Ladies and Gentlemen–Behold the Saviour!

Imran Khan is the greatest sportsman that Pakistan  has produced. One can  also only admire his accomplishments as a philanthropist  in building  and then running the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital. There can be  little doubt about Mr Khan’s sincerity towards his country and his  desire to  see Pakistan better than it is. Like most people who are much  blessed in so  many ways, Imran Khan also has the curse of a monumental  ego. And that ego has  led him into politics. Egged on by that other of  god’s charges to Pakistan, the  F-sectory/Defence/Gulberg/Hayatabad  elite, Imran has become a spokesperson against Pakistan’s ongoing fight  against the Taliban and extremism. Imran has religiously maintained  moral and political ambivalence in the face of Taliban’s inhumanity and  has instead unhelpfully laid all the blame at the foot of—who else—but the Americans.

Maybe  a history lesson is in order for our good friend, because  while he was an international  star, yours humbly was doing research in  central Punjab. During that time,  Imran Khan’s ex-guru General Hamid  Gul was also in the neighbourhood addressing  rallies of thousands of  Lashkar-e-Tayyaba recruits in Shorkot, Multan,  Khanewal, Mian Channu  and so on. Those were also the days when every other day  a mosque  congregation was being gunned down or blown up in central Punjab. That  was also the time, when dispossessed, oppressed and exploited rural  masses in  southern Punjab were seeing their children finding a semblance of dignity  through their association with the Kashmir Jihad.  Young men, who could not  raise their eyes in front of the landlords and  Police, could walk down the  streets of Kabirwala brandishing weapons  with no fear of interference from the  civilian state machinery. Arms  caches were openly being maintained in  seminaries all over southern  Punjab. One could not go to a mosque without being  accosted by a  Lashkar, Sipah or other jihadi outfits’ recruiters.

I often say to people that I am more optimistic  about Pakistan today than I have  ever been in my adult life. This is  because my adulthood was synchronous with  the post-Zia dawn of  democracy in the country and the earnest beginnings of the  Kashmir  Jihad. Anybody with even one eye could see our intelligence agencies  piloting the country towards an abyss. Collection pots everywhere for the  jihad, bearded zealots cruising around in twin cabs brandishing  weapons, known  sectarian assassins, e.g., Masood Azhar being sprung  from police custody by men in shalwar  kameez and military  haircuts, Qiyas and Diyat bill, Islamization and so on. Well folks  twenty years of our military and civilian elites’ exertions bore fruit  in the  shape of Punjabi, Pathan and Afghan Taliban and something called  a strategic  depth for Pakistan.To  digress a little, as a geographer who knows a thing or two about geopolitics and in fact even teaches it to goras,  I am absolutely  stupefied at this notion of strategic depth. In my  classes, we spend some time  debunking these old early twentieth century  geopolitical myths as largely atlas  gazing nonsense. Our military  intellectuals, however, have apparently not  updated the curriculum at  the Command and Staff College, Quetta or the National  Defence University in decades.

But  returning to the optimism part, on the American  dictate — which was absolutely  the wrong reason for doing the right  thing — we reversed twenty years of  self-destructive Afghan and Kashmir  policy. Finally today, Pakistan is  confronting its demons of its own  creation, and by God it is painful. But then  what did we expect it to  be? Poor people in central Punjab, women in Khyber  Pakthtunkhwa and  families in Kashmir have been paying the very real price of  our jihadi  adventures for the past two decades. Now it is time for the  politco-military elites including the wily mullah diesel to pay the  price of  their misdeeds. In this moment of reckoning and painful  national exorcism Imran  Khan is telling us that we shouldn’t have  picked a fight with the Taliban at  the American’s behest. He is correct  we shouldn’t have — we should have picked  a fight with them and  destroyed them long before the Americans had ever asked  us. Even with  one less after the death of Osama bin-Laden, we cannot  morally  or practically afford Imran’s way.


1 thought on “Ladies and Gentlemen–Behold the Saviour!

  1. Simply a beautiful read. Thanks for keeping it simple unlike most of the people who practice politics while writing about it.

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