After the Judicial Commission verdict about the alleged poll irregularities, Imran Khan has little to lose and a lot to gain by re-ordering his priorities and re-arranging his political focus. More than anything else, he needs a cool head over his shoulders
KARAMATULLAH K GHORI
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Special Judicial Commission’s report on the last general elections in Pakistan has cleared up the fog surrounding the exercise. The dust kicked up by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, casting serious doubts about the fairness of the enterprise, should now be settling down, for good.
The Commission’s findings are, no doubt, a blessing in disguise to Nawaz Sharif. He has been handed down a verdict that, now, unequivocally endorses the legitimacy of his unprecedented third-time ascent to power in Pakistan.
To Nawaz’ acolytes and aficionados—whose ranks are certain to swell in the light of the ruling—the legitimacy of his third innings in power was, perhaps, never in doubt. However, there were many who saw a lot of wisdom in Imran Khan’s raucous challenge to the way the last elections were conducted and the outcome spawned as a result of it.
Restraint, of any kind, has never been a strong suit in the game of politics and power-play in Pakistan—and none has reason to doubt this statement in the light of over-the-board national reaction to the Commission’s findings.
To those setting their store by Nawaz and his clique, the verdict is a resounding victory for their leader and a slap in the face of Imran and followers. To the PML(N) jiyalas their man stands fully vindicated and, by the same token, his nemesis, Imran, repudiated and smeared in shame. However, neither of it is true.
All that the Commission has come out with is a verdict that is typically circumspect and cautiously calibrated to not upset the apple cart spawned by the last elections.
Starting with the apex court presided over by Justice Munir Ahmed, in the early 1950s, rarely, if ever, has our top judicial organ inconvenienced the status quo. Nawaz has been treated with a typically soft and tender glove. But it still isn’t an entirely lop-sided verdict by the honorable judges of the Commission. They may have given the benefit of the doubt to Nawaz—by asserting that they didn’t find any reason to believe there was organised subterfuge behind the electoral exercise—but haven’t, at the same time, left Imran out in the cold, entirely.
By stating that the Election Commission of Pakistan didn’t perform up to its mandated role in conducting a smear-less and clean exercise, the honorable judges have, in a very dignified way, rubbed the noses of those stuffing the ranks of ECP in the dust.
By implication, the judges have handed Imran something to hang on to. If not, categorically, an endorsement of Imran’s stand that there was wholesale bungling of the election process, it does augment his argument that the exercise was carried out with a flawed machinery and, hence, the outcome of the elections will continue to be wrapped in a thick fog of suspicion.
But the miasma of dis-balanced and deeply-fractured society triggered in the wake of the verdict is far too pungent to be ignored.
A well organized media campaign has quickly filled the air-waves and space in-between to sling mud to their hearts’ content against Imran and PTI. The owners and managers of these outfits have long been sold out—and pawned their souls—to the likes of Zardari and have no shame to toe the line dictated by this arch villain of the Pakistani political culture.
There’s nary a doubt that Imran being pilloried with such enthusiasm must be music to the ears of Nawaz and his party. Even if the ruling elite of PML(N) is not a partisan in this shameful media trial of an icon of Pakistan, they are, clearly, guilty of spectating the filth with their lips sealed, if not a smirk of satisfaction on their faces.
Has PTI been put on the back-foot in the face of this relentless onslaught? To a certain extent, yes, this may be true. And stories of in-fighting in its ranks, if not the top echelons, aren’t exactly helping the cause of the party or adding to the confidence of those still standing by it with unflinching resolve.
It’s a huge challenge, no doubt, for Imran, personally. As skipper of his ship, he has the onerous task to pilot the craft skillfully and lead it out of the rough shoals. It’s a challenge for him because he’d staked so much of his prestige and standing on his proclaimed fight to get justice for his party. He’d made it, virtually, into a personal crusade to rid the system of its deep flaws and bring about a change for the better.
So, understandably, Imran is the one charged with the onus of carrying the cross on his shoulders and lead his beleaguered party to the shores of salvation.
Imran’s ability to do the task shouldn’t be a cause of doubt to those who have known him and have a measure of his personal traits and qualities. He has it, in his guts, to rise to a tough challenge; his cricketing career is studded with ample evidence of the old adage: the tough gets going when things get tough.
What Imran needs is both good advice and a cool, calm and calibrated frame of mind in this critical hour. The time for bringing forth the best in him, and put it to work right away, is now.
First, and foremost, there’s an ineluctable need for him to be dispassionate about the task on his hands. His loud-mouthed critics have long been swearing by it that the Kaptan is far too emotional to be a good and successful politician. They say he shoots first and thinks later. He has to prove the parroting detractors wrong.
Imran must shift gears and realize that the days of street protests are gone and done with. The jury is still out on whether his raucous Dharna had any merit in it or was a complete disaster. But whatever the verdict, it’s history and has no justification, in the light of current realities, to be repeated.
The venue for the ‘fight’ has shifted to the House of Parliament. That’s where the battles should be fought for a democratic system shorn and cleansed of corruption.
There’s no reason for Imran to entertain any fancy notion that he can still upstage Nawaz and topple him. No, my friend, that’s not going to happen. Deeply flawed and moth-eaten as the status quo is, it still seems to have a shelf-life of another three years left in it.
There’s no need for Imran to fret over the longevity of a regime loathed by him. Mythical as it may seem to its defenders and partisans, the Pakistani ‘establishment’ has no taste for any more political upheavals at this stage. I don’t blame them. They have far too much on their plate to entertain any notion of piling on to it. Pakistan is in the throes of trying and testing times—genuinely so—and no well-wisher of the country should have appetite for more.
Three more years of power may be a gift from heavens to Nawaz and the nincompoops surrounding him. But Imran, too, should look at the prospect as a blessing of sorts. He has three years to get his act together and line up his team to give PML(N) a run for its money when the nation goes back to the polls, in 2018.
Even a cynical, palpably skewed, interpretation of the status quo should give heart to Imran and his team; they should have reason to count on it that the corrupt ruling cabal will have collected many trophies of shady dealings and scandals by the hustings time. That will be manna to Imran and PTI, something that they should exploit to their own benefit at the polls. Look at it this way, boys; the adversary will have blackened his face enough for you to shred him to fragments.
Apart from keeping a sharp focus on his fief, in KPK, and the fertile land-of-opportunity that Punjab is, Imran ought to rivet his gaze on the problem-infested province of Sindh.
As things stand, today, and as they are likely to be in shape, by the time of the next polls in 2018, Sindh will be ripe to be plucked by PTI, especially the urban part of it.
Three years hence, PPP, still being preened by the vultures, will be a skeleton ready to be buried in Sindh urban. It may still have some presence left in Sindh rural, where ignorance ( jahiliya) is still deep-rooted and the writ of Wadera-shahi fairly intact. For all intents and purposes, PPP could be left to wallow in its self-created misery in the backwaters of Sindh’s interiors.
However, MQM, more an extortionist mafia than a political party, should be history by 2018. The Mafioso—an unmitigated disaster—is still at work, with his shenanigans, to drive his outfit into the abyss of no-return; his minions and henchmen, still active in Karachi, seem intent on presiding over its un-ceremonial burial.
This scribe has argued before—and doesn’t mind repeating it here—that Karachi is PTI’s for the taking provided this is done with a clearly thought-out plan. Imran ought to line up the finest of his team to descend on Karachi, stay put here without a time-limit and work to attract to PTI’s ranks the disgruntled elements of MQM. Many of these harangued and deeply frustrated cadres of MQM should be looking for a shoulder to lean on. Imran has his work cut out to offer it to them.
The bottom-line in the whole argument is that Imran has little to lose and a lot to gain by re-ordering his priorities and re-arranging his political focus. More than anything else, he needs a cool head over his shoulders. It’s for him to prove his fans and followers right by rising to the moment like the man of the hour. He can do it. Yes, he can do it, if only he’d think rationally, coolly, and calmly. The time is now. The countdown has begun.
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