By Vijay Darda
I have met Imran Khan twice. On both the occasions, I met him in London. The first meeting took place about 22 years back when he had just stepped into politics. The second one took place after he lost election but apparently there was no disappointment on his face. Being a sportsman, he was full of emotions. He was determined that one day he would definitely win! During the conversation, he said that one day he would change Pakistan for sure!
The youths of Pakistan want progress, want better education and health. The youths want a corruption-free country. Imran nursed the dream of a country where every young person will get employment, and there will be ‘roti’ for every person hungry and respect for every farmer. The youths also want Pakistan to be rid of (arm-twisting by) the army, ISI and fundamentalists! In both the meetings, I was mightily impressed with Imran Khan. I was also impressed by the fact that he established Pakistan’s largest cancer hospital in the memory of his mother Shaukat Khanum.
His victory is the victory of the new generation of Pakistan. It is the hopes and aspirations of the youths that have catapulted Imran Khan to the National Assembly. Some people are saying that he could win the election because he enjoyed the support of the Pakistani army but this is not true. Had he been a pawn of the army, would he have spoken so enthusiastically about enhancing friendship and trade ties with India? Had he enjoyed the backing of the army and the ISI, he would have been in power long time back. In fact, he has fought a war against these forces. Imran was fighting for democracy. As Imran’s victory seemed certain and Pakistan’s youths stood firmly with him, the Pakistani military launched this propaganda that he (Imran) was their man. The military really wants to show its influence. In fact, Imran is not a pawn of the military but a strong and true supporter of democracy. He is like Narendra Modi who scaled the summit with the support of the youths.
Be it Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif, they had their pockets of influence but they used to rule the whole of Pakistan. But in sharp contrast, Imran Khan has shown his strength and popularity in the entire country in this election. His party won seats in every region. All the 22 candidates of the regional parties he allied with lost elections. Had Imran fielded his own candidates, he would have got majority. However, most of the independents will support him and he should not have any problem in running the government.
I think if he is able to control fundamentalists and the terrorists ensconced inside Pakistan, it will be his biggest victory. The Pakistani people have given a clear message by defeating such evil forces.
Imran knows how powerful terrorist Hafiz Saeed has become. He had started dreaming of seizing power in Pakistan. He had formed his own party by the name Milli Muslim League but the Pakistan Election Commission refused to grant recognition to it. On realising that he and his candidates can not contest election under the banner of his party, he extended support to the Allah-o-Akbar Tehreek party. His 50 candidates were fielded by this party. His son Hafiz Talha Saeed Sargodha contested from NA-91 seat and son-in-law Hafiz Khalid Waleed tried his luck from PP-167 constituency. Hafiz Saeed himself campaigned in these constituencies but both of them lost miserably. Not only that, almost all the candidates fielded by Hafiz lost the election.
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, considered to be Pakistan’s largest religious group, contested 173 seats in this election but lost most of them. The leader of this group Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman had launched an energetic campaign. Prominent maulanas had pledged their full support to the candidates but in vain. Hardly a couple of candidates could win. The same was the case with the fundamentalist Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The TLP had fielded more than 100 candidates but all were defeated. The TLP cut such a sorry figure even though another fundamentalist organisation Pakistan Sunni Tehreek was supporting it.
The defeat of these rebel forces has boosted the morale of Imran and if he so wishes, he can rein in these forces. Imran knows for sure that if the terrorists continue to grow stronger by the day, they will definitely ruin Pakistan completely one day. Therefore, he will have to rein in terrorists in the interest of Pakistan. If that happens, he will also succeed in improving Pakistan’s ties with India, as he himself promised in his first press conference after winning the election. I have discussed this point with many of my friends in Pakistan and all are hopeful that he will improve the ties. He has stated too that “if India takes one step, we will take two”.
Imran is an energetic and development-oriented person. He is a proponent of unity and equality. Together with improving trade ties with India, he has also spoken of resolving the Kashmir problem. He is aware that the greatest problem facing India and Pakistan is tackling poverty. He is nursing the dream of a happy Pakistan. He has to establish the credibility of Pakistan. He has this opportunity; he can fulfill his dreams. But he will also have to understand that if he is not able to fulfill the expectations of the youths who propelled him to the summit of power, only Allah will be able to save him then!
Point to note
I admire Pakistan’s media, especially Dawn and Geo Group, which played a very neutral role without any fear or pressure during the election. It certainly helped Imran.
Before I conclude
There was a great buzz during the election in Pakistan as to why Nawaz returned to the country to go to jail? He could have lived freely in London. Actually, he returned to save his property. Had he not returned, he could have lost the property. He may be in jail now but he can save his property at least. Secondly, he was expecting to get sympathy votes, but the charges of corruption have left him so tainted that the Pakistani youths refused to show him any sympathy.
Vijay Darda has been the chief visionary and driving force behind Lokmat, a leading multi-platform media company. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the Feroze Gandhi Memorial Award for excellence in journalism in 1990-91.
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