‘’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..’’ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
‘’Captain oh my captain’’ Imran Khan energised many with his strident call for change which lassoed in thousands hoping to change the history of this benighted country. Posters of the Messiah and his rallies cum concerts, breathless columns and covers devoted to the man who would be prime minister (PM) abounded as his supporters staked their claim via social media and dared anyone to dispute that victory would be theirs because Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) cause was the just cause. Those questioning the manifesto or voicing concern over policies were taken on with relish and soon PTI trolling was en vogue.
What was truly remarkable was the way doubting Thomases were swept along by the emotional tidal wave unleashed by The Fall. When Imran Khan fell off that rickety stage along with his bumbling guards, the nation held its breath. Images of the bloodied, dazed Khan being rushed to hospital and his tumble was played on TV ad nauseum until people started experiencing vertigo and breathlessness.
Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen which led many sitting on the fence to throw caution to the winds and embace Khan because “there’s only leader of Pakistan who united everyone when he fell.”
Plethora of posters, anthems and updates about Khan being the next PM inundated timelines and worries were bandied about like “how will he take oath of office in hospital?” The babble reached a crescendo about whether PTI would garner 100 or 150 seats, based on analysis by sympathetic media and projections by party officials. People started sounding like echoes of each other leading one friend to remark dryly: “it’s like the invasion of the Body Snatchers.’’
When a bruised but defiant Imran Khan appeared on TV lying on his hospital bed, there was nary a dry eye and it was decided then, once and for all, that he was on course to be the next PM. Imran Khan kurtas and scarves were cranked out by fashion labels not hitherto known for their creativity or style, but anxious to jump on the bandwagon.
Come Election Day, it was heartening to see the 60% turnout, a statistic attributed to the success of Khan’s message. Parents with kids in tow, frenetic youngsters, elderly couples, a lady hobbling on a stick, even a man on a stretcher left the comfort of their homes and stepped out in the sizzling heat to make their voices heard.
Many flew in from abroad to make their vote count.
In their state of elation, perhaps they forgot that there were people living outside their urban bubble, the great unwashed masses and lower middle class who were striving to make a living. Their vote ushered in the return of Nawaz Sharif. Accusations of these voters being “jahil’’ and lack of education were proclaimed as being the root cause of all of Pakistan’s problems. Punjab and ‘’paindoo’’ became almost interchangeable, because they had voted in a ‘’ganwaar’’ PM unlike Imran Khan who would at the very least have given Pakistan the honour of having “the hottest Prime Minister.’’
A heartbroken fashionista vented:
“Still feels like when our cricket team lost the 1987 semi-final in Lahore. Colossal let down. Will need extraordinary reserves of strength to get back on track. Just spare me the ganja, nihari guzzling, shairi pasand, Bollywood loving attributes.’’
Interestingly, the last three attributes are shared by many discerning PTI supporters.
A US based designer lamented: “Where are the cute little kids with jackets when you need them the MOST!” while sharing a video of Nawaz Sharif’s victory speech. Needless to say, if she had said this about Obama after his election victory, FBI would have hauled her in for questioning.
A banker in Lahore bitterly complained how,
‘’the Ganjas have become the MQM of Punjab. Burgers or not, even I feel like becoming an Insaafian now. Down with Shreks.”
Nawaz Sharif being depicted as Shrek amidst shrieks of amusement, notwithstanding the fact that Shrek is a good hearted person but then appearances are all which count for many. Snide comments about whether the Sharif brothers will celebrate their win by marrying again. Perhaps people whose leaders who live in glass houses should be a trifle wary before dirtying the pond with such barbs?
Replacing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as the second most popular party is no mean achievement. Instead of being excited about PTI’s improved standing, many supporters were shell-shocked by their failure to sweep to power. PTI should take a leaf out of the book of the bloody but unbowed Awami National Party (ANP) who lost so many to terror, but remained committed to peace and did not try to shut down Karachi for even one hour in mourning. They looked Taliban in the eye on election day, but lost heavily to PTI in KP as the EU election observer mission admitted that Taliban violence had “unbalanced the playing field” in some places.
Although ANP accepted the election results without demur, no one in Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad really talks about them because they are not in their social circle.
In Karachi, PTI emerged as the second largest party behind Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). After the fracas with MQM, a PTI supporter claimed she, “would side with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) the second they declare war on MQM.’’ Ironically, PTI supporters can be as bloody minded and intolerant as Bhai log. More is the pity because being educated and urbane, PTI wallahs really should know better and have the patience to respect other peoples’ point of view. In fact, many of those infuriated with MQM are the very same people who used to be their enthusiastic volunteers.
Accusations of rigging may hold some water, but it’s certainly not on the scale which would have given PTI the ability to form a government at the centre.
Why is it that the urban elite shouting themselves hoarse about the power of their vote are themselves unwilling to respect the power of the vote of the poor masses?
As a friend said:
“Aik taraf kehtay ho puri qom jaahil ha, doosri taraf kehtay ho rigging hui hai. Tum logoon kay to aapas me bayan naheen miltay. Ab keh do jaahil qom ne rigging ki hai? If the masses are jahil, then why the allegations of rigging?’’
(On one hand you say masses are uneducated, on the other hand you say there has been rigging. Decide which one is it. Have the illiterate masses done the rigging?)
A renowned analyst is patted on the back when he pronounces;
“The results of the elections are in, but how did a former exile win the vote? By promising airports to people who can’t afford bicycles. Poor people, who couldn’t afford a bicycle at the time of the elections, like to be promised an airport. You never know when you might need it.’’
Not exactly. Nawaz Sharif won because people were fed up of mismanagement, terrorism and massive power cuts. If the poor dumb masses cast their votes for a better economy and a better livelihood, where is the need to mock them for their choice?
Nawaz Sharif may not be the most charismatic leader around but it’s worth remembering that when The Fall occurred, he not only sent his good wishes to Imran Khan but also suspended his campaigning for one day.
In his victory speech, he excused Khan for the unbecoming language he had used against him. Sharif also made the goodwill gesture of visiting Khan in the hospital and advising him that according to a hadees, one should not remain angry for more than three days.
Unfortunately, the behaviour of most PTI supporters clearly illustrates the divide between the haves and the have nots, with the former being hypocritical, condescending and racist towards the latter. How can you expect others to change when you are not willing to change yourself?
High time that Imran Khan directs the energy, idealism and adrenaline of his supporters to give birth to a Naya Pakistan in name, not just in theory.
Read more by Maheen here or follow her on Twitter@MaheenUsmani