The Great Illusion

The Great Illusion
In the form of Imran Khan, the military establishment has created such an illusion, that for the first time, the creation has also deluded a substantial part of the military’s own rank and file and an elite class that has always associated with and is dependent on the military establishment as cronies. Ironically, through the elite class this misconception has spread as an epidemic globally. They present Imran Khan as a sort of democrat and savior, which is far from the truth.

In contrast, his political birth, existence, personality, mentality, track record and tactics contradicts this deviously manicured image to the core.

Reportedly, to sculpt Imran Khan out for a political role was the idea and plan of General Hamid Gul. The general was an insider in General Zia-ul-Haq’s nexus of Jihadis and extremists. General Gul’s contempt for democracy and civilian supremacy is an open secret. The good general is considered the architect of the right wing conservative political project that resulted into a political alliance called the IJI, or the Islami Jamhuri Itihad (Islamic Democratic Alliance) in 1988. The move was aimed at outmaneuvering Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in the general elections of 1988.

Though the move succeeded partially by reducing PPP to a simple majority in the said election, the establishment received its first political shock after Zia’s death, when their pick Mian Nawaz Sharif started asserting his authority as a prime minister after the 1990 elections.

Although for the time being, the establishment was able to play the two mainstream parties, the PML-N and PPP against each other, but sensing the future, the idea of creating a third political force was floated.

It is etched on the horizon that the formation of PTI was the outcome of the establishment’s plan.

According to the original plan, Imran Khan was proposed to be Chairman and General Hamid Gul was slated to be General Secretary of the organization. However, according to reports, Imran Khan ditched General Gul at the eleventh hour and announced the new political party at a time when General Gul was out of the country. This was a move to keep general Gul out of the rank of the party, and that’s probably why PTI was kept in cold storage till October 2011.

Politics in Pakistan were witnessing some critical developments in the first decade of the twenty first century. In May 2006, the two mainstream parties, PML-N and PPP signed a Charter of Democracy, and latter formed a coalition government which lasted for about six months. However, that rung an alarm bell for the establishment.

At the time, both General Musharraf and the military under his command were at the lowest in morale, while suffering from both an image and credibility crisis.

In the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, her party had been voted into power in the elections of 2008. After assuming power, the PPP led coalition government struck at the raw nerve of the establishment by introducing the 18th constitutional amendment, and subsequently passing it successfully in April 2010.

It was a proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. The army led Pakistani establishment is deeply averse to the devolution of power in the form of provincial autonomy, because the establishment’s strength and command and control lies in a centralized system.

Thus, the political circumstances forced the establishment to dust up the file of the third political force option in the face of observations regarding Imran Khan’s credibility and rising popularity.

Conversely, the desperation on both sides was so high that it put the establishment as well as Imran Khan in a do or die situation. The establishment wanted to put off the rising tides of the quest for civilian supremacy, troubled as they were by the developing consensus among democratic forces, and Imran Khan wanted to make it to his desired position of Prime Minister.

From October 2011, after the deal had been finalized between Imran and the establishment, all strategic resources were diverted to PTI, making it a third political force overnight. However, notwithstanding the desperate efforts by the establishment, in 2013, Punjab voted Nawaz Sharif into power. The first year of Nawaz’s third tenure as premier witnessed a relative calm that proved to be the lull before the storm.

In June 2014, both the establishment and Imran Khan suddenly came out of their despondency and created a political storm on the grounds of alleged rigging in the election of 2013. Reportedly, with the tutelage and assistance of the ISI, Imran orchestrated a sit-in in the Red Zone of Islamabad for 126 days.

Analysts think that that the red rag for the establishment was the opening of channels with India and Afghanistan, starting work on the CPEC and a refusal to reverse or truncate the 18th constitutional amendment.

Though Nawaz had once also been a product of the establishment’s political engineering, his reason for falling out with the establishment was very different than Imran’s. Nawaz’s reason was that he couldn’t take the dictation anymore. He wanted to be left to his own devices. Imran’s grudge with the establishment is over being abandoned.

Nawaz weathered out the onslaught with the support of his allies and PPP, but was later ousted by the Saqib Nisar led Supreme Court in 2017.

Despite the establishment employing every dark tool in their arsenal for pre-poll rigging; forcing the media to provide blanket and unilateral coverage to Imran on a 24/7 basis, shepherding electables of every hue into the PTI, lining up financers, their plans were foiled by Nawaz’s daring act of leaving his ailing wife on her death bed and returning to Pakistan on July 13, 2018, to voluntarily go to jail along with his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

Thus, the General Bajwa led establishment had no option but to snatch a pyrrhic victory for Imran with the barrel of their gun. Imran had no qualm when General Bajwa’s spy master was forcibly arranging a majority for him in the parliament and kept unwilling allies on gunpoint in his government. Bajwa had to use crude methods to ensure Khan’s majority on the eve of every vote or move in the parliament.

To reach the PM House, Imran wore multiple masks, and dotted every visible and blurred line drawn by the establishment. The famous playboy became the Taliban’s ambassador at large, started portraying himself as a devoted Muslim, and attributing incidents of rape women to women’s immodest attire. As his past contradicts his present, the same is the case with his public and private life. Some politicians change their narrative on the eve of elections, but Imran was changing his narrative and political stance on a daily basis with pride. However, no media house, journalist, or opinion maker was allowed to question and expose those contradictions.

Here, perhaps out of desperation, the establishment committed a political blunder for the first time by elevating a whimsical civilian to its own status. In the past, the establishment used its tools and skills to brainwash society and indoctrinate the populace with messages that the army was the savior. In Imran’s case, they extended the same privilege to him as well, by portraying him as a savior, which is now proving disastrous for them.

Unfortunately, this political mayhem is also happening at a critical time when the world is seemingly moving from a unipolar to a bipolar system. At this juncture, decision makers should keep the obvious fact in mind that Pakistan came into being at a time of the division of the world into two competing blocs.

Consequently, during the great power rivalry, the geographies of many weak nations and states, particularly those that were considered strategically located, were affected adversely. Currently, Pakistan has a strategic geophysical location, coupled with an anemically weak political and economic position. Therefore, the situation demands careful and out of the box thinking.

Last but not the least, if there is irrecusable evidence against civilians of having taken part in the violence of 9 May, they should be tried in civilian courts, not military courts.