Last week's "Long March" was the strongest proof yet of Imran Khan's dangerous, utterly cynical game. Fayes T Kantawala took notes and hopes you did too

We know two things for sure now. One: Imran Khan’s short stomp (sorry, long march) is exactly what a revolution does not look like. Two: Imran Khan is the Sarah Palin of Pakistan.

It’s never good to be Sarah Palin.

Rumblings of yet another Tidal Wave were heard in the political theater in the weeks prior to our Independence Day celebrations. At first I was confused about whether the cleric-cum-milliner’s-dream Tahir-ul-Qadri was marching with or despite Khan’s PTI crawl, but it turns out we have enough crazy people in this country for multiple marches. Every country has its own Tea Party, I suppose.

Like the rest of the entertainment-starved country (swear to God, three good nightclubs in Lhr-Khi-Isb and the “turnout” at these marches would dwindle down to the single digits), I kept tabs on the progress of the March all through August 14th. I watched as the tabdeeli-crowd (tabdealers?) assembled to make speeches, I watched as various underlings made half-hearted roars of outrage, I watched as they sat down for lunch, I watched TUQ debut his newest Fall/Winter collection. I watched. And I watched. And I watched. And watched.

Eventually I gave up watching and made myself some pasta.

One wicked irony in all of this was that Imran khan began moving towards Islamabad in earnest not on Pakistan’s Independence Day but on India’s. Honestly, it made me cringe for Khan, which I think should be his new slogan. (“Cringe! Cringe! Cringe for Khan!”) After spending a day praying people would join him in Lahore, he made his way to Gujranwala, a city that proved its ghetto-fabulous-street-cred by pelting his supporters with rocks (you know there’s something wrong if the people stoning you outnumber the marchers).

I was actually afraid someone would hurt the PTI Youthias – despite my ever-rising urge to slap a few myself – because, aside from being ungenerous, it would give the whole thing far more traction than it deserved (I think the Sharifs are still reading Zia-ul-Haq’s self-help book on How to be Loved). After slogging it out on the GT Road, bringing to a halt traffic and commerce, Imran Khan eventually reached a rainy Islamabad, and there logistics went from bad to worse. He made off for his mansion and his supporters sat in the rain. In truth, I don’t know why they were complaining; for a party that routinely used Floods and Tsunamis as positives, a little rainwater should have been a welcome symbolic christening. (Feel the flood, suckas?)

When he finally lumbered back to the stage, he was looking abnormally wide-eyed and fidgety (no comment, too easy). Then he called for “civil disobedience” in the form of not paying taxes for a week. In a country where a tiny percentage of the population does pay taxes, that makes as much sense as urging your followers to pee against a waterfall. Even Khan’s supporters were dumbstruck (welcome change from being just dumb) and you could tell he sensed it.

“Ok. Stop for five days!”


“Um…four. FOUR days!”

*Silence, followed by sound of baby crying*

“Acha, hmm. Three days…? Two…? Ok. Ok. One day! ONE DAY OF NOT PAYING TAXES!”

*Sporadic claps followed by whispers about possible lasting brain damage from crane incident*

He then said he would storm the parliament to unseat the Prime Minister if necessary and that he can’t be held responsible for what his supporters would do if they charged the Red Zone of Islamabad, one of the most militarized capitals in the world. Pay attention, because he basically just called for his people to become a mob, fight the government and to take matters into their own hands against the machinery of the state. Does that remind you of any well-booted group? He also said if he found any alleged goons from the PML N he would give them over to the Taliban. As if the Taliban were, you know, the kind of people to whom you can outsource the business of Rights and Wrongs. (Taliban Khan, anyone?) That’s just one of the many reasons I think Imran Khan has gone from being a Silly Man to a full-on Special Person.

[quote]Three good nightclubs in Lhr-Khi-Isb and the "turnout" at these marches would dwindle down to the single digits[/quote]

He obviously believes it’s his God-given right to be our Prime Minister. He is sure that by describing everything in cricket analogies (PS They don’t work all the time) he can get the people of this country to undo their government. If his argument is that the elections were rigged, then why wait a year for this debacle? Why not refuse to form a government in the first place and wait it out in the guise of a saintly opposition? I’ll tell you why: he’s cynical in the extreme.

He could have been less cynical. He could have been saintly and stayed away from any government he didn’t like while still supporting the fact of democracy. Better yet, he could have pulled a Modi. He could have stopped whining about the change he wants to bring, and instead demonstrated his abilities by improving KPK, by making Peshawar a model of efficiency and good governance. (Aren’t the Taliban his dear friends?) I mean, there is a full-on military offensive in his province right now, there was a natural disaster in Peshawar just last week, and Imran Khan is busy posting shirtless videos of himself on social media in an effort to get an estrogen voter boost in time for his “Long March.”

The truth is that Imran Khan doesn’t really care about KPK, or the democratic process, or defeating extremism. What he cares about is power, and nothing less than absolute power. I seriously believe he would go to any lengths, including ensuring the destruction of vast parts of this country, to achieve his selfish aims.

Imran Khan is regressive, maniacal, mind-bogglingly unintelligent and dangerous.

I hope that, despite the evident lunacy of his antics, Imran Khan has at least reminded the PMLN – and anyone else who believes in due process – that nothing, not even the hardest-won political battles, can be taken for granted in this country of ours.

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