In comes Imran as empire waits By Asha’ar Rehman - Tuesday 3rd May 2011

Source :

POLITELY asserting his credentials, Syed Sahib modestly says that at one point in time he used to exchange notes on popular trends with the great and the very awami Nisar Osmani.
For a while now he has been heard pleading Imran Khan’s case in the office corridors. “Sir jee, the ‘Peoples’ in the middle of the name are gone and what remains is ‘Pakistan’ and ‘Party’ and they are just as fed up with the Sharifs. You will soon see the rise and rise of Imran Khan.”
Lest anyone takes him for an agent of somebody known for fashioning alliances like the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), the good Syed made his prediction well before the experts got down to discovering the hidden hand behind the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) sit-in in Peshawar recently. If anything, he points out, the link-up vindicates him. The skipper will do it with or without the selection committee, he says.
The PPP has nothing to fear in Syed Sahib’s locality because it has nothing to lose. Our source has his home in a Lahore locality that was snatched away from the PPP’s grasp a long time ago. Mian Nawaz Sharif fought his elections from this constituency
and our worthy informer tells us that the area consequently has much to show for its association with the tiger of Punjab.
Many of the young men given gainful employment in departments such as the police, the LDA and excise and customs from the 1980s onwards are today respected as the more affluent and influential members of the local community. There are others who could not be formally adjusted in ‘lucrative’ government positions and were, instead, provided with contracts to honourably earn their bread.
Some of these soldiers of the Sharif brigade have since been guilty of crossing over to the PML-Q. During the election campaign in 2008, Syed Sahib provided a constant supply of news about whom the Sharifs were willing to accept back into their fold and those they regarded as beyond redemption. We readily lapped up the juicy bits about the PML-N’s snub to many of its old sympathisers.
There was this hilarious story about a gentleman who had ordered a battery of deghs in anticipation of a visit by none other than Hamza Shahbaz Sharif. He waited and waited as he sat over his tempting cauldrons but there was no sign of the Sharif scion. On their return trail, the old holders of Lahore had chosen to snub their aspiring host over the recipes to success he had tried during the Musharraf regime.
Many others were similarly kept waiting, yet were wise enough not to get too close to the PPP because they saw no future for the party, or at least that’s how they saw it in their area. The election results came and, in most of the Lahore constituencies, the PPP retained what its sympathisers smugly call a respectable presence. But the party failed to present a serious challenge to the PML-N many of whose new members of the assemblies were obscure names before they got the Sharif stamp.
On the local level, PPP politicians have done little to endear themselves to Lahorites wanting to renew old associations or form new ones. Contrarily, the party’s government has been accused of not doing enough, to be today considered a bit of a liability. The party that failed to get the windfall sympathy votes in 2008 is today hardly considered a genuine threat to the PML-N in the city.
Shahbaz Sharif has known it for long. On the local level, he has found no reason to confront the PPP, other than that with references to great Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It would be fair to say that, despite the high billing of the PTI, actually of Imran Khan, by our experienced source, Chief Minister Sharif had, until recently, chosen to ignore Mr Khan too. In the earlier periods, this could have been because Mr Khan was rather soft on the Sharifs with whom he supposedly had ideological similarities in the battle against Islamabad’s corrupt incumbents in Islamabad.
Times have changed, though, if his party lieutenant Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s declarations about our well-meaning agencies are to be believed. Perhaps Chaudhry Nisar recognises some of the men gathered around Imran Khan as the sleuths who helped put together Chaudhry’s own IJI in 1988.
Going one up on his recent criticism of the establishment, he has bravely offered to reveal the truth relating to some recent developments such as the PTI dharna or the sit-in in Peshawar in an in-camera session of parliament.
But in all earnestness, the custodian of the PML-N government in Punjab has been rather slow in reacting to the emerging danger. And even when he is droning on about the American violation of our honour, he doesn’t quite get the response or the media coverage of an Imran Khan.
It is well known that Shahbaz Sharif has a benevolent approach towards the youth, which is identified as the nucleus around which Imran Khan and associates can build up his edifice. This is most significantly manifest in his policy to promote junior but younger officers over the senior ones. And following his policy to reward the bright students — a scheme which later ran into problems — in recent weeks the chief minister has been heard speaking passionately about the need for cricket grounds in Lahore.
Recently, officials received an urgent late evening call from the chief minister who said that he wanted to inaugurate the cricket ground next to the Sharifs’ the next morning. He has vowed to give other parts of Lahore similar pitches soon. This is as literal an answer to the ex-cricketer and current potential leader of the youth as possible.
Syed Sahib is watching it all unfold. His only worry now is the affluent and the influential in his mohalla who are preparing to join Imran’s run.
The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

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