I am getting a bit tired of Imran Khan. Do our cricketers get the same mileage when they visit Pakistan? Is it because he is also a politician? But what currency does he have in that capacity? Each time he visits India, newspapers, glossies and TV channels “manage to get him”. He dishes out the same old lines about democracy, democracy, democracy.
The so-called democrats in Pakistan are those who have conveniently used religion to become acceptable. Benazir Bhutto, westernised to the core with her sing-song elocution competition style speeches; Nawaz Sharif, with his earthy feudalism and even Imran with his Frontier chieftain projection are sell-out cases.
He may have his heart in the right place, as I am told often, but last year at a fund-raiser in San Jose, this is an excerpt of what happened (that I wrote about elsewhere):
Then Imran Khan spoke. He started with, “I was the first politician to go to the affected areas…” He talked about false official figures in the initial stages. Had he done away with these bits, the politicisation would not have been so evident. For, he had his facts; he had the desire to do something. As winter sets in the hilly terrain, and people are burning the donated clothes to keep them warm, his organisation has come up with shelters that cost just $ 350 and 85 per cent of the material is reusable for later.
The floor was thrown open to questions. “How are these tents made?”
WTF. Someone sitting in the Bay Area wants to know how these tents are made? Will he be building them? Does he want to run through his calculator to get a breakup of cost-efficiency? Is this some techno-savvy mela? Why were questions entertained at all? There are several websites for information, and hundreds of thousands of donors.
The ones that need to be commended are those who took part in the silent auction.
The stage auction was a farce. A signed bat by Imran started with a bid of just $500. A blue-chip celebrity, a blue-chip audience and a genuine cause were all reduced in that one moment of indiscretion. “Oh, okay, since it is a signed by Imran, let us make it $1000!” It was closed at $4000 with a ticket to the World Cup in the West Indies thrown in. Everyone was in a hurry to get it over with. The target for the evening was $1 million; they collected $300,000.
It prompted Imran to comment that this did not seem like an audience that was interested in cricket. He did praise the efforts of the Pakistanis at home who had taken their cars and trucks with essentials.
The Pakistanis in the US have garnered a lot of funds, anyway. Money does go a long way, but how many in that gathering would volunteer? He appealed for that kind of help.
Just as suddenly, the announcer declared, “Now you can all go home.”
As we trudged out, Imran stood in the foyer posing for pictures. He is Pakistan’s greatest celebrity. I was not overwhelmed by the sight. What made an impact on me was the space Indians and Pakistanis shared and the admiration the latter expressed for some of the big Indian names present there.
I wanted to voice the question that had been playing on my mind: “Could an Indian volunteer?”
“Of course, many Indians are doing so,” said Imran.
“What about visas?”
“That should not be a problem. You just go to the American Embassy.”
“I am a visitor to the US, I don’t live here. I am from India.”
“Oh, a lot of Kashmiris are there…Yaseen Malik and his group are helping out a lot…”
“Kashmiris are different. I am…”
“Oh, so where are you from?”
“Uh…” Pause. “I am sure you can try.”
Indians are not allowed in the Northern areas just as Pakistanis are prohibited from visiting some parts of India.
He knows that. I know that.