By Najam Sethi
05 Dec 2014
Imran Khan’s “Dharna” to oust Nawaz Sharif has taken so many twists and turns that it is difficult to predict his next moves. Is it all pre-planned? Or is he desperately trying to keep his political prospects alive by hook or by crook?
Once upon a time, Imran Khan lauded CJP Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to the skies when the Supreme Court was going hammer and tongs against the NRO, when it sacked a sitting prime minister, and when it drummed up Memogate. But when the same CJP refused to entertain Khan’s petition against “electoral rigging”, he accused him of being the “chief culprit who rigged the 2013 elections”.
Once upon a time, Imran showered GEO with unstinting praise as the most outstanding TV channel in the country because GEO was giving him nearly 20% of all air-talk time, helping him raise FUNDS for flood-affected people, and generally building him up as the great white hope of Pakistan. However, when GEO felt obliged to balance its coverage and critique, he accused it of kowtowing to Nawaz Sharif and committing treason.
Once upon a time, Imran Khan went to London to file criminal charges against the MQM’s Altaf Hussain. Then he accused Altaf of rigging the 2013 elections in Karachi. But recently he has been sugar and honey because he doesn’t want the MQM to disrupt or deny his dharnas in Karachi.
Once upon a time Imran praised the caretaker chief minister of Punjab for conducting the most neutral administration in the country. Now he is accusing him of applying “35 punctures” to PMLN’s losing seats.
Once upon a time, Khan profusely welcomed Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim as the fairest and most independent CEC in the history of Pakistan. Now he says Fakhru Bhai was complicit in the rigging by the provincial election commissioners.
Once upon a time, lying in his hospital bed the day after the election results were announced, Khan gamely accepted his defeat and vowed not to allow anyone to derail or destabilize democracy. (Asad Umar publicly appreciated the verdict and congratulated Nawaz Sharif.) Now he says the PTI was decisively robbed of victory not just in a clutch of Punjab constituencies but in all of Pakistan.
In all his thunderous and self-righteous allegations Imran Khan has never bothered to produce a shred of evidence or proof. Nor has he had the moral courage to defend his wild accusations in court.
Khan’s “Dharnas” take the cake. Plan A was August 14 when the end was supposedly nigh for Nawaz Sharif. But it fizzled out in Islamabad’s D Chowk when the “third umpire” didn’t raise his finger and Tahir ul Qadri abandoned him. Plan B was another Dharna on November 30. When it also failed to impress the government, Plan C was hastily announced to bring Lahore (December 4), Faisalabad (8th), Karachi (12th) and then Pakistan to a grinding halt on December 16 (quite forgetting that the Fall of Dhaka and dismemberment of Pakistan took place on that fateful day in 1971). The very next day, these dates were pushed forward and it was announced that instead of a general shutdown strike the PTI’s youthful activists would protest on the main arteries of the cities and allow business as usual to be conducted elsewhere.
Now the Mother of All Plans, Plan D, is being threatened if Plan C fails. God alone knows what is in store for Pakistanis. If Khan intends to run through the alphabet from A to Z, no one should be surprised. But he is losing steam.
Not so long ago, Khan was adamant that he would not stop before the ouster of Nawaz Sharif in August, then in November, then in December. Now he is predicting the end for Nawaz before Eid next year.
Unfortunately, pride and prejudice continue to stand in the way of sense and sensibility. Imran Khan says he will call off his Dharnas if the government accepts his TORs for a judicial commission, assisted by the third umpire’s ISI and MI that completes its findings in six weeks, and is assured of Nawaz Sharif’s resignation, followed by fresh elections if the commission finds widespread electoral malpractices. This is an impossible and unrealistic demand: the SC cannot be told how to conduct an inquiry; the government cannot be expected to refrain from laying down strictly verifiable TORs; and such an inquiry cannot be completed in six months, let alone six weeks. The talks won’t get anywhere if Khan refuses to budge.
Agreed that Imran Khan is a dogged and timely campaigner against corruption and bad governance. Agreed, too, that he has galvanized the youth of Pakistan to rise and agitate for “change” like no one else before him. But he is tarring all and sundry who stand in his way while he is the Teflon Man against whom no charge will stick. The tragedy is he is doing his great cause a disservice by tilting at the windmills and spreading disorder and confusion across the land.