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Imran Khan! Can he be Pakistan’s Nehru?

Imran Khan!
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 Ajaz Khan |

Imran Can’t”. That is how he was described in the 1970s when he graced the cricketing fields across the world. The rest, as they say, is history. Imran rewrote the script that was inked in the elite pages of the history. He became not just one of the game’s great allrounders but an outstanding leader across all generations. He pushed the traditional boundaries of leadership to the next level, inculcated the spirit into the team, and inspired them with his performance and fresh ideas on the field. The team would not just provide their best out of them but they would fight to the death. Captains in cricket are duly supported by the managers and coaches. But that was not the case with Imran. He alone was the captain-cum-coach-cum-mentor who would drill the team ceaselessly. He was once the prime reasons of bringing aura in cricket in the subcontinent. His exuberance was on such a wide canvas that made him one of the greatest brands of cricket.

Imran it’s impossible”. That is what he was told by the experts when he stepped out to build the state-of-art cancer hospital, in loving memory of his mother, where poor patients would be treated with no price tag whatsoever. Was that possible to build a cancer hospital in a country like Pakistan and then run it with no fees from patients which are mostly poor? It was getting worse day by day like a rolling stone going downhill. The battle for Imran has not stopped. It was just the battlefield that has changed from cricket grounds to the grounds of human emotions. He had faced scores of mountainous battles on different cricket grounds. But this battle was different. It was an uphill battle. The gigantic Mount Everest looked standing right in front of his eyes thereby making the world simply opaque. They say, “Champions don’t give an inch.” The gargantuan Mount Everest was pushed to make the space for the state-of-the-art cancer hospital.

Kashmir must be talked about but only on dialogue tables and not in the streets of Kashmir breeding violence. Imran has to display his statesmanship and play his role to put brakes on the violence that has eaten Kashmir for the last more than 25 years.

Today it treats around 75% patients with no fee. And can you believe it? There is no special treatment for the patients who pay. All are equally treated. And no patient knows who has paid and who has not. Isn’t that meritorious thing to see in our subcontinent? The hospital from nowhere climbed to its height. Laurels, all over the world, were showered upon Imran like confetti and deservedly so. However, in all those tributes one was just especially special. It was an epoch-defining tribute from the tallest performer of our subcontinent to Imran. It was a tribute from the star of classics who offered meditative touch to screen acting.

It was a tribute from an icon whose acting skills have become textbooks for generations to learn. Who would qualify such a genius and class? Of course, no one but alone Dilip Kumar. In his glowing tribute he praised Imran with these words. “I have never seen in my whole career one single individual take up so much on himself and do it with such finesse, grace and with such astounding success. I consider it a pride and a privilege to pay a glowing tribute, an unstinted glowing tribute, if I may add, to a fellow performer because this will leave him a much greater man. And this effort will go down in the history of the growth of a cricketer and a sportsman.”

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Imran it’s not going to happen”. That is what he would hear from all directions when he dreamt of building a knowledge city as that of the famous Oxford University. On a discussion table it looked neither possible nor conceivable keeping in view the state of education in Pakistan. This country has an elite political class and an army establishment who never miss a second to glorify of being a nuclear state and yet they don’t mind to ignore the number of children who are out of the schools. The number is massive. It cannot be ignored. It stands at around 5.4 million. Ignoring this number is a crime. The stakeholders must open up their shut minds. Bangladesh, on the other hand, has better indictors of education. That makes any rational mind to think. Was it required to become a nuclear state? What if the money spent on becoming a security state was invested into the education? Well that is a story for other day to tell. A day would not go for Imran when people around him did not talk about this project not breathing life. Imran, indefatigable as ever, stood his ground and today Namal Knowledge City has Namal College running in its premises. Imran desired that children from less privileged strata study in this college. And Namal College is exactly nurturing that belief.

Imran it’s not your kettle of fish”. This has become a routine affair of all talk shows when Imran started a new dream of fixing the country by jumping into politics. The political landscape of Pakistan, right from her birth, has been topsy-turvy. It is soiled by the spoiled mud. It is formed by Jagirdars, Waderas, criminals, scandalous bureaucrats, mullahs, prominent journalists and top life style living army men. It is like a corporate enterprise working to achieve its mission of plundering the country’s wealth and resources. And Imran entered this landscape. And what was in store for him even Imran himself would have not thought about. A below average anchor would mock at him. He was made a laughing stock by most of the commentators and politicians. That was not it. His personal life was ripped apart by all of them because his public face stands tall and clear of any blemishes. This has continued for the last 22 years of his political life. How would Imran have dealt with it?

The gigantic Mount Everest looked standing right in front of his eyes thereby making the world simply opaque. They say, “Champions don’t give an inch.” The gargantuan Mount Everest was pushed to make the space for the state-of-the-art cancer hospital.

The legendary Dilip Kumar’s glowing tribute comes to mind. How well Dilip Saheb predicted about him and his stature 2 decades ago. During last 10 political years Imran has brought his charm from the cricket stadiums onto the streets of Pakistan. He has pushed people mostly youth (men and women) to fill the streets for political shows. The great sight of these shows has been the relation and rapport that Imran creates with the charged crowd. Pakistan could witness such scenes only during the prime days of Zulfikar Bhutto. And now Imran does the same. His unflappable temperament, as was the sight of cricket fields, is now the scene of urban streets and villages. He has infected the muscles of passion in the country’s educated youth to think and participate in making the country progressive. He torn apart the feudal political setup of right-winged politicians, mullahs, criminals and so called claimant liberals by rubbing shoulders with the feelings and emotions of the youth and downtrodden middle class. And here is Imran today sworn as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Read more: Can Imran Khan bring Pakistan in from the diplomatic cold?

Finally, the Stage is set to become Nehru

People of Pakistan have voted for a change. They have voted for Imran Khan to see their expectations see the sunrise. It is the road for Imran that promises so many bumps along its length. And they are not easy to tackle. Both India and Pakistan kissed the crown of being sovereign states in 1947. But they had to grieve for their fathers early in their toddlerhood. Gandhi was brutally murdered by a new crop of a religious extremist. This extremism has now infected the corridors of power in Delhi and has taken the form of what we call ‘Bhaktism’. Jinnah succumbed to the incurable disease in his own car and no one around helped drove the car to hospital. The loss was heavy for both the countries being in childhood. But India had Nehru who steered the growth of India as its next father. Pakistan had none. It fell into many hands and finally lapped into the lap of army men. It is still caged in their confines. On one hand Nehru here was busy laying the foundation of India on the bricks of secularism and anti-majoritarianism. On the other hand, across the border majoritarianism and Mullahism was creeping into the power politics. That was totally in contrast to the dream that Jinnah had perceived for Pakistan.

Imran has all the required ingredients to be Nehru. And why not?

Nehru watered the roots of pluralism here in India. Imran believes in equality of people. Imran must take a deep look at the flag he represents now. It has a white strip running into the green. It must make him worry because green is reducing this white strip. It is him who can stop further erosion of this white strip. In Pakistan today minorities – Shias, Ahmadis, and other religious minorities are an easy target for the wrath of the religious extremists. The belief that people are equal must be put into practice by Imran. Imran believes in the dream of Jinnah. Jinnah would have ensured the security of this white strip. He would have kept it prominent. That merits cultivation of sense of security amongst minorities. Their welfare must not be just a lip service. It must not take the backseat the way it has taken since 1947. Their welfare and progress must be prominently prominent part of the welfare of all the people. Imran can be Nehru and water the roots of tolerance, pluralism and welfare for all.

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Nehru was a nationalist. He had a vision for the country. His nationalistic tenets did not breed neither narrow nationalism nor hyper nationalism. Nehru knew the sanctity of nationalism and patriotism and therefore, put them in their defined borders. No one was choked to wear badges and flags to prove their nationalism. He did not allow anyone to use his/her nationalistic gaze to look upon others. However, current ruling party in Delhi is busy in erasing the very ethos of Nehru’s nationalism. Imran, on the other hand, is a nationalist too. He has a lofty vision about state providing security and comfort to all citizens irrespective of religion and any allegiance. Imran can be Nehru by putting hiatus to the false emotion of displaying nationalistic fanaticism in public to ridicule others.

Nehru had a privileged education in England. He soon realized that how few Indians could embrace it. He put all his efforts later, as Prime Minister, and ensured the anvil of quality education is put in place. His contribution to education is immense. He did not keep his eye shut in any matter related to education. It was his vision alone that planted the seeds of the country’s IITs (Indian Institute of Technology), AIIMS (All India Institutes of Medical Science), etc. And don’t forget it was Nehru alone who first initiated the thought of guaranteeing free primary education to children across the country. He was engrossed completely in ensuring the teachings of science and technology develop roots here. He was of the view that India’s progress lies in having the concrete scientific foundation. People call him ‘Scientific Humanist’ without no reason.

A below average anchor would mock at him. He was made a laughing stock by most of the commentators and politicians. That was not it. His personal life was ripped apart by all of them because his public face stands tall and clear of any blemishes. This has continued for the last 22 years of his political life. How would Imran have dealt with it?

The current ruling party in Delhi may walk an extra mile to cage Nehru permanently at Nagpur but they don’t seem to have realized that Nehru lives in the schools, colleges and universities across the country. Like Nehru Imran too was one of the few privileged Pakistani who could walk the lanes of Oxford University, England. Like Nehru Imran too have time and again spoken so loudly about it. Imran has shown concerns and he has become worrisome about the kind of education that is being imparted in Pakistan. Pakistan has a system of education that divides the society into two classes. One is English medium which is affordable to minuscule stratum of the society and the other one is Urdu medium for the common masses. Imran has vowed to abolish this system of education. Like Nehru Imran has understood the pivotal importance of the quality education.

Namal College is a testimony to it. In that case Imran has already started to walk the Nehruvian path of arming people with quality education. Nehru’s path was not that bumpy as that of Imran now. Nehru had to nurture the young India whereas Imran has to tackle obdurate adult Pakistan. Malala had to endure the pain at the hands of brutal religious extremists Talibans for voicing out in favor of education for girls. Where state failed to protect the fundamental article ‘Right to Education’ young Malala raised her head and became a hope. Patriarchy, induced by the misinterpretation of religion, has always watered the roots of religious extremism in Pakistan. Young Malala had that courage to stand against it. How many more girls could muster courage and become Malala? They are waiting for Imran to protect their fundamental right to education. They are waiting for Imran to offer them a platform to express themselves. Imran’s belief is that country must spend on human development and then humans automatically lifts the society up. Imran just needs to induce that change and ensures pillars of quality education are put in place exactly the way Nehru did.

Nehru was a constitutional democrat. His speeches in the parliament taught about it. They say Nehru walked extra step and guided chief ministers by his letters that he would often write to them. Nehru institutionalized democracy in India. Any soul with a peck of rationality would not decline it. In fact, the preambles of democracy that are still standing tall in India today are purely due to this stalwart who guided young India. They say, “Gandhi knew how to create a nation. He, however, did not know how to run it.” And Nehru knew how to run the nation and that too when it was young. On the other hand, Imran has to start afresh. They say democracy is in infancy stage in Pakistan. But that is edited-truth. The reality is that it is not peoples democracy in Pakistan. It is purely Feudal Democracy represented by the likes of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari.

Read more: Can Imran Khan bring Pakistan in from the diplomatic cold?

Like Nehru Imran has to lay the foundations of a true democracy meant for people and not for corporates and feudal. What Nehru did in parliament Imran has to replay the same? Jinnah knew how to create the nation. Now Imran can run it like Nehru. Nehru believed in equality of people across all sections of the society irrespective of caste, creed and religion. He instilled the practice of respecting the democratic values. He did not allow the majority to play their religion and subdue the minorities. Imran can be Nehru by ensuring majority does not obstruct minorities under the guise of religion. That would put religious hooliganism to rest. And it would not make geniuses like Dr. Abdus Salaam, a physicist and a lone science Nobel laureate from that country, to run for his life despite making the country proud.

Imran, by principle, is anti-war and anti-violence. He believes in dialogue with anyone. That sets him apart from the others who held the coveted chair in Pakistan. And here goes Kashmir, where this writer lives, that needs his attention. Kashmir must be talked about but only on dialogue tables and not in the streets of Kashmir breeding violence. Imran has to display his statesmanship and play his role to put brakes on the violence that has eaten Kashmir for the last more than 25 years. He can induce that change by pulling the shutters down and stop the operations of non-state actors of Lashkars, Jaishes, Hizbuls, etc. He said in his post-election victory speech that he would walk the first step. And playing his role to stop violence in Kashmir would be the best possible first step and icing on the cake for the region.

Nehru gave India matchless ‘Discovery of India’. It is an exquisite blend of culture, philosophy, science, literature and human spirit. It’s Imran’s turn now to become Nehru for Pakistan and offer Pakistan unrivaled ‘Discovery of Pakistan’.

Ajaz Khan hails from Srinagar, J&K, India and can be reached at iju.nat@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 


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