Dear Mr Khan,
When people say you are a breath of fresh air in the suffocating Pakistani political environment, I do not disagree. When people say you can smash the moth-eaten status quo in this country of ours, I do not disagree. When people say you can vanquish the demigods perched on our Mount Olympus and send them tumbling down, I do not disagree. You can do all this because you are sincere, honest and a doer.
So then, Mr Khan, why are you sounding so stale the last few days?
Yes, I’m talking about the horrifying attack on Malala Yousafzai and the equally horrifying reaction from your party rank and file.
What is clear is that you are not clear on this issue. And your lack of clarity has led to massive confusion within your supporters. As a result, something very serious, very ominous, and very dangerously disappointing is happening.
Brand Imran is under threat.
Let me explain, sir. Condemning the cowardly attack on Malala is easy. That is why everyone - including the famously ambivalent maulanas and allamas - are also doing it. But condemning those who actually launched the attack suddenly complicates the situation.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know you have spoken out against the attackers. So have the maulanas and allamas and their assorted sidekicks. No, that is not the issue. The actual issue is wrong contextualising of the situation. This requires clarity of thought borne of a strategic outlook. The moment you and your supporters say “we condemn the attack on Malala and also those who shot her, but…….”, the moment this “but” enters the rationale, the duplicity of thought, the ambiguity of intent, the ambivalence of attitude and the confusion, yes confusion of vision bubbles to the surface like a toxic pollutant.
Why is that so bad? You ask. Are the lives of those killed by drones cheaper than Malala’s? Are they children of a lesser god?
No they are not, Mr Khan. All lives are equally precious. But that is not the point. The drones versus Malala debate - that unfortunately your party leadership and its followers have triggered - is no debate. It is not an ‘either or’ issue. Both are wrong.
So why this useless debate then? Here’s where, Mr Khan, I blame you. Why? Because you are the fountain from which your followers drink their political nectar. They parrot you (often nauseatingly on social media), they regurgitate your arguments and they peddle your logic. Your party leadership pushes your line on TV and defends your rationale on public forums.
In the last week or so, they have fallen flat on their faces. The reason: your ideas are not fully fleshed out. Some call it intellectual dishonesty. I prefer to call it intellectual laziness.
You cannot bring yourself to condemn the Pakistani Taliban like you condemn say, Asif Zardari or Nawaz Sharif. Fine. I do not have a problem as long as you have a certain credible logic for it, like you do for your attacks on Zardari and Sharif. But you don’t.
Is it so because, a) Pakistani Taliban are our people, who are misguided and can be reformed? b) They have killed forty thousand other Pakistanis because we are fighting America’s war and so they do, err… kind of, have a point? c) If the drones would stop, they would stop attacking Malalas and Kainats and Shazias, and stop dynamiting girls’ schools and stop demanding their version of the Sharia for the entire Pakistani society? Or Mr Khan, is it what you have said in your Economist interview, that if you condemn them who will protect your party workers from them?
The last one has left me at a loss of words. Are you saying, Mr Khan, that you will not condemn them, not out of conviction and power of logic, but because of – horror of horrors – fear?
I can be fearful. Your supporters can be fearful. Even your detractors can be fearful. But none of us, Mr Khan, are claiming the leadership of this country; a bold and courageous leadership, I may add.
I, Mr Khan, am the proud father of seven-year old twin daughters. When I look at Malala lying on that stretcher, and I visualise the faces of my daughters, my eyes well up. The pictures of little babies killed and injured by drone attacks bring a lump in my throat. They are all our children. Not one or the other, but all.
I want a Pakistan where my daughters are respected for their education and the careers they choose. I want a Pakistan, Mr Khan, where my girls can have the same quality education that I was privileged with. And you were too. I want a Pakistan free of medieval shackles on thought and action; a Pakistan that flows with the global current of progress, not against it.
If the Pakistani Taliban – who you want to negotiate with – have their way, my daughters and millions of other promising, talented daughters of ours, will not have this Pakistan.
I know you and I want the same Pakistan. I will not doubt for a moment your intentions and your vision for a dynamic, forward-looking Pakistan. Which is why you need to realise that you are ending up contradicting yourself.
So with utmost respect I say to you, sir: will the real Imran Khan please stand up.
The drones are killing us, and the murderers are sitting thousands of miles away. And murderers who have killed forty thousand of our men, women and children; who have slit the throats of our soldiers and videotaped this barbarity, they are here, within our reach.
You, Mr Khan, should vow to take both of them on with everything that you have.
So be clear. Be categoric. Be honest. And be intellectually transparent. Just like you are with your energy policy, and your health and economic policy. And just like you are in your crusade against corruption.
Make no mistake, sir. This fight against extremism is an existential one. Think it through. Your words matter. Your ideas matter. Your thoughts matter. People believe you. And they want to believe in you. Do not let them down like you have the past week.
You say extremism will fade away once the Americans leave Afghanistan. How? Have you and your party leadership war-gamed the future scenario? Will Hakimullah Mehsud lay down his arms in 2014 and run for Parliament? Will he and his men renounce violence, retract all their claims about Sharia, invite the army and the political administration into North Waziristan and de-weaponise voluntarily? Do you really think so Mr Khan? And if you do, would you care to elaborate this line of thinking?
You may ask, why am I addressing this to you and not the others. It’s actually pretty simple: I don’t have many expectations from others. The politico-religious leaders are a write-off when it comes to this issue. They are muddled, befuddled, Extremist-Lites. Pakistanis have seen through them. The other politicians sway with the wind and lack spine. They are the reason this country is where it is. The armed forces created these extremists in the first place, and perhaps they will now atone for their sins by going after them.
But you, Mr Khan, claim to be the ‘Great Big Hope’. I, for one, hope that you are. God knows, we need hope. But hope is not a plan of action. Clear-headed thinking, leading to clear-headed action, is. Which is why, if you are confused, so are we.
You have proved to us, with the World Cup victory, with the Shaukat Khanum hospital and with resilient politics, that you have a strong head and heart.
Now, Mr Khan, prove to us this head and heart do not rest on feet of clay.
The writer is the host of “Tonight with Fahd” on Waqt News. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @fahdhusain