Notwithstanding the fact that both Imran and Qadri have failed to achieve their single agenda objective of forcing the Prime Minister to resign through their marches and sit-ins, the former remains adamant and stubborn as ever to continue his campaign for the resignation of the Prime Minister. What a shame that instead of explaining his own dubious role in seeking a change through unconstitutional means, he still has the audacity to challenge the credentials of all political leaders, hurling unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against them.

They have now changed their strategy to build pressure on the government, particularly the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign, by holding sit-ins and public rallies across the country. Imran did hold big public rallies in Karachi and Lahore to show his popularity amongst the masses. Addressing the rally in Lahore he emphatically declared that the people of Lahore had given their verdict in his favour and he would not relent until Nawaz Sharif conceded his demand to resign. While it is the democratic right of the political leaders to hold public rallies to propagate their views on national issues and eliciting public support, these rallies are certainly not reflective of the support that they actually enjoy among the masses. I can say with certainty that his rally in Lahore on 30th October 2011 was much bigger than the present one and he also attracted impressive crowds during his election campaign. The political analysts believe that the public rallies organized by the political parties usually have three components comprising die hard supporters of the party, the opponents and the ones who come just for the fun of it. Therefore they are not a reliable barometer to fathom the strength and popularity of the party or its leader. The spontaneous reception given to Benazir Bhutto by millions of people on both occasions of her return from exile in 1986 and 2007 were a different phenomenon altogether. The real test of the popularity of a leader comes through the ballot box. The reality is that Imran Khan despite his big public rallies could only muster 16.92 per cent of the cast vote in the 2013 elections, while the PML(N) and PPP obtained 32.77% and 15.62% of the cast vote respectively.

In the obtaining scenario, a man with 16.92 per cent of the cast vote is pitched against the majority (all political parties represented in the parliament) which has obtained 83% of the cast votes; a negation of democratic norms. He surely has a very weak case in launching and continuing with his campaign merely on the basis of unsubstantiated charges of rigging. Almost all domestic and international organizations who monitored the 2013 elections, despite pointing out some procedural inadequacies and irregularities, declared them fairer than earlier elections. Further, all the persons and institutions including ECP blamed by Imran of having a role in stealing the election have vehemently denied the allegations with supporting data and facts. Another sordid aspect of the whole episode is that he is trying to target the wrong party, the PML(N) who was not in power when the elections were held. The PML(N) government must be given credit for the fact that in spite of having a heavy mandate and being in an unassailable position, it still agreed to form a judicial commission to have rigging allegations probed and indicated that it would resign if the commission corroborated the rigging claims. It also formed a parliamentary committee for electoral reforms. Regrettably, Imran retracted from his earlier demand and now is refocused on his original one point agenda to see the back of Nawaz Sharif.

There are three possibilities in this regard. The first is that the fancied umpire who failed to show up in the first episode of the plot is forced to make his entry by creating chaos and lawlessness in the country, which would be a recipe for disaster and push the country further into the crucible of a precipice. In that case, the intervention certainly would not be on anyone’s behalf and those seeking it would also be doomed. The second possibility is that the Prime Minister himself decides to resign and dissolves the assemblies. That possibility is no longer an option as the parliament has unanimously vowed to defend democracy and the constitution and asked the Prime Minister not to succumb to the unconstitutional demand for his resignation. Perhaps it would not be out of place to mention that the full bench of the Lahore Court in its decision on 13th August had declared the demands and marches of the PTI and PAT as unconstitutional. The third and the most practical way to have Nawaz removed from the august position of Prime Minister is to seek people’s mandate through the ballot box in the coming elections which seems. The changes that he contemplates in the electoral and governance system can only come through constitutional means in the current parliament. Imran must realize that he cannot bring these changes on his own. He would require the backing and support of all political forces and the two third majority in the parliament to give effect to them through constitutional amendments

No body in his right mind can grudge Imran’s status as a popular leader in his own right. He is better advised to consolidate his political gains through responsible politics wedded to internationally recognized democratic norms deriving legitimacy from the constitution of the country. Resort to unconstitutional means tinged with violence and disrespect for the law of the land that he has been preaching and urging his supporters to follow, is fraught with grave dangers. Similarly, relying on the praetorian powers to achieve access to the corridors of power also has internal and international repercussion which he needs to understand. Winning the verdict of the public rallies, as claimed by Imran, will not be enough to lay claims on running the affairs of the country. I am sure PML(N) and PPP and for that matter, some politico-religious outfits and parties are capable of organizing even bigger rallies than the one at Lahore addressed by Imran Khan.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

ashpak10@gmail.com