Imran Khan started tsunami in Pakistan politics, says deputy

November 16th, 2011 - 4:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz Sharif New Delhi, Nov 16 (IANS) 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 10 years.

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 playboy.

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 Sharif (PML-N).

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 Alvi.

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 politics.

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 rahul.d@ians.in)

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