Col Ikram Ullah Khan

Long march and emerging political jigsaw

Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan

The much-trumpeted and long-awaited long march named by its caller as “Haqeeqi Azadi March”, has finally taken off from Lahore on Friday, October 28, led by PTI Chairman Imran Khan after keeping it in suspended animation for a long time for mysterious reasons, thereby raising many eyebrows about its timings as the announcement of the long march coincides with the murder of journalist Arshad Sharif. 

The march has taken place at a time when the country is deeply mired in a financial morass and political instability, and the government is fighting an economic battle to save the country from default and keep it afloat. In such a dicey situation, PTI’s long march towards Islamabad is destined to bring a new wave of political and economic instability thus hitting hard at the already tottering economy and sluggish business activities. 

Interestingly, Imran Khan was seen conveying in a video message that the purpose of long march is not to topple the government or aimed at any personal gains but the intention is to make sure that the country’s decisions are not taken by the external forces, but he prefers to not name those external forces. However, he mentions the objective of his long march muffled in a vague and veiled phrase calling it as “haqeeqi azadi march”- a phrase which is quite bemusing to a common man. 

A glaring self-contradiction is observed in Imran Khan’s statements. On the one hand, he is demanding early elections while on the other hand, he says that he doesn’t want to topple the government. How can it be possible to hold early elections when the incumbent government continues to ride high in the saddle? 

Nonetheless, it’s quite amusing to hear from Imran Khan about the purpose of his long march expressed in negatives as according to him, the aim of his long march as said earlier is not to topple the government and upset the apple cart. If this is not the aim of the long march, then the logical inference that could be drawn is that Khan is not serious in his demand of early elections.

The next enigmatic question that could be raised is: Against whom is he fighting this political battle”? But Khan prefers not to come out with an explicit answer and would like to keep it under wraps, thus leaving the people engaged in wild guessing as he is shrewd enough to know that it has consequences. He feels it convenient to give a vague and veiled answer by saying that the aim of the long march is nothing but to achieve the “haqeeqi azadi”, but shuns explaining its meaning. 

The emerging political jigsaw on the country’s political chessboard seems quite ominous given the precarious economic situation and dismal security environment following the resurgence of subversive activities carried out by terrorist outfits in different parts of the country. 

Associated with PTI’s political rhetoric, a spate of unfounded allegations and unending smear campaigns launched against the country’s security establishment finally resulted in an unprecedented presser held by DG ISI and DG ISPR jointly for the first time in the country’s history to respond to such baseless accusations and malicious campaigns aimed at tarnishing the image of the country’s security establishment. The press conference was deemed necessary after fingers were pointed at the establishment regarding the gruesome murder of journalist Arshad Sharif, and also to clear the mist making the political horizon of the country murky besides host of other issues plaguing the country. With regard to Arshad Sharif’s murder, there arises a need to establish as to who is the beneficiary of his murder. 

Unfortunately, a ceaseless streak of misleading and false propagandas targeting the establishment by certain political elements has raised toxicity to an unbearable level and has poisoned the public mind against the defenders of the motherland that is creating a wide chasm between the military and the public. After showing much restraint, finally the establishment while deviating from the past traditions thought it prudent to spill the beans, present the facts before the public and apprise them regarding what has been going on behind the curtain which doesn’t require a repeat here as it has already been dwelt upon elaborately by DG ISI in his press conference. 

It’s highly regrettable that unwarranted media trial of the military and its leadership has been going on for the last couple of months, particularly after the killing of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya and that the establishment is being dragged into all kinds of controversies without realizing that it costs the country very dearly and inadvertently fulfils our enemy’s agenda. One is simply shocked to see some irresponsible and impulsive elements trolling the military establishment and hurling invectives at them using unbridled social media platform. They seem to have scant realization that by targeting the military and its leadership they are biting the very hand that feeds them, thus weakening the defence of the country. They need to understand that weak military means weak Pakistan that only suits our enemies who are always on the lookout to make the country’s defence neutralized. 

How unfortunate it is to see that since the ouster of Imran Khan through a vote of no-confidence, different stories including a conspiracy theory based on a diplomatic cypher are being concocted by certain elements to gain public sympathy and to defame the military leadership gratuitously. This infamous diplomatic cypher has created ripples in our politics. We need to realize that by indulging in such malicious propagandas and self-serving activities we are doing disservice to the country. There is a need to understand that our armed forces serve as a backbone of the country. If we hit at the backbone and break it, the entire body would get paralyzed, and when the body is rendered spineless, then what follows need not to be told. 

The bottom line is: Although, in a democratic set up holding peaceful political rallies, long marches and launching protests are a democratic right of all citizens which is guaranteed in the constitution, yet in the existing dismal security environment and fragile economic situation when the country has barely managed to save itself from default, stakes of the long march are very high. Imran Khan being a former prime minister and as the head of a major political party needs to realize that by initiating the long march towards Islamabad, he has crossed the Rubicon. His earlier long march held in May this year ended without fetching the desired results. 

If history of long marches in Pakistan be any guide, this time too there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of success of the long march. However, it’s hoped that both Imran Khan and those sitting across the aisle will realize the gravity of the situation and would demonstrate a high standard of maturity, responsibility and restraint to save the country from falling into anarchy and chaos. PTI Chairman must realize that he is feeding our enemies with pleasure and providing them the chance to laugh in their sleeves at us.

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