9 May, The Domino Effect And The Unraveling Of PTI

9 May, The Domino Effect And The Unraveling Of PTI
Party members and some senior office holders of the PTI are jumping ship every day and trying to reach safe harbour, as the ship of the PTI flounders in choppy seas and a storm created by their leader. Just a few days in prison seems to have broken the resolve of all PTI stalwarts and they are quitting in droves. According to Imran Khan, they are leaving because of intense pressure from the security agencies and the threat of further persecution. So far, over 100 members and senior leaders of the PTI have denounced the violence of 9 May and tearfully parted ways with the PTI. It appears that the party is now being dismantled by the very forces who created and carried the party into the corridors of power. The powerful military establishment, once mentor of Imran Khan, is now bent upon teaching him a lesson –striking back with a ferocity and vengeance not seen in recent history.

The rift between the establishment and Imran Khan had started during 2021 on the question of the appointment of the new DG ISI, but matters came to a head when the unruly mobs of Imran Khan supporters attacked and vandalised military facilities and monuments in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Mianwali and Peshawar on 9 May 2023. Under the backlash by security agencies, the PTI seems to have just buckled under.

Imran Khan very seriously miscalculated and misjudged the power and resolve of the establishment and in his arrogant way invited its wrath. The party is far from over, but it may not be possible for Khan to regain his lost political support or influence – or the level of public adulation that he enjoyed before his self-inflicted disaster of 9 May.

Political engineering by security forces has been seen in the past. All political parties like the PPP, PML-N, MQM and ANP have faced such a situation, but no party has crumbled in such a manner. The powerful military establishment with the help of the security apparatus has played the game of political engineering many times, but the manner in which the most popular political force in the country has succumbed so quickly is really surprising. Just a few days in detention and even close confidants of Imran Khan decided to ditch him and declare their allegiance to the state.

Thousands of young party activists who took part very enthusiastically in the mayhem of 9 May are now languishing in jails and detention centres and the party leadership seems to have abandoned them completely. Many party stalwarts are now in serious danger of facing the music under military courts and the anti-terrorism laws of the land. The poor party workers are now paying a heavy price for Imran Khan’s promise of the utopian dream of Riasat-i-Madinah and Naya Pakistan. Some brave diehard party faithful are still sticking to their guns and standing firm with their leader, but the fact is they are hoping against hope. The party is over and the PTI will now end up on the dust heap of history.

The old sordid game of political engineering is being played once again: the puppeteer is pulling the strings. Only the puppets are different, but the ones behind the curtain are the same powerful entities. And political engineering is needed for them to keep a grip on political and economic power.

And so, unfortunately, the game of musical chairs continues unabated. The country has suffered the ignominy of military dictatorships four times in the past. Despite periods of elected government, the power behind the throne has always been the military establishment. And this sordid drama has prevented the growth and establishment of any form of democratic dispensation in the country. Political engineering is a sure way of protecting vested interests and unfortunately all political parties leaning left or right become willing allies and partners of the establishment in order to project and promote their own political agenda.

The rise and eventual success of Imran Khan was a result of direct intervention by the military establishment and now the rift with his previous patrons is blocking his way to power again. Imran Khan with his overblown ego and his belief in his divine right to rule the country is the biggest impediment in the way of any political dialogue. Instead of adopting a parliamentary and democratic method, he started a violent movement, believing in his street power to bring down the PDM government. The ugly scenes witnessed on 9 May are nothing but a consequence of his toxic and vitriolic speeches and instructions to his followers.

No matter what role has been played by Imran Khan, banning the PTI or disqualifying Imran Khan will be no service to democracy – and the political process will be further damaged. Such draconian actions cannot keep a popular political leader out of politics. Those at the helm of affairs should consider how Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified for life, but he is even today controlling the present government from his exile in London.