakistan’s most powerful person and 34th most power full person of the world. Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha is standing at 56 position on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s most powerful people. Anyone connecting the dots?
  2. The author suggests that “18-30 year old” demographic youth (30% of Pak) represents a strong tail-wind for Imran”. This is a sweeping misrepresentation, per se. Pakistan does not start and end at Lahore’s Minar-e-Pakistan.
  3. Mr. Sethi refers to “the chunk of society that voted General Pervez Musharraf and his PMLQ out of power and compelled the restoration of CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry to office.” Here the author is mixing apples with oranges. Musharraf and PML-Q were voted out of power by the PPP, PML-N and other political parties. Although PML-N had its own stakes in the restoration of some judges (Justice Sharif, Justice Ramday etc), CJP Iftikhar was restored to office by the coordinated efforts of the ISI-PTI-JI trio. These two groups (political parties and apolitical proxies of the establishment) belong to two opposite not same chunk of society.
  4. Further, the author writes: “the mood in the country is anti-establishment and anti-politician.” The country is always pro-politicians, a fact which the people of Pakistan have consistently demonstrated in various elections by rejecting the pro-establishment parties. This fact, however, is consistently lost on someone who was a caretaker minister in Farooq-ul-Haq’s cabinet.

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Abdul Nishapuri

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  • This guy doesn’t have principles as basis to write…so end up with such ridiculous statement like people are anti politicians…need to find out thee company he keeps!! But what is more perturbing is they put these things into innocent peoples heads…I don’t even watch or read this man because this is not the first time; he comes forward as someone who wants to be a part of every party…this my analysis of having heard him for a great length of time and then completely gave up. Can’t trust!

  • Najam Sethi, Sir, it is not the mood in the country which is anti-politicians, it is the mood inside you and the Aabpara saviours which you are talking about.

  • By Khaled Ahmed
    Political upheaval?

    In his book, Imran Khan has handed us a clue about how his mind works and that could also be the reason why his party has been organisationally so neglected. Imran imbibed a strong sense of personal destiny

    ——————————————————————————–

    Predestined to rule?

    0 36

    Imran Khan and his Tehreek-e-Insaf held a mammoth rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan Lahore on 30 October 2011 – estimated by the ISI to be two-lakh strong – and put the fear of God in both the PMLN and the PPP that Imran Khan had been targeting. He pushed the familiar buttons: challenged India on Kashmir, vowed to replace the US with China as Pakistan’s ally, threatened corrupt politicians with civil disobedience ‘in a few months’, and foresaw midterm general election after March 2012.

    Imran Khan has taken big strides in putting the country on notice about his party’s political potential. He says he can win elections and form governments. That is what he should say as a politician, but the fact is that a lot of people have joined him in his rallying call to get rid of both the parties more or less settled into the groove of Pakistan’s bipartisan system. Imran Khan is without the usual blemish of corruption; and his charity work places him above every other politician in the country.

    He has an extreme posture, or at least he had before the party profile improved and he became conscious that Insaf may get more breakaway votes than he had counted on. In one of his latest TV shows he seemed more moderate than before about relations with India and the US, about tackling terrorism and the economy. Some of the recipes were romantic but that is quite forgivable in a person who has no experience of governance, doesn’t know in depth how capitalist economics works, and is simply practising the pre-election hyperbole of the normal politician.

    Yet his insistence that he would extend the tax net is the right thing to say although the number of people paying income tax in India is proportionately not much bigger and that takes nothing away from India’s success a country with a high growth rate. Corruption and money stashed away abroad too has not distracted positive attention to India’s law and order and a much better educational system.

    Will Imran Khan embrace the more aggressive version of Islam which the Taliban have showcased in the Tribal Areas by cutting hands and stoning people to death? Will he oppose hudood the way Allama Iqbal did in his Sixth Lecture? Above all will he fight the Taliban if they reject him?

    Bad governance in Pakistan is not linked to corruption and the Zardari Factor; it is clearly linked to terrorism and the presence of Al Qaeda in Pakistan with its Taliban followers fighting the state. Law and order is linked to the writ of the state which is non-existent in over 50 percent of the country and in cities like Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi. Imran Khan is opposed to the US presence in the region and Pakistan’s collaboration with it in Afghanistan. The solution he has in mind is that the moment the US leaves and he comes to power, terrorism will stop in 90 days because the Taliban – Pakhtun and Punjabi – will simply return to being normal non-terrorist citizens of Pakistan. He is capitulatory to the Taliban; he is denunciatory of the political parties in power.

    People who are scared of Al Qaeda and Taliban don’t believe Imran Khan can bring peace in 90 days. They don’t believe he can collect income tax to the level he promises – one trillion rupees extra in the first year in power – and his utopian governance through 200 perfect men seems too dreamlike. The pledge of gouging money from the corrupt and putting it back in the state kitty and getting politicians to bring their money back from foreign banks has been made in the past and has been belied by reality. Today money flees and comes back if the country has a soft image and there is law and order. Will Imran Khan give Pakistan a soft image?

    Bad governance in Pakistan is not linked to corruption and the Zardari Factor; it is clearly linked to terrorism and the presence of Al Qaeda in Pakistan with its Taliban followers fighting the state. Law and order is linked to the writ of the state which is non-existent in over 50 percent of the country and in cities like Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi

    In his book Pakistan: A Personal History (Bantam Press 2011), Imran Khan has handed us a clue about how his mind works and that could also be the reason why his party has been organisationally so neglected. Imran imbibed a strong sense of personal destiny. He recalls: ‘Pir Gi from Sahiwal said I would be very famous and make my mother a household name’ (p.89). Imran had announced his first retirement when he met another clairvoyant: ‘Baba Chala, lived in a little village just a few miles from the Indian border. He certainly had not heard bout my retirement…the man looked at me and said I had not left my profession…It is the will of Allah; you are still in the game’ (p.93).

    The man who stood by him as his spiritual mentor was Mian Bashir (d.2005) who shocked him by naming the Quranic ayat his mother used to read to baby Imran and predicted that Allah had turned the tables in his favour in the Lamb-Botham libel suit whose reparations would have pauperised Imran (p.189). Mian Bashir also disarmed a sceptical Jemima by accurately guessing her three secret wishes (p.120).

    From his sense of predestination comes his risk-taking character. But he says: ‘The difference between a good leader and a bad one is that the former takes huge risks while fully grasping the consequences of failure. Leaders of a country shaping policies out of fear of losing power have always proved to be disastrous. Great leaders always have the ability to resist pressure and make policies according to their vision, rather than fear’ (p.113).

    One wonders how he will negotiate peace with the terrorists who have an ideology and say clearly that their aim is not only to get Pakistan out of the clutches of the US but also to impose the true sharia on Pakistan. And if warlords like Maulvi Faqir and Fazlullah and Mangal Bagh don’t give ground, what will he do? We know Imran Khan’s view of religion apart of the deeply spiritual clairvoyants he has been relying on. But will he embrace the more aggressive version which the Taliban have showcased in the Tribal Areas by cutting hands and stoning people to death? He is clearly wedded to the vision of Allama Iqbal. Will he oppose hudood the way the Allama did in his Sixth Lecture? Above all will he fight the Taliban if they reject him?

    Probably shaken by a gallup survey that puts Imran Khan at the top of the popularity roster in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Maulana Fazlur Rehman has not been able to contain himself. Quoted in daily Jinnah (29 October 2011) he has lashed out at what he thinks is an un-Islamic ‘walking together’ by Imran with his divorced wife Jemima Khan who joined Imran in Islamabad in his campaign against drone attacks in the Tribal Areas. He said, ‘Islam forbids mixing with one’s divorcee wife; and it seems as if Imran Khan’s future is still linked to Jemima Khan’.

    If the MMA wants to make a comeback in KPK, Imran Khan definitely is not the favourite son of the religious parties. He was once roughed up by the Jamiat although the Jamaat Islami under Qazi Hussain Ahmad looked at him with favour. (Qazi Sahib said the funeral prayer for his late father.) But it is perhaps clear that no one – in addition to the PMLN – wants Imran Khan treading on their turf. The youth Imran Khan is attracting will probably take him further away from the religious parties and force him to distance the party from the pre-modern prescriptions that are so popular in the Muslim world. (His party already believes in joint electorates.) He was ignoring the non-Muslim minorities before the big Lahore rally but the fact is that they are a vote-bank waiting for him on the sidelines. The Christian backing to Shahbaz Sharif’s show in Lahore on 28 October could be the writing on the wall.

    Pakistan’s top Urdu columnist Haroon Rashid, who is a bit of a loose cannon when it comes to analysing ‘Captain’ Imran Khan, and may share with him nothing more than his passion for ‘desi murghi’, wrote in Jang (29 October 2011) that if Imran Khan and his companions are true (sachay), they will do vigil (riyazat) and will place their trust in Allah who will give them the blinding (kheera-kun) conquest. The decisions, he wrote, were not taken on earth but in Heaven.

    http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20111104&page=2

  • “Here the author is mixing apples with oranges. Musharraf and PML-Q were voted out of power by the PPP, PML-N and other political parties. Although PML-N had its own stakes in the restoration of some judges (Justice Sharif, Justice Ramday etc)”….
    OK then who the Hell was “Uncle Dogar” of PPP?

  • Najam Sethi is such a low grade journalist that as a Pakistani i am ashamed on him…he proved himself such a pathetic looer by sayin that nation is antipolitican…what ever ppp is doing it has the full right to complete its term…and contest in next elections…

  • This little post is a mixed bag of misrepresentations and fixations. Such abusive posts can not harass Mr. Najam Sethi, Pakistan’s boldest and sanest journalist.

  • Abdul,

    I think after giving the standard context of bad governance in Pakistan, I think this article is more damning to Imran Khan than any one else.

    His writings will eventually help in discrediting imran khan amongst his readers, who belong to the upper and upper middle class.

    look at the following:

    He is explaining Imran’s reason for the popularity as “This media has bought into Imran Khan’s neo-nationalist, anti-American rhetoric externally and dogged crusade against corruption internally. Consequently, it is unabashedly “pro-Imran”.”

    then, “Imran is rigid, self-righteous, Manichean, belief-ridden, faith-bound and personally unaccountable. If he is predestined to rule as a Saviour, why labour over building a party organization or study the ropes of policy? That is why his criticisms are thunderous and his policy prescriptions innocently naïve, overtly contradictory or dangerously wayward.”