Imran Khan a serious contender in Pakistan election

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Imran Khan talking to ITV News about his election hopes. Photo: ITV News

Imran Khan is still cool and charismatic and in part, that is why he has become a serious contender in the general election here.

But there’s another reason. On the cricket pitch his timing was invariably sublime and so too is it in the field of Pakistani politics.

His campaign is distinctly Obama ’08. Imran promises hope and change to a jaded nation tired of perpetual decline. Like Obama Imran seems to have captured the attention of the youthful and if they turn out for him he’ll do well.

Barack Obama speaks to supporters after winning the 2008 US Election. Credit: Dennis Van Tine/ABACA USA

No-one expects him to win outright, but his party may get enough seats to be part of the next coalition.

He now wears a flakjacket, which he claims is proof of progress. As the assassination of Benazir Bhutto shows, Pakistani politics is a blood sport and those who threaten the established way of things – as Imran is doing – play a dangerous game.

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007. Credit: Sean Dempsey/PA Archive

In the overall scheme of things death has become part of political life in Pakistan. Every day someone involved in the election, whether it be a candidate or a party worker, is killed by a bomb or bullet. So frequent are the attacks they almost go unnoticed.

The Pakistani Taliban view democracy as un-Islamic and are trying to destroy what will be an historic election next Saturday.

Never before has a government gone full-term and handed over to another civilian administration.

Supporters of Imran Khan wave flags at a political rally. Credit: ITV News

There is consensus that the outgoing coalition has been a disaster and disillusionment with all things politics would be understandable.

But in Pakistan self-determination through democracy was hard-fought for and is cherished to this day.

Imran Khan addresses supporters at a rally. Credit: ITV News

Many experts predict a record turn-out and the Taliban may have got it wrong if they thought they could blow that off course.