Power grab politics

For Imran Khan’s supporters, taking bravado, uncompromising positions is a virtue. For others not blinded by the cult of the ex-cricketer it is what has caused a loss of over 600 billion rupees to the brittle economy, weakened a frail democracy that had just begun crawling, locked down the cities of Islamabad and Lahore for days, caused a standoff between the Prime Minister (PM) and the army that has resulted in the strengthening of the latter and, above all, created futility. To what end is this azaadi (independence) march headed? It is as unclear to the people of Pakistan as it is to his own party leaders, formed by the same lot that formed other established parties.
It is unclear because there is no reforms agenda or bill tabled by his party, the Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), in parliament. There is not a single piece of pending legislation calling for reforms for education and health, which was his forte, nor is there one for the justice that he claims to be his party’s raison d’etre. There is none for electoral reforms, which is why he has spiralled the country into mayhem in the first place. The sit-in outside parliament is then supposed to achieve none of these concrete demands because there are none to begin with.
His claim that the elections were rigged is shared by no one other than himself and his followers. The international community, leading politicians in Pakistan and independent observers of the 2013 elections certainly do not. His claim is as baseless as it is disrespectful of the norms of politics. Nor does it come accompanied with any sense of history. He is adamant to play the part of the sour loser. Assuming he is right to some extent, the government has called for a re-election in the contentious zones but this show of magnanimity has only emboldened the bully that he has become, asking now for the ultimate resignation of the PM. The only end, it seems, is for Imran Khan to become the prime minister.
There are more than a few bones that one can pick with this strategy. The first is that this is not what a majority of his own voters got him elected to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government for. They voted for him to work with the system and change it from within, strengthening institutions and creating enough healthy competition in governance to be improved overall as other parties would pace up service to the people. Instead, he is working to weaken institutions: attacking the PM’s office with derogatory terms, insulting politicians that form part of his peer group and throwing the judiciary into a credibility crisis by the claim that they were partisan in the rigging.
The second is the appalling sense of simplicity that is being instilled in the Pakistani psyche. The thinking that there is a despot and the people have risen to overthrow him. This is terribly dangerous because it is disrespectful of the rules of democracy as it is towards recent events in the rest of the world, particularly the much-glorified Arab Spring. The third springs from the second. What will happen in the event that Imran Khan’s demands are met? The government is toppled or weakened? There is going to be a power vacuum that will be created. In places where this has happened, the results have led to the rise of the Taliban, the ISIS and its splinter groups.
Fourth is that these extreme measures are not becoming of these extreme times. We are at war, not just in North Waziristan but the war is in our cities and towns. In such dire times, where there is so much room for miscalculation by our law enforcing authorities, to distract the entire mechanism towards being weary of civilian mobs is irresponsible, unstatesmanlike and dangerous. The volatility created as a result of this march makes violence a very likely outcome, especially because the call to violence is constantly being made by Mr Khan in the form of direct provocations to both the police and the opposition.
Conversely, the ruling party has been measured in its response. Notwithstanding the terrible events in Model Town where PAT workers were killed, there has been a strictly no-violence policy by the government against the PTI tsunami of 20,000 people, falling short of the party’s claims by about 980,000. It seems that the plan is to wear out the PTI.
For the sake of the economy (the bread and butter of millions), for the sake of continuity (the hope that foreign direct investment will flow inwards soon) and that of stability of the institutions, one hopes that this happens sooner rather than later.

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