Imran Khan might win the next general elections whether they are held tomorrow or in a few months if the current regime fails to deliver and ease the burden of economic hardship on the people, says Raza Rumi in an interview.
“Don’t forget that the current government in Pakistan has also not delivered well…you know because of the IMF conditions, they have raised the prices of electricity, fuel…so people are under severe economic hardship…which also makes them inclined towards Imran Khan,” Rumi said while talking to Amina Saqib, host of the program Mango Stories.
“That’s why Imran Khan is very popular now and if you’re going to have elections tomorrow or in a few months, he is going to win,” he maintained.
According to the senior journalist, Pakistan’s middle class has really grown in the past 20 years or so and Imran Khan is really liked by the middle class.
The other thing, he added, is that many people in the articulate middle classes aren’t happy with the traditional politicians and parties, so they think Imran is a better alternative, even though he didn’t deliver in his office and may not have a plan to fix Pakistan.
“They think he is better than the Sharifs, Zardaris and the Bhuttos, so there’s that element as well.”
While responding to a question, Rumi said, “Since his removal, Imran Khan has very effectively played the victim card, he says he has been unfairly removed, and remember that we as people are also emotional so we go with the underdog.”
“So they say: look at him, such a handsome and honest man, ousted by these thieves.”
When asked about the anti-US sentiment being used as a ploy, Rumi said that a sizeable number of people in Pakistan think that the US has always meddled in the country’s affairs.
“The two countries have had a troubled history, they have been partners and allies from the Cold War and until recently in the so called war on terror,” he added. “We are also the recipients of US aid, weapons, and largesse, but at the same time there are a lot of misgivings about the US and the politicians play on that.”
He recalled that when Imran was facing a vote of confidence, he termed it a result of a conspiracy hatched by the US against him.
Rumi stressed that the narrative is really damaging as the US is the biggest destination for Pakistani exports and the third largest source of remittances. “If we break the relationship, Pakistanis are going to suffer.”
Imran’s overseas support base
“Imran was always popular…he was a hero figure, as a cricketer and as a captain. Overseas Pakistanis may have an important role to play in his success in the elections.”
To a question regarding the common perception of ‘naivety’ of the overseas Pakistanis in supporting Imran, Rumi said, “In this digital age, you are tied to information technology by the second, being aware of every happening in real time.”
“Imran’s message has gone through those channels as millions of Pakistanis use text messages and WhatsApp and his messages are filtering through.”
Citing cult following and the examples of former US president Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said the PTI chairman has come a long way from this naive and a one man show politician to this maverick, sly leader.
“The new generation is far more aware then it was before and the social media is playing a major role. They are more globalized and they have knowledge of the world,” Rumi said.
But some fundamentals, he maintained, have not changed such as the education system in Pakistan.
“The number of out of school children is so huge that almost half of school-going children are not in schools and those who are, are not turning into thinkers because of the education they are receiving; it’s a hodgepodge of different narratives and ideologies.”
Rumi stressed a lot of improvement, saying Pakistanis in the US and elsewhere can play a role by supporting new ideas, sending new technologies and mentoring the students and teachers. But it’s still a long way to go.
When the host pointed to a poll in Karachi where people were not even aware of the no-confidence motion, Rumi said, “People lack such civic sense because education that makes you a thinker or creates in you a spirit of inquiry isn’t there.”
He recalled that the civics subject was removed from the curriculum in the 70s and replaced with Pakistan Studies; civic sense and ethics aren’t taught anymore.
When asked about the ongoing political bickering in the midst of harsh times following floods, Rumi said the concern should be about the millions living in floodwater with no livelihoods and vulnerability to waterborne diseases; that should be top priority.
“Floods have starved 35 million people and destroyed crops and the implications are catastrophic. Still, Imran is holding his political rallies and the government of the day is busy in attacking him.”
“They need to stop,” the journalist said. “Only 10 percent of the flood affectees have been provided relief so far.”
Raza Rumi’s journey as a journalist
Talking about his multifaceted work in different areas, Rumi said he has in the past served as a civil servant and as a development practitioner with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as well as in Kosovo as the peacekeeping mission staff.“
“The passion of journalism was really inviting and that’s what I have been doing for the past almost two decades now.”
He further said that the reason he started writing was that he strongly felt about freedom of expression and how the citizens should speak up against injustice. “Only by pushing hard for a better world and speaking up can we create a change.”
“I worked with the Daily Times and I’ve been been affiliated with The Friday Times, a known, old paper and then a couple of years ago, I started a digital startup with the name of Naya Daur Media, which is doing well; it has a YouTube channel, English and Urdu websites and is making some impact while I teach here; my day job is teaching.”
Rumi said that he moved to the US in 2014 and “it seems that the wandering has pretty much stopped now as I have settled here.”