Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan
After having hit the lowest ebb of popularity while in government, Imran Khan is gaining popularity again after his dethronement. His ouster has come as a blessing in disguise for him.
The popular perception about Imran Khan is that he is an invincible fighter and as repeatedly said by him that he fights till the last ball and not accustomed to accept defeat. Following an unceremonious exit from the corridors of power through a vote of no-confidence which came to him as a bolt from the blue and which he believes was orchestrated through a foreign conspiracy, he has put himself in a fighting mode once again with his sleeves rolled up.
Brandishing the infamous threat-letter the veracity of which is yet to be established and is challenged by his political opponents forming a joint opposition then and occupying the driver’s seat now, Imran Khan has successfully managed to exploit the sentiments of the emotionally charged public. Playing to the gallery remains every politician’s cup of tea more so with Imran Khan. Politicians believe in saying things to the public in a bid to impress them and secure their support through hollow slogans and false promises, instead of dealing with their problems with an intent to solve them.
The public outbursts chanted in favour of Khan, to my understanding, is a transient phenomenon which ordinarily happens after every political leader heading a party makes an exit or to be more precise, is forced to make an exit which dies down by and by. Khan needs to understand that emotionally charged crowds could only make him more swollen thus making things worse but can’t determine his political future. He will have to get off his high horse and sit with the people who matter to determine the future course of action.
Although, Khan’s ouster came as a result of no-confidence motion which is a democratic process, establishment’s neutrality is widely believed to be the major reason for his exit. This may be a mere perception but in Pakistan’s political milieu, perception is always stronger than reality. Unfortunately, it has been an old tradition and tested recipe with our political leadership to throw the blame of their failures at the door of state institutions. I have yet to see a political figure admitting his fault and say ” the buck stops here”. The fact of the matter is that Khan’s intense rigidity towards the opposition parties, his despotic style of governance and shambolic handling of economy starting from Asad Umar and ending with Shaukat Tareen leading to a sad dénouement, and on top of all, his belligerent approach towards the US and the West became instrumental in pulling him down the stairs. His anti-American rhetoric which he never gets tired of and has been invariably using to his political advantage couldn’t save him from fall. Although Khan strongly believes that he was shown the door through foreign interference, Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US and Britain, termed the accusations of foreign hand “a classic populist but hollow tactic used by beleaguered governments”.
With every passing day things are turning violent as the political temperature has been kept by Khan at the boiling point and is likely to remain so in the days and months to come as he plans to have a million march on Islamabad any time after Eid-ul-Fitr. The ever rising political temperature has raised fears of violence with Imran Khan’s heated rhetoric infatuating the public and creating an aura of a looming political crisis thus pushing the country towards a new round of instability and political turmoil that may ultimately create a civil war like situation which the country can ill afford.
Khan’s famous saying, ” I was not voted to power to check tomato and potato prices but to build a nation” seems to appeal to his die-hard supporters and blind followers despite the fact that he floundered on economic front very badly and the economy was put on ventilator throughout with more and more oxygen given through IMF and other lending agencies with no chance of recovery. This was destined to happen because he wasted his time and energy on opposition bashing that came as a result of his mental frigidity.
Lastly, Imran Khan needs to remember the famous English saying which goes: “It doesn’t matter what happens to you but it does matter how you behave while it is happening to you”. Imran Khan is well advised to soften his tone, shed the belligerent posture and avoid targeting the state institutions as he has a long political journey to traverse. Political figures never shut the door of reconciliation and always try to find a middle path in order to survive in politics. Political history of Pakistan bears witness to the stark reality that those who adopted a confrontational approach and chose to tread a collision course vis-a-vis the state institutions did it only at the cost of their political future; and at the end of the day had to pay through the nose. Khan needs to learn a lesson from not too distant political history of the country.