Imran Khan’s contradictory political strategy
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of former Prime Minister Imran Khan faces an uncertain future after being ousted through a no-confidence motion on April 9. The next elections will be the only time this question gets answered, but so far, no one knows when the electorate will get the opportunity to exercise their right to elect their future rulers.
The next ten days are expected to be very important for this purpose.
The PTI’s 131 members of the National Assembly have already resigned from their seats, and Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is scheduled to verify their veracity/ legitimacy by June 10. In case he concludes that the resignations were tendered in a constitutional way, the seats of all these members will stand vacated, making it mandatory for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hold by-elections on them in two months’ time.
This would be a challenging task for the ECP – like a general election.
In case some members withdraw their resignations for any reason, the PTI will receive a political setback.
But what is incomprehensible for political analysts is the contradictory approach being followed by the PTI leadership for the provincial assemblies. PTI members are retaining their provincial seats – even the government in KP – a factor that brings relief to the eleven-party coalition led by Mian Shehbaz Sharif.
In case the provincial seats are also vacated by the PTI legislators, fresh elections will become unavoidable as the system cannot be run with hundreds of vacant seats in the national and provincial assemblies.
What is more surprising is the fact that the PTI plans to put up its candidates on all 25 Punjab seats declared vacant by the ECP after their holders, in violation of the party decision, voted for Hamza Shehbaz for the post of the chief minister.
There is little justification for the party to call for fresh elections in the country and at the same time put up candidates for by-elections on some seats.
This is another contradiction in the PTI’s strategy. There is little justification for the party to call for fresh elections in the country and at the same time put up candidates for by-elections on some seats.
The cricketer-turned-politician’s overall policy also has many contradictions/inconsistencies. For example, having worked as prime minister for some 43 months, he fully knows the power of the military establishment. But instead of mending fences with them for his party’s better future, Khan is antagonizing them. His recent interview with a TV channel is likely to widen the gulf between the two sides.
The PTI chairman said that while in power he did not enjoy absolute power as the prime minister.
"Our hands were tied. Power wasn't with us. Everyone knows where the power lies in Pakistan so we had to rely on them," he said without naming anyone but leaving no doubt who he was referring to.
"Pakistan is going towards a default. If that happens then which institution will be [worst] hit? The army. After it is hit, what concession will be taken from us? De-nuclearization,” he said.
With such statements full of reckless rhetoric, Khan is shooting himself and his party in the foot, while the parties in the ruling coalition celebrate his self-destructive moves.
Those who know Imran Khan say he is a combination of both Pakistan’s former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif. Bureaucrats who worked with them used to say: One doesn’t listen, the other doesn’t understand.
What Imran doesn’t understand is the need to heed sincere advice at a time when he is pitted against very experienced rivals. If he does not win the support of Pakistan’s powerful military, the PTI will be facing a bleak future. And the political elimination of the PTI at this juncture will mean total disappointment for millions of its supporters – and a free hand to the parties that have been ruling the country for the past many decades.
The changes the parties in the ruling coalition have already made to the election and NAB laws have paved the way for their rule in the future as well.
— The writer is a senior and veteran journalist with a career spanning 40 years with major national and international newspapers.