The young man had a point. According to him, nothing substantial has changed in Pakistan except for the faces at the helm of affairs. Real issues are still on the backburner. Upon my arguing on a number of unprecedented recent incidents taking place in the country such as the success of a NTM against the PM, the cablegate, the opposition coming to power for the first time in history, Imran Khan becoming more popular after being unseated and holding public rallies and above all, the enormous impact of social media in changing public opinion and of course the politically divided and polarised nation, he smiled and said, ‘Sir, the notion that Pakistan is divided and polarised seems to work quite nicely for all stakeholders and foreign forces alike. Trust me, it is a tactical move’.
He continued: ‘Far from the madding crowd, the farmers are following their daily routine as before; businesses are going on unhindered; millions of workers leave homes daily to earn bread and butter for their families; prayers of daily-wagers are still unheard; all federal and provincial Ministries are subservient to their masters as before; religious places are full of devout individuals who believe in divine intervention; recruitments in civil and military institutions are taking place as before; blame-game is going on as usual; anti-America rhetoric has not gotten us out of the circular debt or FATF; the government hospitals are still short of doctors, nurses and medicines; and, the queues in front of utility stores are the same as before. Nepotism still prevails. Merit is still jargon. The slogan of ‘220 million people’ is still sellable. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting children. For majority of Pakistanis, life is as it was before. Difficult. They are not concerned about any foreign or indigenous conspiracies. They are busy making both the ends meet.’
He stopped for a while and then continued again: ‘It is only a few hundreds of those who take turns in the power corridors that are either dreading the spread of ‘Imran-o-phobia’ going out-of-hand or pleased to see their future prospects. Others are just watching this action-packed thriller, eagerly to see ‘The End’ on the screen. This too shall pass, Sir.’
By this time, the young man had almost converted me. However, refusing to be on the losing side of the argument, I posed him several counter questions but not before admonishing him on being a hopeless pessimist. What about Imran Khan becoming a symbol of national self-respect? How can you deny the fact that he is the most popular leader in the country, a title he earned after he was ousted?
The young man had a grin on his face while I was trying to win a point or two. He started off again: ‘Sir, his growing popularity should worry his opponents and detractors. Not us. Even if he is able to turn these large gatherings into votes for his party and win the next elections, what difference would it make to the majority of Pakistanis? Roughly, he needs to be in power continuously for at least 50 years to translate all his objectives into reality. Mao had a competent team, so did Lee Kuan Yu and Mahathir. Are you sure he would select a better team next time or stop believing in himself as the only Mr. know-it-all? Again, there would be a tussle between him and ‘others’ resulting in his unceremonious exit. There is no denying the fact that he is smart to the extent that after seeing his government’s popularity graph going down, he acted like a phoenix, and burnt himself to re-emerge even stronger. But would the ‘others’ let him have a two-third majority in the National Assembly? Unless he is planning to come back to power through public rallies, a revolution, without involving the electoral process, his chances are…’
‘Hold your horses’, I said, as I was getting a bit nervous now. Before I could say anything, he raised a finger and said, ‘But you did not let me finish, Sir. What if there actually was a conspiracy against him? Remember his efforts against Islamophobia, his visit to Moscow, confusion on his pro-China stances, extempore speeches on Kashmir and open defiance to the US? I tell you, even if by a stroke of miracle, he comes to power again, he will not be ‘allowed’ to proceed with his plans of ‘emancipating’ the nation. In any case, he is not likely to succeed in bringing the ‘looted’ billions of dollars back home nor would the rich pay taxes. How will he get Pakistan out of the IMF trap or pay off the country’s enormous debt then? Through twitter space rallies? Would these power-shows transform the mindset of Pakistanis into that of Chinese? Or, force the US to bow before him? Would his media team with the help of thousands of trolls and bots get you Kashmir or compel the Taliban to listen to logic?
Now I got really scared. The young man suddenly started making sense to me. But as it was time for me to go for a walk, I asked him the final question. Still smiling wryly, he replied: ‘The educated lot has no choice but to behave naively as if this ruckus and rumpus doesn’t concern us. But those who want to see this house broken into pieces are pleased to see their ‘diversion plans’ working. Quietly, the nation has been put on the Ferris wheel of ‘selected’ and ‘imported’ governments while the queues of ‘traitors’ and ‘patriots’ are getting bigger and bigger, eagerly waiting to hop-on. Don’t you see any method in this madness, Sir? And to answer your question, just switch off the tv, don’t follow the trends on social media and better still, switch off your cellphone. Perhaps, the picture might get clearer. If you cannot do all that, just sit, relax and watch Imran Khan and his die-hard followers fighting for early elections. The dust will settle soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the show.’

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and author of eight books in three languages. He can be reached at

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