Round one: Imran Khan versus Asma Jahangir

Published: November 21, 2014

The root of the matter lies with the appointment of the chief election commissioner. PHOTO: FILE

When a minor political disagreement turns into an acrimonious battle of nerves, the stage is set for a senseless blame game. Beyond this point, the purpose is no longer to find a solution to the issue at hand. On the contrary, it becomes a matter of settling scores and, at best, winning.

The war of words between PTI chief, Imran Khan, and prominent lawyer and former Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president, Asma Jahangir, last week offers a glaring testament of this belief.

Unfortunately, not all battles can be won through veiled assaults and criticism.

Silent tussle

The conflict brewed against the backdrop of former Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani’s appointment as Chief Election Commissioner. Imran rejected this decision and issued statements against the judiciary. According to the PTI chief, ISI and MI officials should also be included in the judicial commission established to probe the allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections. The legal fraternity was up in arms over his demands.

However, this did not stop Imran from blowing the matter out of proportion.

Addressing his supporters at the Islamabad sit-ins, he launched a scathing attack on Asma Jahangir for allegedly criticising the women who ‘dance’ at his protest. With his voice tinged with sarcasm, Imran attributed her new-found narrow mindedness to a new friendship with JUI-F chief, Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

The PTI chief may have used political rhetoric to his advantage but his remarks came across as underhanded jibes. Trapped beneath the surface of sarcasm and veiled assaults, the root of the problem remained largely ignored. As a result, his remarks against the former SCBA president did not represent the problem in a clear and effective manner, and sounded more like an angry outburst.

At a time when Imran has emerged as a bastion for democracy, there was no excuse for him to ignore the contributions of those who have struggled to rid the system of dictatorial tendencies. Asma Jahangir is an example of one such activist who has championed the cause with unflagging commitment. By launching his tirade, the PTI chief has systematically undermined her struggle for democracy.

It would be easy to reject his remarks. After all, at a time when Imran was gracing the cricket pitch, Asma Jahangir was working to uplift the status of women. However, such a rejoinder would only reinforce the desire to announce a winner in this battle over unfulfilled demands.

Meanwhile, Asma’s reaction to the PTI chief’s cutting remarks appeared to be justified. The former SCBA president has simply criticised Imran for his naïve behaviour and scornfully told him to go dance in India if he so desires. However, her responses deviated from the issue at hand and instead focused on irrelevant considerations. As with Imran’s reaction, the former SCBA president’s response is equally vague and problematic.

Beyond the veneer

The root of the matter lies with the appointment of the chief election commissioner. Imran did not provide a clear explanation on why he was against the former chief justice seizing the reins. According to speculations, the PTI raised doubt about Jillani’s appointment because the PML-N had thrown its weight on the nominee. Furthermore, others have pointed toward Imran’s tussle with various members of the legal fraternity as a possible reason for his objections.

Although it is difficult to reach a firm conclusion on the matter, there are some things that cannot be compromised on. For instance, the PTI should remember that its sole purpose is to confirm rigging allegations in last year’s polls. If the party has a problem with the members of the judicial commission, it should voice its reservations with the legal fraternity and provide a reason for their dissent. Launching scathing attacks on each other will only add fuel to the fire.

Over a week has passed since the conflict gained media attention. And yet, the crux of the matter seems to have been brushed under the carpet. At this critical juncture, both the PTI chief and Asma Jahangir should work towards clarifying their stance rather than taking a dig at each other over an unspoken dispute.


Taha Kehar

A blogger on social events and has previously worked as Assistant Editor for a media magazine. He is currently pursuing Law Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He tweets @TahaKehar.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Zaid

    The fact that Imran Khan venomous towards Asma Jahangir while being infatuated with Mubasher Lucman says a lot about the man. History will not be kind to him.Recommend

  • Imran Ahmed

    Asma has been a clear sighted and tireless worker for rule of law and has fought on the side of the poor and the marginalized. She stood up to protect the constitution in the landmark Asma Jilani case and has since fought child slavery, violence against women, false cases against children from minorities, rapists and those who defile our religion. It is her clear vision which dissects out hypocrisy that earns her the ire of hypocrites.Recommend

  • Disgusted

    Don’t insult Imran with such silly comparison. I am not talking about looks but character.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Stuff like this happens, especially when two people are on the opposite ends of a principled tussle……and Imran Khan is known to be blunt and in being so has committed a few political faux passes that have not served him well……but then that’s my view.Recommend

  • rahim

    to compare asma janglee with imran khan is laughable.Recommend

  • Khan

    Asma’s penchant for rule of law is tantamount to America’s love for democracy, I think you know what I mean right. Or maybe in the case of Asma, she has yet to understand that civilian dictators – for whom she has developed this new found liking for how else could Zardari & Nawaz support her interim premiership – are equally bad if not worse and should be taken on.Recommend

  • Ukesh Gomani

    What about her remaining silent on the deaths of innocent people in the model town incident and government’s merciless shelling and firing on protesters in Islamabad?
    How can a HR activist criticize people who come out to take justice? Like in this case, it is about electoral rigging. I don’t question her legacy in the field of HR but her recent behavior kinda shows her conflict of interest, which is tarnishing her image.Recommend

  • Fawad Shah

    Asma Jehangir is a bold woman, no doubt, but it is so obvious that she is so biased against Imran khan and Pti. She believes pti is responsible for all the ills our country has accumulated in 67 years, at the same time ignoring Pmln and PPP we have ruled us for more than 30 years. Recommend

  • Imran

    That is true. Asma Jahangir is a stalwart of democratic struggle. Imran is a failed puppet of agencies. Comparison is laughable.Recommend

  • aaaaa

    I’ve never seen somebody write so much without actually saying anything in a while. One person fought against all four dictatorships, the other party was founded (on his own admission) by a DG-ISI. There’s only one winner here.Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    You just have to Goggle and find about her Parley’s in India & her Life Style.Recommend

  • Furqan

    So you are saying that agencies are so weak that they were unable to overthrow the govt. this time? And you did not watch what Imran khan said about generals in old private vids?Recommend

  • Aik-Paki

    Come on – you are trying to compare Aasma who has been feeding on the so called human right western help and mopney. She always work for her masters from the West. On the other side is Imran Khan who is working for the betterment of Pakistan and its people. Therefore IK and Aasma comparison is unwiseRecommend

  • Humza

    I believe the whole country should call for the arrest of Tahirul Qadri who instigated the Model Town riots which led to the deaths. He took simple brain washed followers and had them attack police with rocks, pistols and sticks which lead to their treatment. We all saw how his followers fight over his used handkerchief at gatherings. So I agree with you we need to arrest the people who attack government buildings and police for political gain.Recommend

  • voidist

    how can one compare taliban khan against somebody who has done so much
    for the poor and the needy ?
    imran is much more at home with his talibani friendsRecommend

  • Imran Ahmed

    They should be narrow vision gogglesRecommend

  • hammurabi

    Whatever she said in India is based on facts,though we may not like it .Recommend

  • Ali

    We want justice for women! #Justice4TyrianKhanRecommend

  • hammurabi

    Anyone who is objective and unbiased is termed as westernized and everyone who is narrow minded and biased is termed as patriotThis is narcissism in Muslim societies..Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    Pl lets us know what she said & who all she met & what was her attire. She is also one of them who collected a prize in BD from Hasina Wajid for the 1971 debacle in E.Pak My family was there. Family escaped via Burma to escape the Brutal killings by the Mukti Bhani led by the RAW Agents.Recommend

  • Volas32 .

    Leave that to history, will you?Recommend

  • Volas32 .

    Had it been the agencies backing IK then NS would have been long gone to Jeddah, dude. The lady mentioned has become a laughing stock, bashing Khan just because he didn’t let Mairlyn Monroe to become interim PM.Recommend

  • Volas32 .

    on his own admission, care to share?Recommend

  • T1

    I disagree that the conflict began on Justice Jilani’s appointment. I saw elements of this for a while in the Press. In particular, I am disappointed by the ferocity with which Ms. Jehangir has personalized this and even staked her reputation on the rigging issue.Recommend

  • Tellerr

    Lol naviety isnt as bad as being jaded. Imran has also worked tirelessly for causes but may be he hasnt catered as much to west as asma does. In any case, i dont like her, she has selective vision and selective causes to appease an agenda and while imran may be whatever but the guy isnt here for gratification she has milked the ‘humanitarian ‘ work for all its worth. a trend rather common now a days.Recommend