Some hyper-optimistic change-o-phile analysts have been asking whether Imran Khan will be the unstoppable force to win in the coming general elections in August 2018, across Pakistan’s four provinces. Ironically and, most laughably, the change mongers cite the judiciary’s continuing massacre (read vendetta) of the Sharif family and the establishment’s political engineering (cobbling of an anti-PPP alliance in Sindh and a merger of PSP/MQM in Karachi) as some of the factors as having ‘leveled’ the playing field for Imran Khan – with the road to election victory paved and carpeted.
Before moving on to the other stars that appear aligned for Imran Khan to the optimistic analysts, let’s just analyse the mentioned levelling: where even supporters of Imran Khan see clearly what has been happening to engineer a win for him (which I actually disagree with – the engineering designed only to give Nawaz Sharif a bloody nose, and not the throne to Imran Khan), what response would such naked engineering elicit in supporters of PMLN or even in neutral democrats? My bets are on sympathy with the Sharif family and the PMLN, and anger at Imran Khan and the engineers. Unbiased democrats see this very engineering as another dictatorial, ruinous attempt at derailing the system and an attempt at thwarting the public’s will: because neither does the system call for judicial victimization, nor for force defections/ alliances of political parties. Indeed, sympathy and anger translate to more votes for the PMLN.
Further, if the disqualification of the Prime Minister and the references against his offspring are any indication of the public response, convictions would increase the sympathy and the determination to vote PMLN to frustrate the conspiracy, rather than becoming moral or political blows as claimed by said hopefuls.
Almost all wishes being expressed are belied by facts and developments on the ground: it’s being asserted that there is panic and infighting in the Nawaz camp with electable horses, sniffing the wind, cantering to Imran Khan’s stables. These imagined horses which were said to be 30-35 right after the PM’s disqualification, have now reached the dizzying number of 90. And defections were supposed to have long happened by now. Yet, nothing of the sort has been witnessed thus far. Indeed there have been some horse trades between the PPP and the PTI, with PTI acquiring criminals in exchange for better elements quitting the PTI to join the PPP. Further, the PMLN was just joined by veteran democrat Nawabzada Ghazanfar Gul. As one keen observer tweeted, ‘PPP ke chori khanay walay leader PTI mein shamil ho gaye, aur koray khanay walay Noon League mein’ (PPP’s corrupt joining the PTI, and those who took lashings for democracy joining the PMLN).
Neither has there been any evidence of any cantering to anywhere, nor is there infighting leading to any internal haemorrhaging so dearly being wished for and predicted. Shahbaz Sharif is firmly standing by his brother. The entire family understands what the outsiders understand: there is strength in unity and as one they will fight back. This is not the first time they are being tested. Whoever leads, the other brother and second generation will stick with them to the shock and awe of all opponents and engineers. PTI chairman being able to cherry pick the strongest of PMLN electables from the droves defecting in Punjab is a dream as remote as the one of a solid win in KP, and a win in Sindh and Karachi with the help and shenanigans of the establishment.
The most fascinating prediction is for KP – where respected analysts insist IK will sweep not because he delivered anything, not because he has a revolutionary manifesto, not because he has ignited a popular movement, and not because he has gone ideological, but because of what his rivals have done (or not done) and because the people of KP want some pie in the sky ‘change’ (which he failed to deliver abysmally in the last four and a half years). The fallacy of this argument relies on the people of KP being utter fools, which they are not. People in general, whether from KP or elsewhere, are not stupid and do not get duped again and again, so one shouldn’t be hoping for them to make the same mistake again and expecting different results. Indeed, the many people from KP that I have spoken to decry the imposter that Imran Khan is, and do laud delivery on some counts from the PMLN government. They are unlikely to en masse vote for the mirages shown by Imran Khan again.
Imran Khan may have tried very hard to equate Nawaz Sharif with Zardari in the corruption perception index, but he hasn’t got the people nodding to this mantra as analysts insist. People instead ask why Nawaz Sharif had to be ousted on an un-received salary were he so corrupt; they ask why the 11 volume JIT ‘indictment’ contains not a single allegation, leave alone evidence, of misuse of public office or of public money. What has happened instead as a result of the drive to establish a narrative of corruption against the Sharifs, is that evidence of Imran Khan’s and his PTI cronies’ own corruption have come to light, with Akbar S Babar highlighting the foreign funding of his party, the non-transparent use of said funds, the dubious money trail of Bani Gala property, the undeclared offshore accounts of Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen, the undeclared mansion of Tareen in the UK, the unauthorized investments of charity funds of SKMT in stock markets, the insider trading by Jahangir Tareen when he was federal minister in Musharraf’s cabinet. Whether they are convicted at all is another question, but the Supreme Court and NAB’s recent demonstration of bias and a will to help along the engineering will make their decisions immaterial for the purposes of public perception. The courts have lost credibility and will not affect the way the public votes. If anything public perception and voting patterns will remain inverse to court decisions until they are seen to have redeemed themselves. To top it all, Imran Khan’s defense of himself and his party leaders’ corruption is also there for all to see.
Just recently, Imran Khan defended Ali Amin Gandapur, a PTI minister, who is accused of protecting the criminals who paraded naked a 16 year old girl in Dera Ismail Khan. He did not order any independent inquiry against Gandapur, dismissing the allegations out of hand, and instead announced the expulsion of the MNA who is fighting for the victim from his constituency and is demanding an inquiry of the incidence and prosecution of the criminals and their abettors.
Add to all this Imran Khan’s pre-Panama naked attempts at bringing government down with help of umpires and you have a perfect blackguard. Such exposure of the phony Messiah and Saviour will certainly make him ‘unstoppable’ from consigning himself to the dustbin of history despite the engineers, media stooges, and facilitators within the judiciary.
The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.