OPINION: Snowden and Imran Khan –The Windmill

Famed whistleblower Edward Snowden would most certainly win worldwide, if polls are held on social media. But Imran Khan would probably lose, as his gripe doesn’t cross more than 10 degrees north and south of the Tropic of Cancer.

IRSHAD SALIM — Back in October 2016, I had written that Imran Khan is no Edward Snowden in polls. While the famed whistleblower would probably win worldwide, if polls are held on social media, Khan Sahib would lose, as his gripe doesn’t cross more than 10 degrees north and south of Tropic of Cancer.

Fast forward: Snowden now faces extradition and Mr. Khan has become the Prime minister– graduating from trying to become a one-man demolition squad, a firefighter, to a reformer. The ride is and will be as surreal as the Beethovan’s 5th Symphony animation. (Watch here)

This is how things are moving with headwinds giving bumpy rides, and the time it normally takes to reach destination Islamabad from New York is almost two hours additional as compared to other way around– because of tailwinds and not so bumpy flight.

I wrote then that there is a strain of similarity between Edward Snowden and Imran Khan – their gambit and the gadfly in them.

Snowden thought morally “necessary” to shine a light on mass surveillance in his society. Khan is braving to fight injustice, mass corruption and absence of rule of law in his country.

While the former’s hilltop is the rich and the effluent in his society, the latter’s little pond is the socio-economic effluent in his country Pakistan — a country where the poor can be seen on the streets but the rich hide in their Gotham cities.

Both “pinheads” (to use catchphrase describing those who swim against the normal) are unapologetic whistleblowers though and disruptionists. In their phylosophical and intellectual pursuits, they have however hit highpoints, touched raw nerves and struck chords.

Snowden would most certainly win worldwide if polls are held on the social media. Surveillance is an inconvenient invisible fly on every cellphone, notepad and laptop. But Khan Sahib would probably lose as his gripe doesn’t cross more than few latitudes north and south of the Tropic of Cancer where his country’s good, the bad ones and the ugly are located.

I also wrote then that both like Don Quixote of La Mancha, are seeking sense and connectivity as war booty and pat on their back. Snowden connected and got a smile from the girl next door. Now he wants to loose it all by first seeking pardon which has been responded with his extradition efforts to the US. Khan, on the other hand won, and may lose the capital unwittingly as many Cervantes surround him, I wrote earlier also.

Snowden’s Sancho Panza is his shadow, Khan’s is the absence of his Sancho Panza.

Former’s spear is the wikileaks, latters’ his ‘Naya Pakistan’. Both’s windmills are awesomely gigantic in the status quo milieu.

And that’s the way it is — as Walter Cronkite used to say.

Cronkite, an American broadcast journalist, was best known as anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81). He was no Quixote nor a Cervantes. The American family trusted his broadcasts. His connectivity was real, telegraphic and soulful.

During the heyday of CBS News in the 1960s and 1970s, he was often cited as “the most trusted man in America” after being so named in an opinion poll. He reported many events from 1937 to 1981, including bombings in World War II; the Nuremberg trials; the Vietnam War; Watergate scandal; the Iran Hostage Crisis; the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King, Jr., and Beatles founder John Lennon. These were his “Wikileaks”.

Cronkite’s well known departing catchphrase “And that’s the way it is,” followed by the broadcast’s date is awfully relevant in Pakistan. Keeping to standards of objective journalism, or shall I say high moral grounds, Cronkite used to omit this phrase on nights when he ended the newscast with opinion or commentary. Here it’s the opposite.

Khan keeps saying “And that’s the way it is” to his supporters — the youth, the women, the apolitical ones, the marginalized, etc.

Cronkite walked into sunset. The American whistleblower wants to do the same.

Khan doesn’t think so. He wants to conquer the real windmill — passionately charging it with his army of resolves against economic and social evils besetting his country.

Thanks to Snowden, leaks have produced a “new normal” worldwide.  Khan keeps getting hit as he goes on attempting to cement the new normal he has created. He now wants to charge against this windmill. But Sancho Panza is not really there. The Cervantes are, and the windmill’s for real.

The author is a business consultant, analyst, and Editor-in-Chief of PKonweb.com and DesPardes.com. He’s presently based in Islamabad.

The original piece (Oct 2016) also appeared in UAE-based CaravanDaily.com

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