I need not wax eloquent on Imran Khan’s cricketing days. Imagine. Imran ready to bowl. Head lunging forward, piercing gaze, body curved in a magnificent arch. A long stooping run up, mane trailing, culminates into a spectacular leap, body taut and air borne. The ball released with a heave jags shattering the wickets as the batsmen shuffles, utterly stupefied. We were all in love with the sight and expected similar verve and flamboyance when Imran embraced politics. To be fair, politics is no cricket ground and in the quirky, capricious world of Pakistani politics, reverse swing just won’t do. That he brought glory to Pakistan is a fact known to all and has been gratifying on many levels, a nascent nation fighting the behemoths, shaking off the colonial chains beating the masters at their own game. But what do we make of his political career, progress and ambition? For starters, let’s admit, he has indeed evolved into a force of serious political reckoning despite playing by his own vague set of rules. But along the way he has also tripped, and not without consequences. A wise soul once said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” How is he different? He utters the same cliches, spouts the same idiom while holding out the same platter of promises. Yet, he has been able to stand out in the din. And that has more to do with our fondness for his cricketing past than any concrete plan to turn things around. A media debate rages for a verdict on Imran’s political odyssey. The question of Imran becoming the Prime Minister is actually superfluous. This conveniently ignores Imran’s success in whipping up the urban groundswell, breathing life into certain segments of the society, unleashing forces that would potentially drive meaningful electoral change in Pakistan in due course. To his credit, he has been chipping away at the political constructs and idols, challenging our choices and our rationales. Imran won the World Cup for Pakistan, the pinnacle of a brilliant career. But before that he had to galvanize a clutch of talented rebels into a fighting whole. That was perhaps the real victory. Has he been able to lead PTI with the same flair? I had the opportunity to attend one of his rallies in Lahore and was fascinated to see educated, well-off families waving and chanting in unison. As wind and rain lashed their faces, as the sky roared and winked, people stood rooted to the ground imbibing the excitement, hoping to be part of something monumental. His grand rallies aside, the portents of a tsunami have not come true. But he has been successful in working up enough urban froth by politicizing inert sections of the electorate. Educated youth and women participation in the elections will make them much more inclusive and representative. The emergence of PTI also broke the stranglehold of the two-party system and this effectively means more choice for people. Political competition creates positive chaos and public is invariably a beneficiary. Imran’s famous Dharna was a monumental failure. Imran’s obsessive demand of PM’s resignation blinded him to the possibility of securing electoral reforms using brinkmanship, and which would have been a greater victory. He has been relentless on the issue of corruption but I can’t think of one politician or official in KP who was prosecuted and punished for cheating on people and stealing their money. In many ways Imran has not been any different from the usual lot throwing promises here and there for popular consumption. And he never had a well-defined plan to fix monsters like economy, corruption, tax collection etc. He could have approached the morass differently, but he chose to drown in the same bog crying help. He was the new kid on the block and it was fair to expect well thought out reforms that aimed at the long term instead of pandering to the short term, cosmetic fixes. He is also blessed with the same Pakistani supporter who refuses to see his leader as human and liable to faltering and goes to great lengths to justify his missteps and ideological contradictions. Imran has been a very vocal critic of dynastic politics but did not bat an eyelid when he awarded the ticket to Ali Tareen, son of the electable, Jehangir Tareen. Imran may not be corrupt in the sense we Pakistanis define corruption but that in no way absolves him of his actions and decisions that have had consequences for PTI in particular and political evolution of Pakistan in general. Simply speaking, Imran Khan squandered away a great opportunity to be more than a catalyst, a pressure group or simply another option on the choice spectrum. Democracy now walks the frail gait of a sick man, needing patient attention and frequent shots in the arm. Pakistan can’t possibly afford to undo the democratic progress over the last decade that saw country’s first civilian transition in government and now eyes another in 2018. We must let the rejuvenated electorate chart the course for Pakistan. Let people choose who rules them. Our rulers including Imran, live a life of luxury and privilege far removed from the harsh reality. Even the middle class finds it difficult to empathize with the misery of the poor, let alone rich politicians. And this means a serious disconnect between the rulers, the aspiring rulers and the 70 per cent of Pakistan.The writer has years of experience in both corporate and public sectors. He moonlights as a journalist Published in Daily Times, February 22nd 2018.