New Delhi: After
holding a mammoth rally in Lahore that stunned foes and admirers
alike, former cricket icon Imran Khan is looking to make "a 180
degree turn" in Pakistan's corruption-ridden politics, said a
close aide and party deputy.
"It is a comprehensive change... at the grassroots level," Arif
Alvi, Imran's deputy in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party,
told IANS over telephone from Lahore, discussing what he said was
a silent churning across the country.
And Alvi said that Imran had proved to be a good learner after a
disastrous start in politics. Since 1996, his PTI has won just one
seat in parliament.
The seeming game changer was a massive public rally that Imran
addressed Oct 30 in Lahore, the political hub of opposition leader
and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif - a rally still being
talked about all across Pakistan.
Seeking to reach out to the people, Imran spoke on Kashmir and
asked India to withdraw its troops from the valley. He observed
that no power could ever control people through an army and went
on to ask whether the US Army had been able to control Afghans in
He also declared that his party would hold a civil disobedience
movement if politicians failed to declare their assets.
"The Lahore rally was a tsunami that would sweep away the
corrupt," Alvi told IANS. He said there has been "a 180 degree
turn" in Pakistan's political firmament.
But the going won't be easy for Imran, who has in the past been
denounced both by moderates and Islamic radicals as a novice and a
His aides admit he faces an uphill task. Pitted against him are
the well-entrenched and the now ruling Pakistan Peoples Party
(PPP) and the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League headed by
Can Imran convert the crowds which flocked to him in Lahore into
votes in the 2013 parliamentary elections?
In 1997, his party failed to bag even one seat. Five years later
it still could win just one seat.
The dashing Imran won from Mianwali to take a seat in the National
Assembly in 2002 for five years.
Alvi, who has worked closely with Khan ever since PTI was formed
in 1996, described Imran as a "natural leader".
"He is a cricket icon. He has shown leadership qualities through
social work," said Alvi, while referring to Imran's tireless
efforts to set up a cancer hospital in Lahore.
Is Imran a good learner? "Of course, he is a good learner," said
The media has described the Lahore rally, attended by tens of
thousands, a gathering which raised many eyebrows, as probably
"the beginning of a political tipping point".
Said the News International: "It is no longer possible to dismiss
Imran Khan as some sort of also-ran".
Other parties, however, refuse to give him credit.
PML-N leader Pervez Rasheed was dismissive of Imran. "Who really
left the mark will be decided by voters. Politics is not cricket
where you have a winner (or loser) at the end."
Never one to shy away from catching the bull by its horns, Imran
now alleges that the all powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
spy agency was calling the shots in the country.
Ironically, some critics suggest the Lahore rally may have been
covertly backed by ISI to prop up a new face in Pakistani
Imran may just be the candidate.
A product of the prestigious Aitchison College in Lahore, Imran
began playing cricket at age 16. He went to the Royal Grammar
School in England and Oxford. He led Pakistan to a historic World
Cup win in 1992.
(Rahul Dass can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)