Looming Disaster

Looming Disaster
Is Imran Khan a rank opportunist who believes that U-turns, lies, propaganda and fabrications are necessary and desirable in politics because the end justifies the means? Is he the Pied Piper of Pakistan?

Imran Khan says he won’t return to parliament under any circumstances. But he has nudged 11 PTI MNAs who tendered their resignations along with 140+ other PTI parliamentarians some months ago to petition the Islamabad High Court to order the National Assembly Speaker not to accept their resignations tendered upon his (Khan’s) directions. But the Chief Justice of the IHC, J Athar Minallah, has rejected their case on the ground that the court has no jurisdiction over the decision of the NA Speaker. He has, however, advised them to return to Parliament if they wish to resolve such grievances. Much the same sort of advice has been given by a couple of supreme court judges, including the chief justice of Pakistan, J Umar Ata Bandial,  hearing Khan’s petition against the amended NAB law. Why didn’t you challenge it in parliament when it was being passed, they ask, why are you boycotting parliament?

Imran Khan has refused to attend contempt proceedings against himself in the Election Commission of Pakistan. In fact, he is constantly attacking the Chief Election Commissioner, Sikander Sultan Raja, as being a PMLN stooge who should resign, despite the fact that the CEC was appointed by Khan himself and was showered with praise at the time. At the same time, Khan is exhorting the CEC to investigate and swiftly conclude the scrutiny of the funding sources of the PMLN and PPP.

Khan refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the PDM government and its leaders, let alone talk to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on the constitutional way forward. But he has given the green light to his PTI-nominee, President Arif Alvi, to open a dialogue with the government for an early election.

Khan and his troll army have been abusing COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa for months and insisting he would not support any extension for him. But after the two secretly met recently, he conceded in an interview that General Bajwa could stay on after November 2022 if he ordered elections in early 2023 that enabled him (Khan) to win and choose the next army chief himself!

Now Khan has sworn the faithful to get ready in the millions to march to Islamabad and overthrow the PDM government. He has been threatening this course of action for months but refrained from giving a date. Any day now, say his lieutenants, this is a make or break month for the PTI. As a warm up measure, Khan has applied to the court to allow him to hold a Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conference in the Convention Centre in Islamabad on October 12. The idea is to use this as a launching pad for the proposed Long March later.

Understandably, the PDM government has refused to concede his demands. Instead it has commandeered hundreds of containers to block and seal roads, thousands of tear gas shells and rubber bullets and tens of thousands of police, Rangers and soldiers to protect Islamabad. The police is on standby to house-arrest Khan if necessary.

Clearly, the PDM government is digging its heels in for a longer haul. Ishaq Dar has returned to occupy the finance ministry and try to ease the economic burden on the masses imposed by the IMF programme. Maryam Nawaz has obtained acquittal from trumped-up corruption cases, got her passport back and shipped to London. Other PMLN and PPP leaders have benefited from the new NAB laws  to escape persecution. Now the government has unleashed the FIA to arrest Khan’s chosen finance handlers named in the Foreign Funding Case by the ECP who were allegedly operating secret bank accounts on behalf of Khan. The net is getting wider and tighter with Khan’s audio tapes condemning him unequivocally.

Things are coming to a head. Unless there is a last ditch deal with the PDM government through the good offices of the Miltablishment, which Khan desperately craves, to abandon the Long March and return to Parliament, the stage is set for a precipitous confrontation.

In the midst of this, COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa is “negotiating” mutual long term security issues with American bigwigs in Washington and Langley as if there’s no tomorrow, when he should logically be dining out farewells with senior colleagues at home. This, despite the fact that he publicly insists he is retiring next month and Khwaja Asif says Shehbaz Sharif will duly pick one general out of a list of five to be the next army chief.

Naturally, then, tongues will wag. What if the confrontation in Islamabad leads to blood on the streets? What if PTI-triggered civil strife spreads to other parts of the country? Given the dismal state of the economy and the devastation caused by the floods, will General Bajwa stand by and allow the country to plunge into chaos and anarchy?

This is a question that Imran Khan should answer. He is solely responsible for continuing to undermine parliamentary and constitutional avenues for political participation and reconciliation.