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Long march and Khan’s political future 

Col (r) Ikram Ullah Khan 

PTI’s much-trumpeted second long march which kicked off on Friday, 28 October after holding several marathone meetings of PTI’s core committe and after much procrastination that reminds us of William Shakespeare’s famous soliloquy “To be or not to be”, seems to have degenerated into a ”slow march”. 

The long march dubbed as “Haqeeqi Azadi March” that set off from Lahore’s Liberty Chowk with much force and impetus to begin with, seems to have lost its vitality as it couldn’t receive the anticipated response; and the size of crowd that was seen on the first day of the march slowly and gradually shrunk to a mere few thousand supporters which according to intelligence reports and even according to PTI’s insiders, remains limited to a paltry number ranging from 15 thousands to 20 thousands at the most. 

Interestingly, the man who sounded confident enough to make history by assembling more than two million people, and had set a deadline to reach Islamabad on November 4, couldn’t arrange a crowd of even fifty thousand supporters. Having seen abysmal public response that opened Khan’s eyes to the reality and after havingly painnfully realized that the much-enthusiastically-arranged but misconceived long march couldn’t pick up required momentum, Khan was impelled to change his strategy, and after holding a series of huddles with his advisors who have been ill advising him throughout, he decided to turn the long march into a city-wise public rally thus addressing the crowd via video link from his Zaman Park residence, Lahore where the injured Khan is entrenched after suriving an assasination attempt, an unfortunate and highly condemnable incident. The incident needs a thorough and impartial probe to arrive at a right conclusion so that the real culprits are identified and handed down an exemplary punishment to make them an example. 

As I have said earlier in one of my write-ups, Khan by initiating the long march has crossed the proverbial Rubicon closing all paths for reversal. Now, he is trying tooth and nail for a face-saving using all available means at his disposal including the good offices of president Arif Alvi and other colleagues who are known for their proximity with powerful quarters; but seeing no glimmer of hope from any corner Khan has become desperate and seems determined to go to any extent for his political survival. In a desperate attempt to find an honourable exit from the political quagmire he has sunk deep in, he adopts stick and carrot policy, sometimes trying to bully the powerful quarters and sometimes trying to appease them through backdoor channels but to no avail. He is facing catch-22. 

Having failed to earn the military establishment’s support, Khan has left no stone unturned to discredit the institution which stood by him during his three-and-a-half year stint. Quite interestingly, Khan has turned out to be an expert in playing to the gallery of the credulous and impulsive masses and capitalizing on their emotions, and seems to have succeeded in turning the public against the military establishment by portraying different far-fetched and fabricated stories to back up his anti-establishment narrative which is very unfortunate and bodes ill not only for his own political future but for the future of the country as well. 

Unfortunately, Khan has been playing establishment by establishment (which has been an old strategy of all politicians) conferring different epithets on it varying from “handlers”- a mild term to begin with, to Mir Ja’ffar and Mir Sadiq ever since he has been shown the door through a vote of no-confidence in April this year. In this context, it may be recalled that Khan very slily contrived a conspiracy theory linking it with his ouster blaming the US and the country’s military establishment’s alleged collusion in the matter exploiting the infamous diplomatic cypher. He has repeatedly blamed the US to conspire in his fall from grace and power. But now, quite hilariously, though very much expectedly, Khan has very recently taken a stunning “U Turn” in this regard while giving interview to Britain’s famous, credible and widely-red newspaper “Financial Times” by saying that he no longer blames the US for the regime change and that he would like to establish friendly relations with the US if voted to power. 

In an interview with Financial Times that was published on Saturday, November 12, he signaled his readiness to mend fences with the US and establish friendly relations with Washington. 

Referring to the US conspiracy which he has been using quite effectively to gain public sympathy ever since his unceremonious exit from the corridors of power, he is quoted as saying:  

“As for as I am concerned, it’s over. It’s behind me. The Pakistan I want to lead must have good relations with every country, especially the United States”.

With the above-quoted interview of Imran Khan, the edifice that was built on a conspiracy theory has crumbled to the ground and the narrative that he had so craftily built on it to mobilize his supporters and sympathizers has been buried under the debris of the razed building which was so dexterously built on conspiracy theory. 

As a political leader heading a major political party and as a patriotic Pakistani, Imran Khan needs to realize that his confrontational politics, unyielding political posture and policy of brinkmanship is going to push the country in to anarchy and chaos that is destined to put the security of the country in jeopardy. 

According to the US newspaper “Wall Street Journal”, former prime minister Imran Khan is pushing Pakistan to the edge. A write-up published in the said journal says:  

“The 70-year old former cricketer’s vainglory and taste for brinkmanship can tip the already turbulent country into chaos. Either way, the US and its allies should brace for instability in the nuclear-armed Islamic Republic”. 

The journal goes on to say that Pakistan army is regarded as a glue that holds the country together. If the army collapses, the country will collapse along with it. 

The Wall Street Journal quotes a reputed scholar and analyst Mr Aqil Shah who is expert in Pakistan affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), Imran Khan’s message to army is clear: “If you don’t play ball with me, I will go all the way to discredit you as an institution”.

Pakistan has a dismal history of long marches but Khan has not learnt any lesson from the fiasco those marches have met, not even from his failed long march held in May this year. Given the history of long marches, it could be safely inferred that this long march too like all the previous marches is likely to fizzle out without fetching the desired results for Khan as the establishment seems determined to remain apolitical or neutral as Khan would say. 

To conclude: Political leadership needs to understand that the security, honour and interest of the country come first and foremost; personal interest, safety, comfort and honour come last always and every time. Our political leaders must learn from the sacrifices our security personnel are making day in and day out for the security and honour of the country. In return what they are getting needs no mention as it is evident to every patriotic Pakistani.

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