Imran Khan looks a bit like he used to at the top of his run-up, keen as a rapier and bustling with intent. He’s a man on a mission, addressing public meetings twice a day across electoral battlegrounds. Still extremely charismatic at 65, he’s the only real crowd-puller whose presence can make a difference to a candidate running under the banner of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). Pakistan, like India, labours under the slippery first-past-the-post system—a few floating votes can settle a game. And if anyone can swing the ball in dead air, it’s the Pathan.
The schedule must be gruelling even for a physically fit Imran, but it doesn’t show. The excitement of what comes next must be driving him. Pakistan is staring at an electoral landscape shorn of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the duo that dominated politics in the post-Zia era. That’s a huge, roiling vacuum. What that means is, perhaps for the first time since 1996, when Imran founded his party, there is unparalleled confidence about the PTI’s chances in an election.