From 'Absolutely Not' To 'Absolutely Yes'

From 'Absolutely Not' To 'Absolutely Yes'
Imran Khan, the charismatic former Pakistani premier, proclaimed "absolutely not" when a foreign journalist asked him if he would allow the CIA to use military bases in his country. As many of Khan's critics have been saying for years, he continues to show glaring inconsistencies between his words and actions, and even his words when compared to what he had said before.

While Khan has gained immense public support over the past year by presenting himself as an anti-American anti-imperialist politician, the problematic nature of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI’s) leadership, and of their narratives, has been exposed yet again.

An image shared by Hiba Chaudhry, wife of PTI senior vice president and former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry, shows them in the company of US ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome at their house.

This raises  questions about the PTI's year-long anti-American narrative which had an impact on Pakistan's foreign relations. The party's intentions, and the veracity of Khan's everchanging claims, become more and more problematic with each passing day.

In the realm of politics, promises are made and slogans are raised to gain popularity and win the hearts of the masses - and more importantly, win seats in Parliament. However, when these proclamations ring hollow, and serve no constructive purpose apart from political posturing, the end result is that the integrity of the political class as a whole is undermined and the interests of the nation are also jeopardized.

The PTI and its leader Imran Khan have displayed rank opportunism: from raising slogans of Riyasat-e-Madina to 'Imported Hukoomat Namanzoor' to 'Kya Hum Ghulam Hain', just to gain sympathy from the masses. While in fact, Khan and PTI have been engaging with US diplomats, and getting former CIA officials to lobby the US government on Khan's behalf.

Raising anti-America slogans might have won Khan and his party popularity, but it is now evident that stance was nothing more than a political stunt to influence the masses. By openly engaging with US diplomats and lobbyists, PTI has only compromised its own credibility.

But the PTI supporters will surely manufacture a “satisfying” explanation for their voters and sympathizers who are, in the first place, never interested in any sort of explanation from – or accountability of – their own leaders.

Imran Khan, before being ousted from the prime minister's office, used to lecture the nation on international politics and asked why the opposition met diplomats stationed in Pakistan. But PTI's senior vice president – an opposition politician out of parliament – is now meeting the diplomat of the very same country that according to Khan sent an alleged cipher "encouraging the overthrow of PTI's government" last year.

Pakistan deserves leaders who are principled, and committed to safeguarding the country's interests. PTI's approach, however, seems to be rooted in short-term gains and political expediency. They need to recognize that a nation's strength lies in consistent and principled policies, not in opportunistic maneuvers aimed solely at securing personal gains.

It is high time that the people of Pakistan demand accountability from their elected representatives – both in the government and the opposition. They question the populist tactics of political parties and their leaders as national interest suffers when public opinion is built against countries that are approached for financial and military assistance.

Former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also used the same tactics after being removed from power. Anti-Americanism sells in Pakistan, but the cost can be high for a bankrupt country dependent on IMF loans and Western assistance.

Pakistan deserves leaders who prioritize the welfare of the country over their own short term goals. Imran Khan is not alone in pursuing such confused politics. Other parties in the past have used similar tactics. But this must end if we have to educate the people and find a way forward for the country.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.