The Devil Made Me Do It

As he sits in a prison cell contemplating the consequences of dissolving provincial assemblies, perhaps Imran Khan can identify which of the devils got him there

The Devil Made Me Do It

The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, also known as the "Devil Made Me Do It" case, is the first known court case in the United States where the defence sought to prove their client's innocence in the murder of his landlord based upon the claim of demonic possession and denial of personal responsibility for the crime. However, the judge ruled that such a defence could never be proven, and Johnson was subsequently convicted. The story was later turned into a film in 2021.

A few months ago, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan disclosed that he dissolved the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) after the former Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa had advised him to do. During a meeting with General Bajwa, where President Dr Arif Alvi was also present, the former army chief reportedly suggested that if the PTI chief wants elections, he should first dissolve his governments in the two provinces. Imran Khan disclosed this in an interview with a private news channel on April 23, 2023.

This was a surprise coming from Imran Khan as until then, and since, he has constantly accused General Bajwa of unfair involvement in civil and political affairs. 

Ever since Imran Khan was shown out of the prime minister's office, he has been rather vocal about solidifying the one-page mantra during his tenure and its subsequent disintegration. 

But after Gen. Bajwa left office, it seemed rather absurd for Imran Khan to keep taking the former military chief's advice to base his future political ventures. Imran Khan's key move of dissolving the assemblies was symbolic of his refusal to accept a political setup, which he cried hoarse, was 'imposed' on them. 

This claim from Imran Khan came after a long and controversial debate about the legal and political implications of his move to dissolve the two provincial assemblies, one of which got dragged to the Supreme Court only to end up becoming even more controversial but with no tangible result. 

As the morality of his actions was contested, he sought to pass the buck and sell a story built on past claims of betrayal, one his supporters were sure to buy. 

This would not be the first time Imran Khan would find a scapegoat. He has previously attempted to shift blame for his political and economic incompetence onto alleged foreign intervention. The only problem was that it was denied by all parties allegedly involved. 

This inclination to shift blame onto an external factor falls under a wider pattern of depersonalisation of blame that has become a running theme - of a proverbial ghost in the shell invisibly pulling all the strings.

As a society, we have a penchant for externalising our problems, whether at the individual or collective level. Take, for example, the general idea of the degeneration of our youth due to foreign influences. This shows that societies believe ,they are incapable of committing any vice by themselves, and any wrongdoing is the product of false guidance. 

It is worrying for a nation when leaders of a country profess a lack of free will. This, too, is coming from those who were until recently were determined to emulate the Riasat-e-Medina in Pakistan, when the singular feature that God, whose vicegerent on earth is Man, bestowed upon humankind that started the whole dichotomy of good versus evil, was the concept of free will, an ability that sets us apart from angels and demons and the animal kingdom; the ability to make a choice. 

The importance of conscious intention and free will in criminal law is indisputable; without the defendant being conscious or willfully engaged in the activity, he/she cannot be charged. However, the loss of control over one's actions must be reasonable and foreseeable. 

[Mens rea] (the mental element of the act) can be sufficiently proved in modern law if the defendant is shown to have the intention to commit the offence; the 'why' is neither necessary nor taken into account. In fact, a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing from the wealthy to give to the poor, would be swiftly declared guilty of theft in light of irrefutable evidence.

Imran Khan and his supporters have time and again admitted to consciously deciding to dissolve the two provincial assemblies, even though the narratives revolving around the alleged motives have been extremely capricious. The mens rea can be sufficiently proven. I rest my case.

One final note on the devil: it has been made thoroughly clear in all Abrahamic religions as to how the devil operates— mainly through the help of vile earthly operatives or a sophisticated net of centuries-old social vices, but rarely by willfully urging you to dissolve the provincial assemblies if you want to have general election held any sooner. 

The writer has completed her A-levels and intends to join law school for LLB.