ISLAMABAD: Meeting Imran Khan face to face after more than three years during which he had a terrible injury when he fell from the stage, a game changing almost successful dharna in Islamabad, a failed marriage and an almost amicable divorce, besides his ups and downs, twists and some U-turns in politics, was a revealing experience in Islamabad the other night.
Khan had just driven from Peshawar to Jahangir Khan Tareen's home near Aitzaz Ahsan's house and was accompanied by Ishaq Khakwani and Naeemul Haq, besides Tareen. I had accompanied friends and veteran journalists Mohammed Afzal Khan and M Ziauddin. It was a small group and for three hours we could talk about anything and everything that I may have missed while being away from the country but being involved almost on an hourly and daily basis following Pak politics and affairs.
On first look IK appeared extremely slim and fit, as if he was physically preparing for a gruelling marathon. His face, though gave away some secrets of his charm, with lines and age showing. Yet it was still a figure that would send chilling messages to young females who may still have hallucinations about getting closer to the Khan. He still appears to be the most eligible bachelor in town, nay in the country.
When I had last met him in a similar private session in Dubai some years back he was different. The Khan of today is politically knowledgeable, flexible in his views, more accommodating, admits his mistakes and political blunders but remains fixated to his views about the economy, politics, his rivals and friends.
He believes and says so openly that Nawaz Sharif is much worse than Asif Zardari, though he has not many good words for both in terms of their contributions to the decline and image of the political class and the damage both have done to democracy and civilian supremacy in the country.
If politicians are on the run and non-political forces and aspirants to power have creeped into the power vacuum, he blames the former more. When I asked him point blank where would he stand if as result of his campaign against the present set up the boots walk in, he gets agitated and says he has not worked so hard for inviting any military set up and he will oppose it.
Yet when asked if the present set up is allowed to continue, he does not mince words and says they will cause a collapse that will take everybody down in the deep hole.
Immediately he starts narrating the financial and economic adventures and misadventures of the Raiwind brand of governance, recalling the immense debt trap the country has been led into, the loot and plunder practised with utter contempt of any institution that may hold them accountable, the fearlessness and monumental arrogance to misuse and abuse the tax-payers' money.
Imran admits he has not been a very sharp judge of people whom he trusted for his major initiatives, within his party and on the national stage. He says it was wrong that he went into intra party elections before the 2013 polls but he says had it been done quickly the PTI would have done much well. He says respected people like Justice Wajihuddin, whom he trusted, exceeded their mandate and instead of three months his party elections got stretched to almost nine months, causing bitterness and many problems just on the eve of general elections.
When told even now his party is not settled, major chunks are pitched against each other and if for any reason Nawaz Sharif goes into a snap mid term poll, again PTI will be caught unprepared, Khan admits the shortcomings but asserts if he got a three month period before the next polls, we will manage extremely well.
Bluntly told that his party had failed and almost abandoned Karachi to the mercy of the existing forces, although in 2013 it had got hundreds of thousands of votes and despite the almost fatal blows that had been given by Operation Zarb Azb and Rangers in the city, Khan says the people of Karachi are still in a state of fear of the MQM.
That may be an easy, almost diversionary argument to make but the lack of interest and effort to capture the hearts and soul of Karachi by PTI is too obvious and apparent and Khan goes quiet, making tacit unspoken admissions that Karachi leadership needs a shake-up.
While MQM is on the run and facing its worst crisis, PTI is still not focussing on the mega city and a new-born, almost refurbished version of dissident MQM factions under Mustafa Kamal appears to be a better option to many policy and security decision makers.
Why PTI could not fill this huge vacuum, when it had been given a platform and a massive popular approval in the 2013 elections is beyond Imran to explain.
But he promises to do more and better, sticking to the argument that in every election where PTI has lost, the number of votes has increased and people still see no other political alternative.
That may be his God-sent advantage but he has yet to make the best use of such opportunities, many of which have regretfully been lost in the past.
To be Continued