There have been many who have played a destructive role in Pakistan’s politics but Imran Khan may well come to head the list.
He has never had the kind of stately intellectuality or revolutionary standing, so one hesitates before honouring him by comparison with the giant; but if Bhutto’s political use of the Punjab-dominated western wing of Pakistan culminated in the loss of East Pakistan, Imran’s focus on the Punjab mass might take care of the remains.
Bhutto had the capacity to revitalise a truncated defeated nation: Would anyone wager that Imran has the capacity – or even the will – to collect the pieces of the Pakistan he is pushing towards implosion? For that could well be the way the curtain falls on his political dramatics if he persists in routing democratic leadership the Azadi March way. It is a pity as well as a national humiliation that so shallow a political entity has to be taken so seriously in terms of the damage he can inflict. And it saddens one that Imran Khan, an individual who has used his privileged position to significantly help society by establishing the Shaukat Khanum Hospital and his cricketing gifts to delight and animate nationally, should be cutting the kind of political figure he does in his August antics now.
He set out to discredit and embarrass the PML(N)-led provincial and federal governments but the taunting and inflammatory rhetoric now seem devices to catapult himself into premiership from mere captaincy.
There is cause for the PTI’s whinging. But how proportionately intelligent or objectively wise are the party leader’s reactive responses or initiatives against what he terms Sharif badshahat? To Pakistanis who are not out there doing the bhangra in the pangs of democratic rebirth, PTI’s chairman appears deluded or hypocritical or dangerously stupid when he claims he is abiding by democratic norms. The thoughtless call for “civil disobedience” exposes his limitations, but the problem remains of how to escape the consequences. For the street power is there for all to see.
Are his followers hypnotised in the worst traditions of cultist populism and fascistic youth wings? Will the batch of PTI party fledglings begin to doubt the method if not the motive of their idol or will they be fodder-feed for him? As a party leader, Imran’s misuse of youthful idealism has outdone the preceding models of PPP jiyalas, Mohajir activists and JI militants.
The PTI’s move into its present mode was marked by Imran’s reversal of the decision he says he made in the national interest to accept an electoral verdict he doubted.
The Nawaz Sharif-led government foolishly helped him to reach that point by its dilatoriness about specific revaluation.
But that the PTI finds street politicking easier and more congenial than democratic electoral effort, is apparent in its abstinence from administrative work for moves that would facilitate better election procedures within the civil administrative framework. A sound election requires a sound electoral roll and that demands a census. Does PM Sharif’s resignation expedite this process?
How does Imran propose installing a PM and government meeting PTI-specific standards? He styled himself PM from the expiry of his thundering deadline for a Sharif surrender or abdication. Never mind that his party is not exactly in a nationally commanding parliamentary position or even assured of the lead among party pluralities in fresh elections. Is it a PTI prerogative to decide on caretaker content since impeccable elections are imperceptible? Or do parties that aren’t backing Imran’s not count in PTI democratic speak?
Nawaz Sharif could have outsmarted the evidently embittered Imran by stepping aside earlier in parliamentary style or moving for a vote of confidence. But if he does this now it will be a response that reinforces extra-parliamentary principles and practices and buffets the ramshackle democratic system we strain to keep in progress. It would be intelligent generosity on the part of other parties favouring a continuation rather than disruption of formally democratic government to offer the PM endorsement in the House. And to remind them that when the army responds to a constitutional demand from the government for aid in implementing its writ, it is still the civil government that is calling the shots.
But that said, what happens when you have to authorise shooting in your city streets against protestors? Imran’s political mode is implicit of violent civil conflict or the enshrinement of the will of the mob. Either way, it is a reign of terror unless the sanity of their silent constituencies prevails over personal and party ambition and opportunism inside and outside the admittedly flawed national and provincial parliaments.

 The writer is a free-lance columnist.