Pakistan's Next Great Hope?
January 12, 2012 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Is Pakistan’s cricket star-turned-politician for real? What does Pakistan see in Imran Khan? Will there be a Pakistani Spring?
posted by vidur (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The man is like a tiger.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:23 PM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

He's always seemed like a good bloke. Of course, I'm English, and one of the complaints against him is that he's too likeable to English people.
posted by Artw at 3:28 PM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've always got the feeling that the Western media like IK a fair bit more than his compatriots do. It seems like every two years there's a rash of articles saying "Imran Khan is totally going to transform Pakistani politics", and that's the end of it until the next cycle.

I suspect this is just because of his massive name recognition over here - whereas most Australians wouldn't bother reading too much about any other Pakistani polly.
posted by pompomtom at 3:42 PM on January 12, 2012

He drew a crowd of a hundred thousand people. From the skeptics I'd like an account of how that happens.
posted by Anything at 4:41 PM on January 12, 2012

Here is one more interesting article from a Pakistani source.
posted by vidur at 4:53 PM on January 12, 2012

>From the skeptics

Do I count as a skeptic, from my comment above? If so: there are 175 million people in Pakistan, and IK has been a public figure for many years. Lashkar-e-Taiba drew 30,000 to a protest recently, and they're a banned organisation without any national sporting heroes.

The question is, and has been for over a decade, whether he can convert his popularity into votes. I don't pretend to know enough about Pakistani politics to hazard a guess.
posted by pompomtom at 5:05 PM on January 12, 2012

He drew a crowd of a hundred thousand people. From the skeptics I'd like an account of how that happens.

Used to be next-door neighbours with a small-and-upcoming politician type; she was a sort of a fixer who used her caste/ religious connections (Velama, Christian [1]) to "supply" crowds for events. In return, she became a minor party official with enough clout to ensure the apartment block didn't have too much trouble from the local land mafia. But anyway:

A crowd of one lakh is not a big deal at all, at least in India. (YMM, or may not, Vary in Pakistan, but I suspect it would be along those lines) First, you need to create a sense of an event; a band with garlands, cut-outs and at least one speaker with name-recognition to sell the event (so you dont want people to ask, Imran who?, for instance) will do the trick.

Second, have something at hand to entice people, free t-shirts, booze, food, cash handouts (not "chai money", but at least "biryani money"), flags... something.

Third, you want enough buzz for the event to have a life of its own; people shouldn't feel that they're getting paid to go to the rally, they should think, "heck, if everyone's going there, might as well go and get some free swag". Not dissimilar to CES or other trade shows, except without the booth-babes or the bloggers/ media; remember, we're talking of buzz here, not necessarily media buzz. Your target audience may or may not read papers or watch the news channels.

Fourth, and this is where it's extremely important, and one that distinguishes the talented politicians from the self-entitled ones, always connect back locally with the audience. The best way to do this is to anoint the local fixer as your representative for the ilaaka (zone). This is very very crucial; not only would you reward loyalty from these natural leader types, you also are demonstrating to the audience that they can reach you through someone they know. People, especially those unused to power and such, love that sort of a thing; the trick, obviously, is to have enough party machinery to ensure these local leaders dont become local satraps of their own.

On to Imran Khan now. Now, what I've just described is how it works in India; I'm very very aware that the situation in Pakistan could, indeed, will, be different. Every election is ultimately a vote on local politics; it's always a question of how much the voters see their local problems through the prism of national headlines.

The Dawn article is quite fascinating in that regard; in particular, they seem to be using the MN Srinivas neologism vote-bank in a context that, on appearance, seems to be slightly different from what we do in India. In India, it usually refers to identity politics; it's about voting for "your person", that person with whom you share caste, language, religion, dialect or some cultural identity. In the article, however, they seem to be using it to mean biradari's, or kinships, but in Lahore's old city, for one; by getting a local (seemingly corrupt, but lets ignore that for now) politician onboard, Imran Khan is apparently trying to tap into an old city vote-bank as such. From my armchair quarterback viewpoint, this sounds quite iffy; if you want to do vote-banks in urban areas in India, they need to be more broad-based than kinships. Ethnicity, language or religion are usually safer bets.

In fact, it sounds like Imran Khan needs these corrupt small-timers not for vote-bank politics, but for party machinery. That, to me, is his number one problem; if I was a Pakistani voter, I'd be interested in finding out who is calling the shots behind the scenes in his party organization. Not who supports him, but who is using him. To that end, this was interesting:
The brain behind Mr Khan’s latest makeover as Pakistan’s savoir in the making — one more time after a failed earlier attempt — is Haroonur Rashid, a columnist with the daily Jang who once wrote the authorised and laudatory biography of Gen Akhtar Abdur Rehman, an intelligence czar under Gen Zia and one of the many architects of Pakistan-backed militancy in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Another point that stood out for me here: seems to me that all of the psephological analysis here is either from 1988, 1990 or 1996. For Pakistan's sake, there ought to be more elections than this, or the electricity thieves and low-level corrupt folks will become entrenched even more.

[1] - This will be difficult for those who use the old Victorian model of a "caste system" to navigate the treacherous jati politico-communal loyalties, but in contemporary India, caste sometimes unites religions, just as it splits people.
posted by the cydonian at 5:36 PM on January 12, 2012 [20 favorites]

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