Imran Khan And His Whataboutery

Imran Khan And His Whataboutery
Imran Khan, who earned the title of 'Selected Prime Minister', always used selective audiences and selective media to ward off tough questions that could possibly expose his hypocrisy and lies. That is why at home, he has only been interviewed by his fan following masquerading as journalists or has snubbed and threatened to walk away from interviews where the journalists posed tough questions. In many instances, the interviewers have lost their jobs and/or were brutally trolled by his brigade of cyber warriors (trolls), something he has often taken pride in.

However, in international media, there are still a handful of journalists who have thoroughly embarrassed him. The latest, but not the least, is veteran Tim Sebastian, the moderator of Conflict Zone broadcast on German television station Deutsche Welle (DW) (Scroll to the bottom of the article to find the full video interview).

Sebastian is a no-nonsense journalist who has spent his life doing his job seriously, and mostly he has made the interviewee sweat.

In his latest interview with Mr. Khan for DW, the veteran journalist challenged the disgraced former prime minister with quite a few tough questions.

Mr. Khan tried his usual whataboutery to distract and deflect the questions, but Sebastian followed up relentlessly, ending up embarrassing Mr. Khan, who started babbling to ward off the volley of questions lobbed at him.

At the outset of the interview, Mr. Khan stated a white lie that no case had ever been lodged against him until he had turned 70. I am sure everybody, including Sebastian, knew about the August 1997 verdict against him by a Californian court. A case had been filed against Mr. Khan by his late girlfriend, Sita White, claiming that the former national cricket captain had fathered her only child, Tyrian. Curiously, the girl now lives with Mr. Khan's ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith, in London, together with his two other offspring.

Fast forward to 2014, there were multiple cases registered against Mr. Khan when he and his "political cousin", firebrand cleric Tahir ul Qadri attacked the national capital in their attempts to capture the power street, Constitution Avenue. This avenue houses all the power symbols of the country, starting with the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, the Parliament House (housing the National Assembly and the Senate), the offices and residences of the President, the prime minister, the federal secretariat, offices and residences of federal ministers and the headquarters of national broadcasters, Pakistan Television (PTV) and Radio Pakistan. In short, the nerve centre of the federal government.

Mr. Khan chose not to mention how his goons attacked the parliament building, the prime minister's house and how his 'shock troops' celebrated after 'capturing' the national television station and suspended its transmission, besides vandalising it.

The former prime minister also chose not to mention how he himself swooped down from his reinforced container to free arrested workers from police custody and how his people tortured senior police officers, including SSP Asmatullah Junejo, all the while how he kept threatening police during his live speeches.

Mr. Khan also failed to mention how during his tenure as prime minister, he used his executive powers to quash all cases lodged against him and his cronies. He conveniently avoided mentioning any of that as he lectured Sebastian on how he believed in bringing powerful people under the net of accountability.

Answering a question, Mr. Khan told Sebastian that over 10,000 of his party workers and supporters were in jail for what had happened on May 9. Earlier, Mr. Khan had said that on May 9, when the PTI attacked civil and military installations, 25 of his workers had died.

When confronted to provide a list of the deceased, silence was the only response that Sebastian got from Mr. Khan and his party. All queries to the concerned quarters suggested that Mr. Khan had almost doubled the number in claims made to Sebastian. This is quite typical of Mr. Khan, who generously uses exaggeration from his toolkit.

In his interview, Mr. Khan claims that for the majority of its history, Pakistan has been ruled either by military dictators or either of the two political dynasties while he is an outsider.

However, facts - a concept to which Mr. Khan has little concern - speak otherwise.

Mr. Khan was encouraged by Information and Broadcasting Secretary Gen Mujibur Rehman during dictator General Ziaul Haque's era to join politics. Gen Zia himself asked Mr. Khan to join politics.

When Mr. Khan launched his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996, it was launched in association with former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Gen (retired) Hameed Gul. They parted later.

When dictator General Pervez Musharraf staged his coup d'état against Nawaz Sharif in 1999, Mr. Khan was the first politician to jump on his bandwagon.

The late Meraj Mohammad Khan, the erstwhile leftist politician, who had joined the PTI, dissociated himself from Mr. Khan, disputing mainly the latter's unconditional support of the military dictator. Mr. Khan went on to become the Chief Polling Agent for Gen Musharraf when the dictator held his fraudulent referendum in April 2002 (securing 97.97 votes in his favour).

Six months later, when the massively rigged elections were held in October 2002, Mr. Khan demanded 100 National Assembly seats from Gen Musharraf to become his first "selected" prime minister. Gen Musharraf did not agree, and Mr. Khan ended up winning a solitary seat from his father's home town of Mianwali in Punjab.

That is when Mr. Khan parted ways with Gen Musharraf. His anger at Gen Musharraf was only directed when he failed to be "selected" by the whisky brand General.

In many of his subsequent interviews and public utterances, Mr. Khan regularly tries to take credit for opposing the War On Terror after 9/11. But an easy online search would provide you with a video clip where Mr. Khan is talking to a Western journalist soon after Gen Musharraf sided with the US after 9/11. Mr. Khan, in the clip, supports Gen Musharraf's decision and says the dictator made the right choice by supporting the US in the war.

Mr. Khan's verbal war against War on Terror only started after he was ignored by General Musharraf in October 2002 elections - a whole year later. In fact, Mr. Khan even supported Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman as the candidate of choice for the position of the prime minister at that time.

To gaslight the media and the public at large, Mr. Khan usually flaunts the by-elections of July 2022, when he got 15 seats out of 20, as proof of his ascendancy. What he does not mention are the October 2022 by-elections, where most constituencies had extremely small voter turnout.

In Korangi, a Karachi constituency where he won, the turnout was merely 14%. In another Karachi constituency of Malir, where Mr. Khan lost, he was defeated by a large margin, and there was a heavy turnout.

In another constituency in Peshawar, where Mr. Khan and his PTI won, the turnout was only 20%, despite the fact that his party still held all the reins in the province at the time and a region where his party had been ruling for almost a decade.

Mr. Khan also does not mention the fact that his number two, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, displayed political dynastic tendencies by fielding his daughter on a National Assembly seat in the by-polls but was resoundingly defeated by Musa Gilani in Multan from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Hakeem Baloch, a novice compared to Imran, defeated the PTI Chairman by a wide lead in Malir, a Karachi constituency.

Interestingly, as per Pakistani laws, Mr. Khan can only retain one seat in either house of the parliament -- the national or provincial -- but he tried to use the by-polls as a tool to show the world that he was the most popular politician in Pakistan, irrespective of the fact that such victories were ultimately irrelevant in a parliamentary democracy.

Nawaz Sharif was still popular in Pakistan during the fraud election of 2002, but since his party was brutally battered by Gen Musharraf, his party, the PML-N, could only secure 19 seats in the National Assembly out of a total of 342.

We will see how Mr. Khan's PTI performs in the next general elections without the support of the establishment that had catapulted him into power in 2018.

In his interview with Sebastian, Mr. Khan, who had previously accused the US of engineering a "regime change", chose to solely blame former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Bajwa for conspiring with incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif - who was the leader of the opposition and stayed behind bars for 207 days alongside all senior opposition leaders.

Mr. Khan also chose not to tell Sebastian why he gave Gen Bajwa an extension for three years even though he condemns the military's involvement in politics these days.

Nor did Mr. Khan deem it wise to tell Sebastian why he offered a third extension, this time for 'life' as narrated by many, including the incumbent spy chief, ISI DG Gen Nadeem Anjum.

The PTI chairman also glossed over leaked audio tapes from his huddle with senior ministers where he bragged about buying MPs to defeat the vote of no confidence.

Mr. Khan didn't tell Sebastian about his plans to appoint a former ISI chief as the next army chief so that he could anoint himself as the new Emir or Sultan of Pakistan by massively rigging future elections.

He did not tell Sebastian why his government did not enjoy a majority in the National Assembly even at the peak of his popularity, and his rainbow coalition fell apart after political partners, coerced by the establishment, dumped him after the military establishment had tired of his domestic and foreign policy blunders.

In his interview with Sebastian, Mr. Khan repeated his oft-repeated tirade that massive arrests of opposition leaders during his tenure were the result of old cases against them. A single search in this arena will display how most cases that kept the opposition behind bars during his tenure were filed and persecuted under the PTI government.

It is a matter of record that he even blackmailed former accountability Czar, Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal, by first leaking his sleazy video with the accountability chief's victim through a television channel owned by his own Special Assistant.

Nor did Mr. Khan deem it appropriate to the flow of conversation to inform Sebastian how he and his top bureaucrat Azam Khan literally detained a female victim of the accountability Czar in the prime minister's house for months to use her as a blackmailing tool.

Perhaps Mr. Khan felt it would be too much to shed light for Sebastion on how he oversaw arrests of key opposition figures such as Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Even more so, she was arrested in front of her incarcerated father when she went to visit him in jail as a means to humiliate both.

He didn't tell Sebastian how the hotel room of Maryam Nawaz was broken into in the early hours to embarrass her and her family. When talking about jail conditions, Mr. Khan did not consider it important to talk about how on his directions, 15 kilogrammes of heroin (which attracts a life sentence) were planted in the vehicle of the incumbent interior minister Rana Sanaullah by his government and how for months he was kept in the death cell without basic amenities.

There was also no mention of the time when Mr. Khan bragged to an audience in Washington DC, about the unsurmountable feat of putting two former elected prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, in jail without any facilities and how he took sadistic pleasure in hurting his harshest critics.

During his interview, Mr. Khan offered a peek into the cause of his anger towards former army chief Gen Bajwa, suggesting the latter's reluctance to support his vendetta in the evening of his tenure. But in doing so, Mr. Khan chose not to talk about the vendetta he had conducted against his opponents before he was installed and which continued under his rule. He cleverly dubs this vendetta against his critics as accountability as if that was the only thing on his election manifesto. Scrubbed from any mention are his promises of building 5 million houses and providing 10 million new jobs, and taking the economy to the moon.

When confronted with his human rights and freedom of press records, he contested Sebastian with specifics and then hurriedly talked about just ten people and created a false narrative that these people were actually harassed, assaulted and hounded out of jobs because they were "coming out of the terrorism" and that they were targeted by the establishment only.

Mr. Khan conveniently forgets that terrorism was defeated way back in 2014, and brave journalists such as Matiullah Jan, Hamid Mir, Talat Hussain, Bilal Ghauri, Shahzeb Jilani, Absar Alam, Asad Toor, Nusrat Javeed were fierce opponents of the terror wrought by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and supported the armed forces in their fight against terrorism. But this was a time when Mr. Khan supported the TTP, Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, and in a candid outburst as prime minister after August 30, 2021, said the Taliban had "broken the shackles of slavery".

It was Mr. Khan who wrote in The Daily Telegraph in October 2007 that Benazir Bhutto had only herself to blame for the TTP attack against her.

What slipped Mr. Khan's mind was how he had declared mass murderer Osama Bin Laden a 'martyr' on the floor of the parliament as prime minister of this republic. His links with Jihadist networks are no secret. It was his government that doled out Rs30 million of public money every year to Madarssah Akora Khattak, known as the factory of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban. The suicide bombers who martyred former prime minister Benazir Bhutto were trained in that seminary.

Moreover, in February 2014, when the TTP agreed to talk with the government, they named Mr. Khan as one of the people who should represent them.

The PTI chief was at pains to defend his actions of violence both in 2014 and afterwards, especially after losing power - for the first time in the country's history through constitutional means.

Mr. Khan also defended his violent actions on the so-called rigging during the 2013 elections, but did not say a word about the Supreme Court verdict, which declared that there was no evidence of any organised rigging.

A three-member commission of the Supreme Court, in its 237-page report published in July 2015, said that despite some lapses on the part of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), "the 2013 general elections were in large part organised and conducted fairly and in accordance with the law."

Mr. Khan, who keeps repeating ad nauseam that his party has always been peaceful, chose not to divulge the conspiracy he and the religious cleric Tahirul Qadri -- who accompanied him in August 2014 to dislodge democracy -- they had hatched in June 2014, barely a year after 2013, in connivance with the establishment. This is despite the fact that details of their meeting have been made public by many who participated in the sinister game.

Mr. Khan, in this interview and other media interactions, has always maintained that he did not know what was happening during his brief arrest on May 9 and that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the violence his party unleashed on that day.

Leaked audio conversations that he had with his party leaders while in custody point in the opposite direction. More so, his party leaders have come out to spill the beans about how many times after May 9, Mr. Khan had celebrated the violence over his arrest and strictly asked his leaders 'NOT' to condemn the violent actions of his party.

On May 9, when his violent workers, led from the front by some of his party's top leadership, attacked military installations, it was the culmination of a well-conceived plan of implosion to push Pakistan into a state of anarchy that would end in a scenario where his favourite military commanders would catapult him back into the seat of power. His cyber teams abroad played a critical role in organising that coup.

Mr. Khan was led to believe that he could break the discipline of the Pakistan Army and undo its culture by heralding his own revolution. Now, after the failure of his bloody coup, he is playing the victim card. He is making a hue and cry about the trials under the Army Act 1952, which were amended under his watch as prime minister, and around two dozen people were convicted under his tenure.

Military court or civil court, either way, no country tolerates the mayhem and bloody violence, be it France, the USA, the UK or India. Special laws and special courts have always been created to deal with arsonists and violent extremists. Pakistan is no exception. Popular leaders have been convicted and suffered jails, even executions. Mr. Khan is no exception either.

The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad