Recently there has been a spate of articles, blog posts, editorials, opinions and columns of various types aimed at Imran Khan, most of them laced with cynicism and sarcasm, attempting to show the naïve public the reality of his true, hidden ideology and the impracticality of his rhetoric filled policy speeches. An example is the piece entitled “His Name is Khan, Imran Khan” by Sana Bucha published in The News on 6th November, which is fairly representative of all such opinions in that it covers many of the same topics.
A word of thanks
Before making her well constructed points in her criticisms of Imran, Ms Bucha begins by lamenting being disapproved of and labeled for expressing her views and opinions. This encourages me, because I believe that if Ms Bucha has experienced this frustration, she will understand quite well how Imran feels, because that is precisely what commentators are trying to do with him: label him, categorise him and put him in a box. And when they cannot tag him, right or left, ghairat or bayghairat, conservative or liberal, they point out the paradox, the inconsistency, the contradiction.
For your critical assessment of Imran Khan and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Ms Bucha, I do not accuse you or your peers of being unpatriotic or funded by the opposition. I welcome your questions, because they help me find my answers. Thank you.
Thank you, also, for appreciating that the Lahore jalsa proved that, with the right planning, a modern, inclusive approach and some choreography, a political event can be sexy.
It does not have to be the exclusive playground of would-be MPAs and MNAs, nazims and naib nazims, union council members, patwaris, feudals, land owners, mill owners, political workers and sundry favour seekers. It does not have to be exclusively for the benefit bhatta mafias, qabza groups, kidnappers, extortionists, dacoits, looters, thieves and all manner of organized criminal gangs, their members and their influential and powerful sponsors.
It can be an event that hat middle-class, educated parents are willing to participate in, with their teenage sons and daughters, with their retired mums and dads, with their drivers and cooks, with their friends and neighbours.
Where are the critics?
It worries Ms Bucha that ruling parties, in the centre and in the Punjab, do not make more noise against Imran, and she seems perplexed that the MQM has forgotten Imran’s stance towards their leader.
All over the talk shows that are the staple of the prime time television audiences in Pakistan, what else can you see?
Whether it is Faisal Raza Abidi on talking about Imran’s gambling, or it is Rana Sanaullah talking about ISI support for Imran, the allegations and questions are never-ending. Needless to say, there is not a shred of evidence being presented.
As for the MQM, Imran has been very clear on numerous occasions about his views on their politics of violence and criminality, about their in-again, out-again relationships with all governing parties and about his principled difference with them about armed party workers and politicised police forces, such as he did in July on Express News.
Our very own
Referring to when Imran spoke about the, now famous, memo written at President Zardari’s behest to Admiral Mullen, seeking US protection for his government from the Pakistan Army, Ms Bucha takes exception to Imran’s use of the word “apni” to describe the military.
Here, I have to agree with her. The military establishment has been the controlling force throughout Pakistan’s history, and almost every civilian government has, in one way or another, tried to wrest control of power from the military and paid the price.
The trouble is, though, that each and every one of those leaders either came to power with the help of the army and the ISI, or had been involved in major corruption that the establishment was able to threaten them with exposing. When those leaders entered into compromise to secure the seat of power (not for public benefit but for expanding their own ill-gotten wealth), the military king makers became puppet masters. And when the puppets tried wrest some power of their own, usually with appeals of help to their “friends” in the US, those holding the strings were able to yank them back into the storage box.
What Imran Khan brings to the table, which is drastically different from anyone ever in the past, are two key points of principle. One is his stated goal to reduce the influence of the army and to establish civilian control over foreign and defense policy. The other is an untainted record, free of corruption and a single-minded, persistent determination to pursue his vision, regardless of how idealistic and impractical it seems to be.
With these, Imran is the only leader who has any credibility when he says he will never enter into a compromise with the ISI, and he understands that to make the army truly hum sab ki apni, our very own, the civilian leadership needs to be up-front and transparent that the COAS and DG ISI report to the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Defence, not the other way round.
For those who still find it hard to understand how much of a disadvantage Imran sees in compromise, remember these two facts:
(1) He is the one who the US ambassador to Pakistan named as the only politician who they could not influence.
(2) He is the one who refused to cut a deal with Musharraf and rejected power that was based on a compromise, because he knew that if the foundation of his leadership was a “deal”, he would never be able to pursue his agenda of civilian control over policy decisions.
Sensible or schizophrenic?
Ms Bucha sees, as do other analysts, Imran’s insistence to end the military operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas, to negotiate with the militants and to insist on the discontinuation of drone strikes as a symptom of his schizophrenia, and as evidence that law and order is not on his agenda. What she suggests is continuing the military operation, which costs hundreds of lives and millions of dollars, and which causes the lives of millions of innocent civilians to be utterly disrupted, their livelihoods destroyed and their family and loved ones killed.
Using desensitizing terminology like “collateral damage” and “internally displaced persons” may save us from guilt, Ms Bucha, but it does nothing to lessen the suffering of the Pakistani villager who has to live for months on end in a refugee camp, having lost her daughter to an errant missile fired by an unmanned drone, while her home, her farm, her village are destroyed by helicopter gunships bearing the emblem of her national army.
And even if you did accept all of this suffering as a price worth paying, what makes you think that military operations by the Pakistan Army will succeed in wiping out militancy which the might of the US military machine has been unable to even control, let alone eradicate, in a war that has now lasted for more than ten years? Who is being schizophrenic, I shall leave the reader to judge.
What Imran has now been saying for years may not appease our justified sense of outrage and anger at the senseless acts of terror being inflicted upon us on a daily basis, it may not help to fulfill our desire for revenge, but it does make sense. Fighting is not the answer. Killing will only lead to more death. Revenge will only lead to more anger. There will be no winners, as history has shown numerous times.
The US government reacted with anger and out of a desire for revenge after 9/11. Ten years, billions of dollars and thousands of lives later, where do they stand today? Making attempts at engaging the Taliban in dialogue. That is the only sensible way forward.
More to come
The article then goes on to pick holes in foreign policy statements, local governance and tax reform objectives and pretty much everything else that Imran spoke about that day. I will look at each of those and come back with more in a few days. Please look out for part two and share your comments and feedback.