Letter to Editor
As the gloom deepens in Pakistan people search for a saviour. There is much talk these days in the streets and alleyways of the advent of a masiha (messiah in English).
I find this reflected often in the popular Urdu press. Look through the op-ed section of almost any Urdu paper and there is someone yearning for a masiha... every day. This got me thinking. Who is this masiha? Is it realistic to expect him to show up? Is it someone we already know? Or is he out there and we just don’t know about him yet?
Set aside mythology, religion and eschatology and it seems that this masiha people have in mind is a strong, courageous, honest and decent leader. He will galvanize the masses around him and they will rise to banish evil and corruption and injustice from the land. And thenceforth peace, and justice and harmony will prevail.
Could this be asking for too much? History may be a useful guide. There have been times when leaders have emerged in the midst of chaos and despair. Guided by will power, conviction and force of personality they have single handedly changed the destiny of nations. Ataturk emerged from the crumbling ruins of the Ottoman empire to make modern Turkey. Ibn Saud fought on horseback with a sword in his hand to unite what is modern Saudi Arabia. Churchill took the helm in the stormiest of seas and steered Britannia home. One could continue. But the point is made: Masihas can and do (sometimes) appear.
So, is there a masiha in Pakistan? The obvious choice is Imran Khan. A national cricket hero, he’s charismatic, articulate, and leader of the most ‘go to’ party these days. Strange then that not once have I seen him referred to as a ‘masiha’ by the Urdu op-ed pundits. Now why would they not see him has one?
Ordinary mortals can only speculate. Some make the point that Mr. Khan is a ‘default masiha’. Since everyone else out there is so egregiously bad Mr. Khan stands out from the crowd. Others think that the Khan lacks some of ingredients critical to a true masiha. He seems to be missing a certain common touch. The bear hug. The easy smile. The eveready handshake. Words from the heart.
So with the Khan disqualified is there someone else out there we’ve not yet seen? This is not an easy one to answer. It takes us into crystal ball territory. But I decided to have a shot at it in any case.
The logical place to start seemed to be in the plethora of our registered political parties. And they are a plethora - 150 plus and counting. Sifting through them and the people who stand behind them is not easy. But then searching for a yet to appear masiha never is. Had it been so my friends across the aisle, in a manner of speaking, at the Urdu papers would have done it already.
Back to our subject. The trawl through our registered parties was long and boring. Did I find the gem I was looking for? I can’t be sure. But of all the parties I looked through one did catch my attention. Maybe because of the catchy name - Mustaqbil Pakistan. Delved a little deeper to discover it is led by a man who is not even a politician. Nadeem Mumtaz Qureshi, Mustaqbil Pakistan’s Chairman, has degrees from MIT and Harvard and even an MA in Arabic. But none of this impressed me, of course.
What did strike me was when I watched some of his videos. He spoke from the heart and seemed genuine and approachable. The many pictures on the party’s FB page show certain warmth, even affection for people. Does all of this a masiha make?
In the topsy turvy, rapidly changing, not to mention cut throat world of Pakistani journalism making predictions can be just as dangerous to one’s reputation as being in politics can be to one’s health. So I’m going to pass on this one.
What I will do though, is to continue to keep an eye on the columns of my friends from across the aisle. So watch this space. If the masiha does come this is where you will see him first.