(Published on Pak Tea House on 1st July, 2011)
Last week in class, two of my students were to present the impact of the War on Terror on the Pakistan economy.
My young freshman students missed the point of the presentation, to focus on the economy, and economic policy in light of a war. Rather they delved into Pakistani politics and said that the War on Terror was Americas war, nothing to do with Pakistan and we should have stayed out of it (as if we had a choice or wanted to do that) and the only politician calling this spade a spade was Imran Khan.
They ended their presentation with this video clip, where repeatedly Khan says that the military was wrong to go into Wazistan… the military by attacking its own people had ‘created’ the Taliban said the apologist athlete. The presentation ended with the whole class clapping and nodding in agreement.
Fasi Zaka write for the Express Tribune (June 14, 2011), “Many Pakistanis clamour for an independent Pakistan free of corruption, yet they balk at the idea of supporting Imran Khan.” I find myself among the ‘balkers’ and agree with Mr Zaka. But why so? The man has established himself to be honest, generous and uncorrupt, which is more than we can say for the gahirat brigade or President Zardari. Recently Nadeem Piracha has also written about Imran being a creation of the establishment. And then Raza Habib Raza on PTH has commented that the youth’s love affair with Khan saying it’s all about a lack of other options. I think it runs deeper than that, students like his ‘blame rhetoric’, the idea that he’s the only politician that hasn’t mucked up yet.
After two years of teaching classes in political science and economics, to well near a thousand students in a private sector college, all but a handful actually have a critical understanding of politics. Our youth does not read papers; they read top rated blog posts and top tweeted news stories. They go to the news anchors for their information and none of them know their Islamic history from their political and cultural history. The general sentiments are pro-Imran Khan and either apologetic about terrorism and radicalization or pro-Taliban, views that are hard to change in one semester and that belong to both liberal and conservative students. These are dangerous ideas to adopt and give forces like the Taliban a semblance of legitimacy. For me much of my face-palm reaction at Imran Khan and his student supporters is because his simplistic rhetoric spells trouble in case he ever gets elected.
Fasi Zaka is spot on when he says that Khan is Jamaat-e-Islami 2.0, “Imran blamed the death of Salmaan Taseer on the war on terror. As if blasphemy related murders never happened before 9/11… he suggested a ceasefire, negotiations and compromise. That’s exactly what happened in 2009 in Swat and Malakand, with the government going further and giving the extremists legal cover”… gaping holes in his 2.0 ideology sprinkled with progressiveness.
But we will only know what Imran Khan can actually do if he has political success in elections. His competition has hardly handled the country well. Is there room for optimism that he can whip Pakistan into shape? Many fear he will blunder through foreign policy and make a fool of Pakistan.
Today as well, while debating corruption in class, a student asked what viable political option did we have? ‘Well Tehreek-e-Insaaf of course,’ replied another student. But what must the youth do? Blame the military, USA and the corrupt system of politics? “Yes why of course, Miss Gardezi”. But blame militant groups themselves for turning buildings into rubble and killing Ahmadis, Shias and anyone else who acts different… “Oh no Miss Gardezi, militants only blow up stuff because USA invaded Afghanistan and is now invading Pakistan.”