IF the political credibility of Imran Khan has been permanently damaged by the judicial inquiry commission’s report, it is not good news for Pakistan. He remains a financially honest person, which simply cannot be said of the other major political leaders. One only has to surf the net to know that. But if Imran is unable to introspect and acknowledge his own contribution to his political embarrassment he will remain impervious to improvement. He will deservedly be a political has-been.

Any solution to a problem must meet two conditions: one of necessity and the other of sufficiency. A political leader must be honest for his claims to be someone who can bring about an improvement in the state of the nation to be credible. If he is not honest, no matter what his other qualities, his claims to be a political game-changer will carry no weight. However, if he is honest but lacks other necessary qualities such as wisdom and sagacity, honesty alone will not suffice to make him successful. His rivals will outsmart him, although being dishonest they will ultimately discredit themselves.

In other words, Imran Khan’s integrity and honesty are a necessary but not sufficient condition for him to succeed in his political endeavours. This has been not only his tragedy but also for all those who saw in him a saviour from criminal and evil governance. He has not sufficiently respected the faith that millions reposed in him. However, his mocking rivals remain as corrupt and crooked as ever. That is why millions continue to desperately place their faith in Imran. He cannot let them down again. He must now perforce ask himself whether he is still worthy of their faith and trust. He should know what he must do. Will he do it? There will be no short-cuts or cost-free and pain-free options. Is he a serious enough leader to ‘walk his talk’?


As things stand now, there are no short-cuts or pain-free options before the PTI chief.


Imran Khan is said to have many heroes. One of them reportedly is Lee Kuan Yew. How much does he know about him? Would Lee have ever got himself into such a mess? In fact, Lee was in a far worse mess when Singapore was kicked out of Malaysia and was not expected to survive. Many held Lee responsible. What guided him to steer Singapore to prosperity, security and international respect? What painful political and personal decisions did he have to make from which he did not shy away in order to serve Singapore sincerely and successfully? There is a wealth of specific information in Lee’s own writings. All of his strategies and policies are adaptable to the circumstances of other countries. China’s leaders were not too big to learn from Lee.

Apart from great leaders there are great ideas that are translatable into a whole range of choices and activities that can lead to the strengthening of civil society and good governance. Information, general and technical, is readily available on every aspect of nation-building and national transformation. A leader does not have to be a scholar or an expert. But he has to be aware, driven and responsible. Above all, he has to have an educated and informed vision. Is Imran Khan even aware of the need to equip himself for the task he has set himself? The jury is out.

He has to reflect on what he has to do to become real for the people who depend on him to deliver on their hopes. This is a very heavy responsibility. Can he carry it? He has the integrity. But has he the character? He has two years in which to make people in other provinces cite the progress being made in KP as something they insist upon for themselves. Those who tell him this cannot be done in the time available because of this or that reason need to be got rid of. Those who say it will be immensely challenging but not impossible and can act accordingly must be retained or recruited. Making these choices, however difficult, has to become the focus of his leadership.

Imran must also get rid of the political confusion that surrounds him. He seems to have no idea of what the politics of ‘the left’, ‘liberalism’ and ‘secularism’ mean. Yet he is unrestrained in his criticism of them. Shorn of doctrine and dogma, the left entails a politics of inclusion, equal opportunities and fundamental rights and entitlements; liberalism is a politics of space and tolerance for a whole range of views one may heartily disagree with; and secularism is concerned with the human condition on earth (al-dunya) as distinct from human preparations for the hereafter (al-akhira). All the sciences including the social sciences and many of the arts are secular. They are not ‘godless’ although they do not generally make assumptions about religious truths.

So what does it mean to be against the left, liberalism and secularism? It means nonsense. It certainly does not imply dedication to Islam. A hadith attributed to the Prophet (PBUH) enjoins: ‘seek knowledge, even if it be from China!’ Was this a reference to religious knowledge? Similarly, what does it mean to have a tsunami from the right in a country where the vast majority live below or on and around the poverty line? It means nothing. A tsunami from the right is fascism – religious or secular. Fascism, however extreme and disruptive, is ultimately a servant of the status quo.

The choice before Pakistan today is between reforms and restructuring. Reforms by and large take place within parameters that are assumed to be given. This may be alright for stable and progressing societies. But Pakistan requires a restructuring of its entire architecture of power, influence and authority to launch itself on a national transformation path. Without such a transformation, plans for becoming a strategic partner of China are just pie in the sky. Can Imran begin to champion national transformation and all it entails? If so, his current discomfiture will be fleeting.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.