The Tehrik e Insaaf Supporters are mostly a very loyal die hard bunch, some of them take their loyalty a bit too far as they have managed to cause a lot of discomfort for supporters of not just other rival political parties but also for anyone and everyone who does not agree with their political points of view or does not support the Pakistani Tehrik e Insaaf. They show very little tolerance if any for those supporting other parties or alternative points of view, people have parted ways with life long friends for absence of support for PTI, some have labeled others as national traitors, while some have crossed lines of decency by making use of bad language and the real extreme ones even resorting to death threats. People of Karachi, all that sound familiar?
My individual experience with Tehrik e Insaf supporters goes back to my time in the United Kingdom back in 2008-9 when I too was a graduate university student in the British capital London. Pakistani student associations at not only my university (King's College London) but also other universities in the capital were very active in promoting their support for the cricketer turned politician as well as trying to arrange his talks and seminars on the future of Pakistan at their respective campuses. I myself have attended three of them one held at my own university, one held at University College London and one at the London School of Economics. In addition to that a fair amount of time was spent around people that generally had great admiration for Khan himself.
There were a lot of things quite admirable about Imran Khan chairman of PTI. For a lot of Pakistani's he is their childhood hero especially for those in their 20s and 30s he is a hero they grew up believing in, and belief in Kaptaan or captain went back to their childhoods in the 80's and the 90's. He was a dynamic leader on the cricketing field when he was captain of the Pakistan cricket team and thrived despite the odds. He captained the Pakistani cricket team to countless test victories around the globe and towards the end of his career despite a threatening injury, in the 1987 Cricket World Cup took Pakistan to the Semi Final and finally World Champions in the 1992 edition of the cricket world cup in Australia. Before a crowd of 87000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Imran Khan lifted the Cricket World, Pakistan's first Word Cup and dedicated it to the people of Pakistan. I was only seven but I remember that day, the joy that World Cup victory brought to us, and the great escape in the semi final before that courtesy of Javed Miandad and Inzamam ul Haq.
Imran Khan retired immediately after the World Cup handing over the captaincy to Javed Mianded and dedicated himself to building the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital in Lahore so that free state of the art health care could be offered to the needy. The noble cause of Imran Khan took many years and years of hard work and a donation drive that took him not only across Pakistan but across the globe. Around the same time, he did try and kick start his politcal career.
By winning the World Cup, Imran Khan gave us Pakistani's particularly th youth the belief that we can be World Beaters both on and off the field essentially kick starting our highly integrated emotions with the performance of our cricket team followed by SKH and in the years that followed establishing Namal College. Through SKH and Namal he further reinforced the sense of heroic belief that such philanthropy does not require state level support and can be initiated and executed by an ordinary individual with the right intention.
This sense of hero icon attachment played a very big role in inspiring people with his fiery energetic campaign speeches where he promised the youth and his would be supporters an idealistic Pakistan, a Utopian Pakistan where the problems of present would cease to exist, where there would exist equal opportunity for everyone, man, women, child, rich and poor regardless. A Pakistan where we will have endless respect in the international community, a Pakistan we can proud off. with talks of revolution and how great revolution. Such talk, such rhetoric only serves the purpose of further sensitizing the already overly emotional, volatile and at times judgmental and impatient youth of Pakistan that wants nothing short of perfection and idealism.
On paper all that looks really really great but ground realities can be a great obstacle and no magic wand in the world can over night change the way Pakistan works and functions, as Anatol Levin has described Pakistan in his book as a tough country one that has survived so many ordeals and is still functioning. Pakistan functioning the way it is no short of a miracle considering all that it has gone through in its history.
So when PTI supporters get aggressive be it online or offline, they are actually under the belief their doing so out of not just patriotic duty, but a sense of obligation to the one they believe can deliver this so called NAYA PAKISTAN. It is the right of every Pakistani to want a Pakistan that delivers and lives upto their expectation. They desperately want that NAYA PAKISTAN and are fully convinced that it is only possible through this man, Imran Khan, so any disagreements on the belief that Khan Can deliver is nothing short of blasphemy. One can only hope and pray a day comes whens difference of political opinions and diversity of political support becomes acceptable again as it is a necessity for any pluralistic and progressive society.