From the time of his entry into politics nearly 15 years ago, former cricketer Imran Khan had been dismissed as a man whose conceit made him harbour an exaggerated notion of his popularity as well as underestimate the attributes required to become a politician of reckoning. On Sunday, October 30, though, Pakistan gasped in disbelief as the former cricketer pulled a mammoth crowd—over a lakh—to his political rally held on the ground of Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore. In it was a message no political party could ignore—Imran Khan had emerged as the Third Force in Pakistan, holding out hope to those weary of mainstream politicians and their corrupt style of governance.
It was a sight bewitching to behold. Wave upon wave of people marching to the Minar, waving the green and red flag, embossed with the crescent and a star, of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). Songs blared from loudspeakers atop cars and buses. The decision of the Punjab government to stop the traffic to the Minar prompted people to alight from vehicles, and dance and clap and sing their way forward. Families with children in tow imparted to the ambience a touch of the carnival. Never before had urban middle-class women been visible in such numbers in any political rally. Reeling under a dengue epidemic, Lahore for those few hours on Sunday seemed to have been infected by the Imran bug. It was difficult to remember the last time Pakistan had been so happy, so hopeful, so enthusiastic.
|“Whether or not people agree with Imran, democracy has won. People of Pakistan are the real stakeholders.” Athar Minallah, Lawyer||“A game is afoot between PML-N’s right-wing Punjab votebank and a new right-of-left votebank in urban Punjab.” Nadeem Piracha, Journalist, Dawn|
|“Imran’s speech was pathetic, but people didn’t leave. They want change.... A delayed election will suit Imran.” Nusrat Javed, Political analyst|