By Najam Sethi
01 May 2015
The Judicial Commission investigating Imran Khan’s charge of “a systematic and designed conspiracy” by a group of persons and institutions to rig the 2013 has heard nothing significant in this regard from the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and its lawyers in the last two weeks. Indeed, the PTI has inexplicably refrained from naming ex-Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, and his colleague ex-Justice Khalil Ramday, in the charge sheet, although the two gentlemen figured prominently in Imran Khan’s repeated accusations earlier. Much the same omission is conspicuous in the case of Geo TV which was earlier much maligned by Mr Khan. In the former case, it appears that Imran Khan’s legal eagles have advised against naming the two ex-judges before their honourable colleagues, not least because the ex-CJP has also sued Imran Khan for libel and would have relished an opportunity to thunder against him in the SC. In the latter case, Mr Khan has kissed and made up with Geo and is now receiving excessive coverage.
The other alleged “conspirators” in Imran Khan’s charge-sheet include the Chief Election Commissioner and his four provincial colleagues, the corpus of Returning Officers, and Najam Sethi, the Caretaker Chief Minister of Punjab. Thus far, the PTI has merely presented all the petitions and data submitted to various election tribunals earlier and not recorded a pertinent slip of evidence of any planned conspiracy. Evidence of any secretly recorded conversation between Mr Sethi and Nawaz Sharif discussing “35 punctures” is also missing even though Mr Khan has never tired of hurling the accusation time and again against the ex-CM (he refuses to appear in court to defend the libel charge against him brought by Mr Sethi). Interestingly, Mr Sethi was the first to write to the JC requesting the Chairman to ask Mr Khan to bring whatever evidence he has against him so that he can defend himself against the charges and get his name cleared in the SC.
The JC has time and again asked the PTI lawyers to address the central question of a systematic and designed conspiracy to rig the elections as per the TORs of the Ordinance setting up the JC. But the PTI is assiduously sidestepping the issue because there was no such conspiracy and there is therefore no evidence of it. In fact it is now clear that Imran Khan had conjured up the “rigging conspiracy” in pursuit of his own conspiracy to topple the elected government of Nawaz Sharif in cahoots with a section of the military Intel-establishment that wanted to perpetuate its own rule and thwart the efforts of the new army chief, General Raheel Sharif, from starting accountability from home. (A number of ex-Generals, including ex-army chief General Ashfaq Kayani, are now being investigated by the new military leadership for corrupt practices).
Imran Khan has now said that he will accept the judgment of the JC even if it throws his allegations into the trash bin. This is yet another implicit admission of failure. He had also said he would never return to the National Assembly because it was polluted and disgusting. Yet he is now comfortably ensconced in its midst. He said he would not abandon the “dharna” until Nawaz Sharif quit government. Now the “dharna” seems like an illusion of the past and Mr Sharif is firmly in the saddle. He said the Taliban were “misguided Muslims” who should be walked the talk. Now he admits they are terrorists who should be eliminated. He said intra-party elections in the PTI were unprecedentedly free and fair. Now the very Election Tribunal headed by ex-Justice Wajihuddin that Imran Khan set up to investigate petitions of irregularities has handed down a damning verdict against these elections and top nominees of the PTI. Piqued, Imran Khan has dismissed Justice Wajihuddin and his own Tribunal out of hand. The man who claims to herald a new dawn in a new Pakistan has packed his party with corrupt, incompetent and juvenile politicians and is acting like an unaccountable and mendacious dictator even before he has ascended the throne in Islamabad.
Inevitably, there is a price to be paid for such bull headedness and misplaced concreteness. Two recent developments, a by-election in Karachi and local elections in Cantonments across the country under army supervision, suggest that the PTI’s popularity graph is highly exaggerated and may be waning. The MQM trounced the PTI by an embarrassing margin of over 60,000 votes in Karachi despite vigourous canvassing by Khan himself. And in the Cantonment Elections, the PMLN whipped the PTI in Punjab by raking in twice as many seats. The PTI’s embarrassment was all the more acute because it was outstripped in cities like Lahore, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, etc., where it claimed “massive rigging” by the PMLN in the 2013 general elections.
Imran Khan’s greatest asset is the idealistic and disgruntled youth of Pakistan that is looking up to him for principled and clean politics. Unfortunately, he is eroding their trust and confidence with his quixotic adventurism.