Imran Khan’s Azadi March has been reduced to Azadi Farce. After first declaring that Allah supported his ambitions, the PTI chief is today trying to use extortion to get his way. It’s a classic tale of vanity and delusion that could easily be mistaken for a Shakespeare tragedy. More importantly for us, though, Imran Khan’s latest saga is worth studying in close detail because in many ways Imran Khan is a reflection of ourselves.
Since Independence, we have had an outsized view of our place in the world. This delusion was aided by global powers like the United States and China who told us what we wanted to hear in order to use us for their own purposes, but it is now and always was our delusion. When we acquired nuclear weapons, we declared ourselves a nuclear power as if that was the same thing as being a global power like the US, even though the lights kept going out and the trains were falling apart.
We were looking for a shortcut. We were not able to accept the fact that great powers are not born overnight. There were hard choices that needed to be made, great sacrifices that were required if we were going to build a great power. Instead, we vowed to eat grass for a bomb, as if a bomb was going to give us peace and prosperity. We have had the bomb for decades, but peace and prosperity are still elusive.
Unable to admit that we had a wrong strategy, we reached out for any excuse we could imagine. Conspiracy theories became the order of the day, and the more outrageous the better. We turned on old allies, accusing them of being part of the conspiracy against us. So sure of our own righteousness, we found ourselves isolated.
Instead of reflecting on this, we doubled down. We increased the rhetoric, declaring that our enemies were on the verge of collapse while we were ascendant. Media gleefully reported riots in London and the US while ignoring the anger of our own downtrodden. We shouted from the roof tops about Facebook pages and crazy preachers threatening to burn the Qur’an, but we ignored the burning of Ahmedi mosques, Christian homes, and Sufi shrines. Supposedly serious people talk about Pakistan leading the Muslim countries to Gaza to save the Palestinians, when we cannot save our own people from the terrorists in our midst.
Imran Khan has had an outsized view of his own place in Pakistani politics since he was first introduced to the idea by Gen Ziaul Haq. Ever since, he has been looking for a shortcut to power rather than doing the difficult work of party building and defining detailed solutions to the problems that plague the nation. Even his policies are short-cuts, promising to eliminate corruption and terrorism in days.
When his delusions were challenged, he upped the ante, making fiery speeches filled with angry rhetoric. He surrounded himself with people who told him what he wanted to hear in order to use him to fulfill their own political ambitions. His delusions were taken to new heights, and he found a conspiracy to explain every failure, even when the truth was presented to him on a plate.
14th August was the day Imran Khan truly believed he would be carried into PM’s House on the shoulders of the people. Four days later, he finds himself discouraged, defeated, humiliated, and desperately clinging to his delusions of grandeur. In his latest Tweet, he has threatened that his supporters will turn violent if his wishes are not granted. It is as if he would rather see Pakistan burned to the ground than admit he has been mistaken.
Meanwhile, Pakistan crumbles around us due not to Imran Khan, but to our own unwillingness to admit our mistakes. Will we wake up in time to save it?