Strange are the ways of politics. Stranger still are those of the Providence. One fall off the lifter and the whole nation’s at shock, showering the PTI leader with their sympathetic show of feelings. The fall and the consequent video that emerged in its wake, in which Imran Khan makes a heartfelt plea to the nation to rise to the occasion, has inspired such a huge wave of sympathy vote, unseen in the recent history of Pakistan.  

Those, who had decided upon either on this or that party, now seem to be inclined toward Imran, the wounded guy. Those who were at a loss to choose the right candidates are now thinking on different lines. Those who were utterly confused as whom to go for in the upcoming polls, have now somehow clear minds. In a nutshell, in a classical example of falsifying all the dearly quoted poll surveys by the national and international organisations, the unexpected seems to happen on May 11.

The major line of argument and the feeling one gets from interacting with the public, both in the actual and virtual world, and analysing the print and electronic media reports, is simply this: “Well, we’ve tried and tested the two brothers-in-arms time and again. We’ve seen their performance. We’ve witnessed their inefficiency. We’ve seen how they brought the country to the brink of a collapse in every aspect. Now enough of them both. Let’s try the new face. Let’s try the new guy. Let’s vote for the change. After all, Imran is no landlord nor an aristocrat. He has a credible background, with some worthwhile achievements for Pakistan. So Bat or no Bat. But why not it?”

The polling dynamics also seem to turn upside down, with big surprises in store for our country’s political pundits and analysts. Perhaps, the fall would do what the OBL statement did on the polls eve in the US back in 2004 and which resulted in the winning of second tenure for George Bush. Even the former government of the PPP owed its tenure to the sympathy vote, witnessed in the aftermath of the BB’s assassination in 2008. (Else, the Sharifs stood a good chance even then). And let’s don’t forget the MMA, which thrived on the same wave of sympathy vote, inspired by the USA’s attack on neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001.

The doctors at the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH) have advised Imran a full week rest. This at a time when his party needs him most. And though, it may seem on the surface that the PML-N and other opponent parties are having a freehand with respect to their election campaigns, Imran’s lying in the hospital bed right on the election eye will have a far-reaching effect on the voters’ collective psyche, fetching him still more sympathy votes. A wounded tiger is more dangerous a creature than a circus one anyway.

Likewise, Imran’s video address to the PTI public rally in Islamabad on May 9, will also leave considerable psychological imprint on the voters’ minds. And why not? After all, we are an emotional nation. The youth were already supportive of him. Now the fair sex will join their ranks, too. Fortunately or unfortunately, there remain now only a couple of days in the final showdown. Else, it would have been extremely interesting to see the surveying organisations findings in the wake of the fall.

It was interesting to see the PML-N’s leader, Shahbaz Sharif, rushing to the SKMCH right after the incident and inquiring about the health of Imran. Equally interesting was his elder brother, Nawaz Sharif’s announcement during his address to a public rally, to postpone the next day’s election activities. A goodwill gesture, one must say. That is what, perhaps, the country needs at this most critical juncture of its history. No more of leg-pulling, mud-throwing and demonising of one another, but mutual understanding, cooperation and unanimity of views on at least the basic issues of terrorism, energy crisis and foreign policy. 

It remains to be seen to what extent the fall would amount to the rise of an otherwise fallen hero of today’s Pakistan’s youth. It also remains to be seen to what extent it would affect the overall mood and voting pattern. And that to what extent it would dent the vote bank of the two conventional parties, PPP and PML-N. But the fact remains that the PTI has emerged as a formidable third force on the country’s political horizon. This, however, is not to underestimate the PML-N clout in the Punjab, which still enjoys the edge of strong winning candidates over the PTI and will most definitely give it a tough time.

Whether the PTI would be able to achieve a sizeable number of seats in the election or not, or will it be able to form the central government, only time can tell. In the meantime, we, as a nation, bear the huge responsibility on our shoulders to remain peaceful during the whole course of the electoral process and accept the polling results - whatever they might be - with an open heart and congratulate the winning party like civilised nations and not to indulge in any unwarranted blame game of polls rigging, street violence and protests. We simply cannot afford them anymore.

    The writer is a freelance columnist.