A lot of melodrama has been generated by Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief and cricket legend Imran Khan’s visit to the mausoleum of Baba Fariduddin Ganjshakar at Pakpattan. A video clip shows him prostrating at the mausoleum. Afterwards, a lot of hue and cry invoking rulings against such behaviour as un-Islamic have been issued by his opponents. Personally, I find Imran Khan conforming perfectly to the way all charismatic leaders of the Pakistan movement projected their image as pious and God-fearing Muslims who were Men of Destiny, chosen by Providence to lead Muslims to God’s Kingdom on Earth. The trendsetter was the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. From a man known for his cigars and dogs and his regular drink of alcohol, who was always dressed in British upper-class attire — notwithstanding the heat and humidity of Bombay — he metamorphosed in 1937 at the Lucknow session of the All-India Muslim into an upper-class Muslim of the north-western India, wearing the achkan and kurakali topi which became famous as the Jinnah Cap and shalwar. Thereafter he could be seen taking part in the Eid Prayers and Eid Milad-al-Nabi celebrations and his speeches are replete with Islamist phraseology and terminology as he launched a relentless campaign to convince Muslims to support the Pakistan demand. Contrary to revisionist historians of both Left and Right, the 1945 election campaign for Pakistan was spearheaded by Barelvi pirs and mashaikh and was won in the name of Islam. It is ludicrous to say that the Muslim League itself did not include a commitment to an Islamic state in its manifesto. The election was conducted in the streets and mohallas and I have yet to meet any Pakistani who has ever read the manifesto of all parties before he or she cast their vote. People even don’t read the manifesto of their own political party from beginning to end. They are swayed by outer exhibition and tall promises. Those were in abundant supply in 1945 and 1946. I have demonstrated this in my recent works. Contrary to revisionist historians of both Left and Right, the 1945 election campaign for Pakistan was spearheaded by Barelvi pirs and mashaikh and was won in the name of Islam. It is ludicrous to say that the Muslim League itself did not include a commitment to an Islamic state in its manifesto Riding the tiger, Jinnah, whether by choice or inadvertently,had tied his hands: Pakistan had to be an ideal Islamic state. What it actually meant to Jinnah one can always discuss but it most certainly never meant a secular state. Jinnah tried on August 11, 1947 to make a feeble attempt to jump off the tiger, but once you ride the Pakistani tiger you better keep yourself on its back otherwise the tiger will devour you. Jinnah Sahib realized that immediately and in his later pronouncements declared that Pakistan will be a great state of Muslims where Sharia will be the main source of law and much more. His early death left a legacy of conflicting interpretations of what he wanted, but one thing is crystal clear: the Pakistani Tiger could only be free in a mental and physical space defined and demarcated by an Islamic boundary. The second charismatic leader who rode the tiger was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Starting as an Islamic socialist and gaining great popularity because of it,he went on the defensive when the Islamists launched a vicious campaign against him. He first watered it down to Islami Musawat (Islamic social justice), then in the hope of snatching from the Ulema the initiative on the Khatam-e-Nabuwat (finality of the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammmad PBUH) issue he first inserted in the 1973 constitution clauses, that not only the president but also the prime minister must be Muslims who believed in the finality of the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In 1974, the Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims, but that still failed to make him a hero of the Ulema. They hounded him even more fiercely. He responded by declaring Friday as the day of rest, banned alcohol, gambling and horse-racing and in his 1977 election manifesto of the PPP it was mentioned that the Holy Quran will be taught in schools until the 10th class. The Ulema wanted an Islamic state with complete control over all affairs and they found their man in General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. Mian Nawaz Sharif was never a charismatic leader, but his political instincts were never second to anyone. In 1999 he was about to declare Sharia as the supreme law of the land when the Musharraf coup prevented that from happening. The Sharifs were the sponsors of Allama Tahirul Qadri and only recently, Mian Shahbaz Sharif donated Punjab University land to some madrassa to demonstrate his loyalty to the tiger. Benazir Bhutto was superstitious, and she and Zardari Sahib had their fair share of pirs, as well as astrologers and other charlatans. So, what is the big deal if Imran Khan is now making it a point to appeal to the vast Barelvi constituency of Pakistan by visiting Sufi shrines? I once reviewed his book and I was impressed by the fact that he honestly mentioned his faith in spiritual people. If I am not wrong, a gentleman, Mian Bashir was his spiritual guide then, and now he has married a devout spiritualist lady. What is wrong with that? Anyone who wants to succeed in politics in Pakistan must ride the tiger. But equally important to remember is that getting off the tiger is not possible with impunity. The Pakistani tiger is my metaphor for the ideal Islamic polity Jinnah promised, Bhutto tried to elaborate and now Imran Khan is again presenting it as the panacea for all our ills. As a political scientist I am quite certain that Pakistan can never be a secular state. So, let’s give a chance to those who are sincere about making it an ideal Islamic state. Quite honestly, I would be very pleased if all those who have amassed huge properties in Pakistan and abroad were given long prison sentences and some sort of rough justice is created so that from there we can move forward. Of course, I would like corrupt to be tried and punished as well. Who will bell the cat? I don’t know. This article is not an endorsement of Imran Khan. However, he should not be ridiculed for practising the basic creed of political success in Pakistan. It is an attempt to explain that the Pakistani tiger cannot be wished away. It is real, and one must try to realise its best qualities rather than deny its existence and great power. The writer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University; Visiting Professor Government College University; and, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He has written a number of books and won many awards, he can be reached on email@example.com Published in Daily Times, July 2nd 2018.