Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned Pakistan as a democratic entity as he was convinced that democracy which established ascendency of the elected governments in regards to governing the country was the only way to achieve the objectives of independence and winning an honourable place in the comity nations. But regrettably that vision and dream was effectively scuttled by the ambitious and power hungry Generals who mutilated the constitution, destroyed the state institutions and made clandestine moves to obstruct the path of democracy. The representative governments that interspersed the military regimes also failed to consolidate democracy due to politics of self-aggrandisement. So both the military dictators and politicians are equally responsible for betraying the vision of the Quaid and pushing the country to a precipice.
The restoration of democracy in 2008 and the first ever transfer of power through ballot in 2013 did raise the hope of a positive break from the unenviable past. But those who entertained the thought that the politicians have learnt from their mistakes and would not do anything to derail democracy, have been utterly disappointed by the antics of Imran Khan whose sole aim is to reach the corridors of power even at the cost of democracy and the legitimacy of means to achieve that. He talks about democracy and rule of law but acts contrary to his assertions. He does not trust the state institutions including judiciary and the parliament and despite having been proved wrong on his contention about rigging, continues to hurl unsubstantiated allegations on state institutions and state functionaries. His entire politics revolves around hatred of the Nawaz Sharif whom he is hell bent to see out of power. The combined sit-in by PTI and PAT in Islamabad that saw the enactment of rowdy and violent scenes including attack on the PTV and parliament and his latest threat to shut-down the capital on 30th October, are ample testimonies of his brand of politics. Instead of a revolutionary that he presented himself when he jumped into the political arena, he has proved himself a traditional politician salivating for the coveted position of Prime Minister, through power politics that knows no political and moral ethics.
Nobody in his right mind can challenge the credentials of Imran Khan as a political leader after his party secured more than seven million votes in the 2013 General elections. But doing what he has been doing since then and not participating in the parliamentary proceeding he has actually betrayed the trust of the people who voted for him. That is probably the reason for his dwindling popularity as is evident from the PTI defeat in the recently held AJK elections, Local-body polls, by-elections for the NA and PA seats and also reported rifts within the party leaders.
Who does not want reforms in the system of governance and an end to corruption? There is almost a national consensus on these two issues. The required changes can be effected by the parliament through collective efforts of the parties represented in the legislature. These changes cannot happen on the streets through stone throwing and seeking dead bodies to pull down the government. It will take us further away from the desired goals.
In a democratic dispensation, the litmus test for the popularity of a political leader and the party he heads is the ballot box and not the public rallies. The reality of Pakistani politics is that the PML-N continues to be the most popular party among the masses notwithstanding the crowds attracted by Imran Khan in his public rallies and the sit-in. That reality has not changed after the Raiwind rally. Addressing the rally and Playing to the gallery he did indulge in bellicose blustering against India but failed to convincingly sell the idea that the government of Nawaz Sharif had acted cowardly in the given situation. That indicates his obsession with Nawaz Sharif bashing. Only fools would give credence to this kind of convulsion. The government and the military establishment have exhibited unswerving resolve to defend the frontiers of the country against any aggression and giving a befitting reply to any military adventure by India.
Under the given circumstances he should have revisited his strategy and the decision to shut down Islamabad like the other political parties who have rightly decided not to join him in ‘bring the government down movement’ at this critical juncture. In view the threats emanating from India, we need an impregnable unity among all the political forces wedded to supporting the government efforts to thwart Indian designs against Pakistan. That view is shared by the bulk of the media and political analysts. But he is a kind of politician who lacks the sense of proportion and his whole effort is centered on reaching the corridors of power by all possible means, except ballot. In my opinion if he desires to remain relevant to the political landscape of the country, he needs to change his way of doing politics. He is better advised to use the democratic forums like the parliament to agitate his views and win the public support in the coming elections for the changes that he thinks are essential or indispensable to improve governance and strengthen democracy because it is an indispensable imperative.
As far as Panama Leaks are concerned, I have maintained since this issue surfaced that it was not possible to conduct a probe unless Pakistan became part of some international arrangement that made the countries involved to share information in regards to tax evasion and illegal investments. The matter is so convoluted that it might take years to conduct a proper probe into it. An initiative to probe Panama Leaks in Australia has alluded to this aspect of the episode. The parties demanding probe despite some of their stalwarts being owners of the off-shore companies, are fully aware of this fact and that is why they have been making a rattling noise about a selective probe into Panama Leaks to gain some political mileage. On the other hand the government has been striving to put in place a mechanism which ensures across the board accountability instead of a witch-hunt.
Notwithstanding the allegations of the opposition, particularly PTI, the government has practically shown its commitment to curb corruption, prevent tax evasion and illegal investment in off-shore companies by signing the OECD Convention on 14th September. The PML-N government in fact had launched this initiative in 2013 much before the Panama Leaks revelations. The Convention is the most comprehensive global instrument against off-shore tax evasion and could become increasingly relevant in the context of Panama Leaks probe when it comes into force by the end of 2017. In view of the foregoing realities, Imran Khan must revisit his political creed and refrain from fomenting chaos and political instability in the country.