Published: Published Date – 12:51 AM, Thu – 9 June 22

By Amitava Mukherjee

Imran Khan knows it very well that the coalition government in Pakistan led by Shahbaz Sharif is now walking on thin ice. Although the present government has expressed its intention to complete the full term of the National Assembly, it will always remain open to inner contradictions.

At this juncture, any astute opposition leader would remain tightlipped, manoeuvre from behind the scene and would, at least outwardly, try to keep the army, the most powerful institution in Pakistan, in good humour. Instead, Imran Khan is out to condemn almost everybody on earth, most of all the army, the Supreme Court and the Election Commission. His anger is understandable. Imran loves autocratic power, be it in cricket or in politics. But in democratic politics, the scale may swing at any time, either in favour or in disfavour and one has to wait patiently for good time to arrive. So one can reasonably ask: why is Khansaab so angry?

Turn of Events

It is because he is not getting the response he expects from his countrymen in his tirade against the Shahbaz Sharif government. Just look at the turn of events. On May 25, he abruptly cancelled his long march to Islamabad citing his eagerness to avoid bloodshed. The decision was correct. But he had given the government six days for announcing a date for new election and had thundered that he will come back with ‘millions of marchers’ if his demand was not met. But the deadline he has given has expired and there is no sign of Imran coming back with multitudes of people.

Reliable estimates aver that on the day of the long march, Khansaab could muster only a few thousand people. This was perhaps due to the brute force that the government had unleashed on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporters. On his part, Imran too had perhaps overestimated his support base.

Imran is now drawing parallels from history although his knowledge of history is open to question. He is referring to Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq while talking about the reasons behind his fall from grace. Mir Jafar was a general of the army of Siraj-ud-Daula, the last independent Nawab of Bengal. At the Battle of Plassey in 1757, Mir Zafar had ditched the Bengal Nawab which led to the latter’s defeat at the hands of the East India Company. In 1799, the British had bribed Mir Sadiq, a minister of Tipu Sultan, before the battle of Seringapatam. Tipu was killed in the battle. The army took a hard line against this insinuation. Imran lost nerves and said he meant Shahbaz Sharif as a traitor. But unlike Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq, Shahbaz Sharif held no position in the ruling dispensation.

Army Supreme

Till now no situation has arisen in Pakistan which allows any political party to defy the army. Imran himself was a product of the ‘deep state’. There were widespread allegations of electoral malpractices aided and abetted by the army which saw the PTI gaining a majority in the National Assembly. So why is Imran hurling abuses at the army? The reason lies in the fact that the army has lost faith in him as the Captain could not show any administrative acumen in his tenure as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. When Imran himself became aware of it, he tried to stay afloat by manipulating one institution against another without trying to face the fundamental issues that afflict his country.

Let us have a peep into the mismanagement that Khansaab presided over. During 2018-19, Pakistan’s GDP growth was only 1%, a threatening figure by any standard. Moreover, during 2019-20, the GDP per capita contracted by 8% in current dollar terms. Strangely, Imran Khan’s cabinet did not have any person who could show any solid credentials as an economist. The slide is continuing. Most important, 60% of Pakistan’s defence budget is met through borrowing which makes the army vulnerable. No army can hope to undertake modernisation programmes having such a soft underbelly. Imran Khan could not show any positive effort to come out of such a situation. So the army had enough of him.

Covering Up

Imran Khan should keep it in mind that politics is not cricket. The reason behind his ouster is his lack of performance. To cover it up, he is accusing the US of conspiring against him. This is sheer skulduggery. For a long time, Pakistan is known to be a strategic partner of the US in South Asian geopolitics. India’s close cooperation with the US in the Asia Pacific or New Delhi’s participation in the QUAD has not altered the situation.

With the Taliban’s ascension to power in Afghanistan and the ongoing deadly skirmishes between the Pakistan army and the Taliban-backed forces on both sides of the Durand Line, Pakistan is in need of US support. Imran says the US has engineered his downfall because the PTI government’s relations with Russia and China were brightening up rapidly. One thing is, however, certain. Neither Russia nor China will dip their fingers in Pakistan’s murky affairs where Islamic fundamentalists led by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are major factors.

Strangely, Imran Khan is now wondering whether Pakistan is moving towards a default, a bankruptcy which will hit all the institutions of the country, particularly the army. But he is not bringing under the scanner his own role behind such a scenario. His own delineation of the situation points out that Pakistan is a failed democracy. In a quite unstatesmanlike fashion Imran brags that the stability of his country depends on nuclearisation and if Pakistan is forced to accept denuclearisation as a result of financial bankruptcy, the country will go into ‘three pieces’.

(The author is a senior journalist and commentator.

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