It would be a very boring 2018 election if Imran Khan was not contesting. For all his flaws and missteps, Mr Khan and his party have become an essential part of national politics and key opposition to the juggernaut that is the PML-N. Looking at the political climate, and how much criticism it would receive, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had no choice but to dismiss disqualification references against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders Imran Khan and Jehangir Tareen.
While it can be argued that the ECP played fair, it cannot be denied that the institution is under a lot of pressure to appear fair rather than to be fair. Herein lies the concern over accountability. The reference against Imran Khan mentioned his offshore company and properties abroad, income, that he had not disclosed an investment to the ECP and his alleged misstatements about his Bani Gala house. It also alleged that Khan had purchased a flat in London through an offshore company in 1983 and did not disclose this fact until 2016. Another allegation against him was about his sprawling Bani Gala residence, which he had declared to be a gift from his ex-wife. However, the record shows that he claimed to have purchased the land at a rate of Rs145,000 per kanal in 2011.
Should the PTI not clearly address these accusations, like they demand of other political parties, and set an example to the rest? PTI has been shouting about accountability and corruption for years, yet when their own members are in the limelight there is silence. Imran Khan’s philanthropy and status as a cricket hero puts him above criticism, above rebuke. Would people offer the same reverence to the PM, had he won a world cup for Pakistan?
This is a party victory, and not a victory for accountability. One is hard-pressed to find a single politician of power in Pakistan, who does not have skeletons hidden in locked closets. The PML-N itself cannot be allowed to sit pretty. Whichever way the Supreme Court decision over the Panama case goes, they have not been able to conclusively reassure the public that their hands are clean. These issues go beyond the courts and legislative bodies. They leave the public insecure, distrusting, and aggressive. They feed into the anger of the common man who is harassed at countless checkpoints, made to feel small while we protect VIPs, and made to pay taxes when his leaders and politicians get to avoid them.
Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb has accused Mr Imran Khan of not presenting himself for accountability before the country's institutions. There will be a counter accusation soon enough, and neither side will actually truly be able to reassure the public with the truth.