Imran Khan, the agent of change and our politics | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 17, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 17, 2012

Imran Khan, the agent of change and our politics

People are flocking to his mass gatherings more than ever before. He is becoming the new hope for the change-loving people of Pakistan. Imran Khan has quite patiently built-up his Movement for Justice Party, and organised numerous small rallies, mass gatherings, door-to-door meetings. He slowly but confidently built a positive image of a politician that common people can trust and lay confidence in. He invested his time, resources and labour to visit every nook and corner of the country to talk to people, to understand their problems and to mobilise them, and made them believe that he could be their change-agent. The patience is paying-off. Millions have started responding to his call and joining his rallies. Seasoned politicians also feel that vibration of change and have started joining Mr. Khan. He might be "the one" for Pakistan, and a few say the leader in the offing in a country that is almost on the brink of being a failed state.
Imran Khan's gradual and steady rise to the centre point of politics bears much more significance if we consider the state of our own political crisis and widespread despair surrounding it. We have long been crying for credible leadership that can deliver and rise to the people's expectations. So far, we have not found "the one."
There might be several reasons why we could not produce one Imran Khan, or maybe our socio-economic-political reality disfavours the rise of a new leader. Nevertheless, to me, the foremost reason is that we hardly have anyone who is willing to tread that painstaking path of grassroots mobilisation, patiently and persistently worked to build political networks across the country, and devote time and resources for that cause. Without taking this long route, no politics, political agenda, or political leader can gain much in the long run. Politics is all about patience and compromise -- compromise with competing interests and political stands but not with those of the bad elements.
We have some political parties and movements -- both the left and the right -- who have long been advocating bringing about change. But the problem is that, along with their call for change they have their radical political agendas, which many consider would invite more anarchy and chaos in a society like ours, which is less than ready to adopt those radical thoughts. They think of change, they talk about change but unfortunately what they are trying is to turn everything upside-down. The leftists are dreaming of a socialist form of state, reversing our entire capitalist economic structure, and the rightists are determined change the entire socio-political-cultural-legal structures. However, the sad news for them is that our society is not ready to entertain any of their radical ideologies. As a result, both the right and the left have less appeal to the voters.
Apart from the left and right wing change-agents, we have a few seasoned change-lovers; some of them are very renowned professionals and personalities. All are very qualified and competent in their professional careers and very respected and dignified persons. They have the potential to bring about change, but have not been able to do so for various reasons.
Politics is a passion and you have to give more than 100% to win people's hearts and minds, to gain their trust and confidence. Once you can do that, the passion itself will drive you further rather than you driving the passion. Ironically, whoever had made an effort to change our politics had their own commitment crisis. They wanted something overnight, without undergoing a political struggle. But at the end of the day, you must say that the people are the best judge of their own fate and they rejected those seasoned politicians who were reluctant to tread the long path of struggle.
We need one Imran Khan now. We need someone who will rise above his material cost-benefit analyses. We need our own leader who shall not necessarily be the best of his profession but should be one who will care about his poor fellow countrymen, travel to every nook and corner of the country to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the country, hear the unheard voices of his countrymen, understand their needs and necessities, and respond when they need him. Without this painstaking process, no party or leader can gain the trust and confidence of their countrymen. The more a political party/leader invests its/his time and resources before rising up, the more its/his ideology will be entrenched, deep-rooted and strong. We need a change but, above all, we need someone to act for change, someone who wants to be a change-catalyst.

The writer is a researcher, Institute of Governance Studies, BRAC University.
(The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the views of IGS.)

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