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Friday, February 16, 2024

Imran Khan: The superhero

Pakistan has a history of compromising popular leadership and mourning in silence. The power hubs that decided to end Imran Khan’s regime expected the same reaction this time. But the huge rally held in support of Khan over the weekend – despite a threat alert by the interim Punjab government – at Lahore’s iconic Minar-e-Pakistan has rattled the establishment.

Ahmed Faraz said the above verse as a mantra (the last verse in a ghazal). Change the name Faraz with Imran and check it out against the present scenario. It makes perfect sense. The obsession or love affair that Imran Khan is having with the Pakistani nation defies description. The intensity of feelings, the purity of feelings, the total mind-boggling expectations, and the increasing awe respect & love are a phenomenon unexplained. Why and how this transformation came about can be a case study.

Look at the last two weeks’ scenario unfolding in Pakistan. Imran Khans’ house was raided by the police as they wanted to arrest him. Right or wrong was a different debate altogether. His supporters reacted by making his house a fort. They fought pitched battles with the police for almost 24 hours non-stop and pushed the police back. In that one week in the pitched battle & Imran Khan’s attendance journey to Islamabad High Court & Lahore High Court rather strange incidents took place. The unexpected sight of the mummy daddy burger group taking on the state apparatus & defending their leaders physically was a sign of their extreme love and adoration for their leader.

Read more: Fawad Ch calls out Marriyum Aurangzeb for ’10 slaps’ remark against Imran Khan

Understanding the matter better

The beatings that were administered were severely brutal, the tear gas debilitating, the rubber bullets paralyzingly painful, the gloves were off, and even chemical gas was used. But the supporters held firm and created history during the night. What to say of the immigrant Pakistanis who were reading the Quran, holding prayer meetings, and praying day and night for the safety of their leader who they consider the last hope for Pakistan. All of Pakistan and the immigrant diaspora were just talking about Imran Khan & speculating whether he will survive & praying that he does.

In Lahore elderly woman group were sitting on roadside reading the Quran, offering water to be taken to Zaman Park (where the pitched battles were taking place), young men putting charpayas (bed) over Lahore Canal to cross over to the other side to pelt stone on the police from behind them, the absolute ridiculousness of elite class woman fighting tear gas & working to reduce the effect for the men fighting the police, the astonishing saga of a senior woman asking protesters to break her houses outside wall and obtain stone to throw at the police, people following diverse & difficult routes for hours to reach Zaman Park, in Islamabad people swarming from all over the area to join Imran Khans procession to Islamabad High Court, there was few shots (probably rubber bullets or tear gas) and people lying flat on Imran Khans car to protect it from any harm, seniors sitting on their wheel chair waiting for Imran Khan to pass so that they can just have a glimpse of him, people running with his car for hours and for kilometres, the determination that Khan will not be given up and so many other points that proves Imran Khan is the “beloved of a nation”.

How and why did this happen? How come Imran Khan transformed from a political leader in to the “beloved of a nation”? Is there any logic behind it? Yes, all phenomena always have some logical inkling towards leading to that end. Thought his transformation was not overnight. Over a period of times, it can be seen to be leading toward that. But April 10, 2022, event accelerated the process to fast forward and now it is what it is. Just to be fair 2018 onwards Imran Khan and his government must have committed many mistakes while doing some good work as well. But one thing happened his actions & Pakistan’s first statements (with corresponding actions) slowly started to transform into a leader from a politician.

Read more: Imran Khan’s official photographer arrested by “unknown men”

Then his style of talking to the people and keep on telling them repeatedly to do good deeds and follow a pious lifestyle slowly started to resonate with the nation. They started to view him as a leader, as a teacher, a sage, as a visionary. But before April 2022 it was kind of diluted with difficult economic problems and inflation and thus was not universal.

After April 2022 three things happened that raised the status of Imran Khan into a murshid (mentor) level and he transcended all levels of a politician or a celebrity or a star and become the beloved of the nation. What were the three events?

Once he stood there alone fighting like the “boy on a burning deck” Imran Khan time and again kept on saying that he will stay in Pakistan come what may. That’s what he did. Before April 2022 the opposition (now the government) kept on saying this with a shrill voice that Imran Khan will run away. The people with him will run away. Some people who were foreign based were specially targeted with slurs that they will run away at the first hint of trouble. But that did not happen. Imran Khan under seriously adverse circumstances never did try to go out of Pakistan.

Almost 150 cases registered against him, but he is staying in Pakistan. Assassination attempts were made against him that almost crippled him, but he did not run away. This is unprecedented in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto have always run away abroad. Benazir at least gave some resistance, but Nawaz Sharif proved again and again that he is a total coward. He even left all his followers to be trashed behind him only saving his family. This was a tremendous display of courage from Imran Khan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto showed some courage facing death and that has made him almost immortal, and it took someone like Asif Ali Zardari to do political hara-kiri to kill his legacy. Imran Khan said “ mera jina marna Pakistan me hai” and proved it by his actions. People of Pakistan loves courage, and they can see that he is honest and courageous. This act proved to the masses that he is a leader.

Secondly whatever Imran Khan predicted as the course of action for PMLN and PPP came to pass. His assertion that they will get together when threatened happened before eyes of the masses. He claims that the real reason that these 13 parties came together to force the no-confidence move is to get NRO for themselves. That was the first thing the parties did after getting power. It was almost like Imran Khan is reading from a script that the new government is following. Leave the narrative out of it, both parties were trying to build their own narrative but just analyze the action taken. That convinced the masses that Imran Khan is speaking the truth. Add to that the presentation style of Imran Khan as if the Pakistani masses are in a classroom and he is teaching them plus his constant reference to the history of the world and Riasat e Madina had a telling effect on the masses. That proved to them that he is a murshid (mentor).

Read more: Imran Khan’s nephew Hassaan Niazi handed over to Quetta police

Thirdly there was a perception during the last days of Imran Khan’s government that he is unable to govern in a way to manipulate, guide and persuade the economy and businessmen to force stability in the country. However, the abysmal performance by the new government & moreover the total failure of their much-touted economic czar laid a solid ground for Imran Khan to claim that his way of governance was the best. This is certainly the last nail in the coffin. This convinced the people and proved to them that Imran Khan is the savior and the visionary.

The way forward

So the last year more or less has convinced, persuaded or led people to believe that Imran Khan is a courageous leader, who is a visionary & has a tendency of guiding and teaching his followers. Furthermore, he is destined to be the savior of Pakistan. Is this enough reasons for the nation to adore him? To be at his beck and call? To put their life in risk for him? To be obsessed and love him so badly to risk everything for a glimpse of him? Probably not. So what is the phenomenon? I don’t have any explanation, but it might be that Imran Khan represents the last hope for a lot of people and actually echoes the emotions of people and what they feel.

Imran Khan might be the superhero that everyone wants to be. Whatever the reasons may be, whatever the rationale may be, whatever the permutations and combinations maybe it is a fact now that Imran Khan is absolutely adored by the masses in Pakistan & somebody with maybe angelic haloes might compete with him but PMLN & PPP leadership tainted by corruption can never do.


The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.