Pakistan’s Imran Khan problem
Sense of self-grandeur is perhaps a prerequisite in politics, but it must be checked before it turns into megalomania and threatens to overturn the democratic order of things. Despite his noble intentions, Pakistan’s posterboy of politics, cricketer-turned-politician and leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan is fast turning into such a danger, imperiling the already fraught parliamentary process in the country. While teaming up with the Barelvi cleric Tahir ul-Qadri and launching a relentless campaign against rising instances of corruption under the Nawaz Sharif regime are both crucial steps to bolster the opposition’s say in the conflicted corridors of Islamabad, it cannot become an excuse to hold the democratically elected government to ransom. Hence, while Khan, a passionate and charming politician with a talent for much-required ideological rabble-rousing, is right to bring to international notice the deteriorating state of Pakistani administration, he is certainly taking a misguided step in his hurried quest to dismantle the present, electorally chosen dispensation at the centre. Khan’s emphatic declarations, riding the gift of the spectacular and an array of television cameras at his beck and call, glamorous globalised faces from within and outside of the political demography, first promised to storm prime minister Sharif’s official residence in Islamabad asking for his unconditional resignation over increasing corruption, unemployment, political disenchantment, water and power woes as well as law and order crises in the country. Later, Khan had to temper down his tone and demand only a month-long temporary resignation of the PM, so that impartial inquiry into allegations of electoral rigging during the May 2013 national polls could be undertaken.
It is important to underline here that Imran Khan, who commands a formidable political support in Pakistan and mammoth fan following on the international dais, is correct in his diagnosis but wrong in his treatment of the maladies ailing his country. His ambition to lay foundation for a Naya Pakistan is predicated on a slippery slope if it begins with hobnobbing with the notorious 500,000-strong Army, whose commander, COAS Raheel Sharif has had a rendezvous with the PTI chief recently. If Khan is banking on a soft coup and relying on his moral grandstanding to undo years of democratic struggle to install a civilian government and ward off the Army’s repeated overtures to take on the mantle, he’s committing a grievous mistake. Moreover, his sprezzatura of telegenic rhetoric, while undoubtedly being stuff of global political gossip, would fall flat before the debilitating hold that the army still retains on Pakistan’s psyche. Khan should take cue from the fates of Egypt, Turkey and the demonic deterioration of Arab Spring, once popular uprisings, that were allowed to become exercises to satisfy bloated egos of the respective military leaders. Applying the rules of cricket in the political arena might not always work, the suave Pakistani should understand by now.