A tsunami in a Punjabi teapot
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As the former cricket captain Imran Khan stood before the cheering crowd in Lahore at his rally on Sunday, October 30, he promised that support for him would prove to be a tsunami, sweeping away all that he considers as political deadwood and garbage. In what appeared a carefully choreographed show, Imran Khan challenged his main political rivals: Pakistan's president and the co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Asif Ali Zardari, and the two Sharif brothers in Punjab. He threatened them with a mass movement unless they declared their assets. Corruption is indeed one of the major issues that seems to have badly hurt Pakistan, especially in the past couple of decades, making it difficult for ordinary people to access facilities like electricity. Some of the major public-sector corporations are also sinking under the burden of corruption and nepotism.
But, more important, Pakistan is a country visibly burdened by ten years of the war on terror. To the ordinary Pakistani, the war has brought violence and disrepute, a situation that Imran Khan believes has not been improved by Pakistan's partnership with the US in the war on terror. Khan promised the crowd he would never use the country's army against its own people, as he said has happened at the behest of the Americans. He even taunted Zardari and Pakistan's ambassador in the US, Hussain Haqqani, for seeking personal protection from the US government against the Pakistan army.
The Imran Khan apparent at the Sunday rally is certainly a more confident leader; but his confidence also emanates from the realisation that there may be few gaps between him and the country's all-powerful security establishment — which he was careful to not criticise during the political show. Many believe that his success on Sunday was partly a result of some silent support provided by the security apparatus. This is nothing peculiar in a country where a nod and a wink from the establishment has created leaders from Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif, and now, Imran Khan.
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