Can Pakistan really afford Imran Khan’s antics right now?

Published: October 7, 2016
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Is this the Pakistan that Imran Khan wants to rule as Prime Minister? PHOTO: FILE

As someone who voted for Imran Khan directly in the infamous NA 122 in the 2013 General Elections, I am forced to ask: what game is Imran Khan playing? Boycotting the joint session at a time when the country faces an external threat is not good politics. By harping on about Panama leaks, which is a dead horse, instead of focusing on the clear and present danger that the country faces, Imran Khan is only isolating those who had mistakenly thought he was the country’s great white hope.

On its own, the demand that the Prime Minister of Pakistan should resign because some of his close family members have had offshore companies is not unreasonable. The Prime Minister of Iceland resigned. David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, had to give a long winded explanation of why he had invested in his late father’s offshore company before he was prime minister.

Keeping your elected representatives accountable for their finances is sine qua non to a democratic process. No one denies this in the least. Yet the situation is far from ideal in Pakistan. Indeed the Indian aggression in Kashmir is the least of the structural problems the country faces.

What is even more urgent is the civil military conflagration brewing in the country. If Dawn’s report is to be believed, the civilian government has driven home to the military leadership and if Pakistan does not act against non-state actors, it will face certain international isolation. A great weight has been put on the shoulders of our military leadership, which is now being viewed by the world as either unable to or unwilling to act against non-state actors.

Even China, our staunchest ally, has questioned the logic of Pakistan’s defence of groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and its leader Masood Azhar. The Pakistani state is under stress. Rightly or wrongly, the world views the democratically elected civilian government as being helpless against an overbearing military establishment and the deep state.

In this atmosphere, if Imran Khan carries out another protest movement, it is likely to be seen by the world as being backed by the military. I’m not saying this will be true, but this is the allegation that the enemies of Pakistan will throw at us. And let us assume that Imran Khan does succeed in creating a momentum that sends Nawaz Sharif packing – Nawaz Sharif’s exit will most definitely lead to international isolation; the military will be seen to have intervened and carried out a coup by other means.

The next conclusion that the world will draw is that the Pakistani military is hell bent on protecting non-state actors. What will stop us from being branded as a terrorist state, then? Don’t even count on China’s support if such a scenario unfolds. We would become another North Korea, a source of perpetual embarrassment and irritation to the Chinese. Meanwhile India would have succeeded fabulously in putting Kashmir on the backburner. Every story will be about the unstable terrorist state with nuclear weapons. Investments would run dry and our economy will nose dive. Is this the Pakistan that Imran Khan wants to rule as prime minister? Besides, very little of what Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has done in recent years inspires any confidence.

I voted for PTI thinking, perhaps naively, that it stands for a just and egalitarian Pakistan, which seemed to be the promise of PTI starting October 30th, 2011. Then, Imran Khan spoke of a Pakistan where every citizen, no matter what his religion, background or gender, would be equally protected. However, since then, and especially after losing the elections in 2013, PTI has stood on a regressive and reactionary platform. Some of the demands made by its lawmakers, wherever they have been elected, are downright comical, for example the demand for a ban on the Doraemon cartoon.

Now, a PTI law maker from Sindh has objected to teaching dance as part of school curriculum. Sindh has an ancient tradition of dance and music that is rooted not just in the cultural moorings of the Indus River but also in Sindh’s syncretic Sufi Islamic traditions. If some schools want to teach dance as part of its school curriculum, what right does a PTI lawmaker have to object to it? Not that PTI’s lawmaker has indicated where it was that such flagrant violation of “Islamic values” and “Pakistani constitution” was taking place. In terms of Islamic provisions, the Pakistani Constitution has an enabling role, not one of enforcement. The constitutional directives with regards to Islam cannot be enforced to satisfy the personal religious beliefs of a single individual.

What is amazing is that this demand has come from PTI, which itself faced legal challenges regarding its dharnas by the religious right wing on grounds that they were violating Islamic injunctions of the Constitution. The one positive thing about the dharna that Imran Khan carried out was the festive, inclusive and gender balanced crowds that he pulled. And yes, there was dancing there too.

The problem with PTI is that it is fuelled by the youth who have grown up on a diet of bigoted curriculum and utter confusion about faith and identity. This is the long term result of the slow poison that was introduced by General Ziaul Haq’s government. What was planted as a seed has grown into a full-fledged tree. The middle-class man from his 20s or 30s who supports PTI might look liberal because he wears jeans, but deep down he is a neem-mullah or a half-baked cleric.

One fears what will happen if a party, brought up on Khan’s charisma and a diet of rabid ultra-nationalism, comes to power. Can we afford it?

At this time, however, it is clear that the strongest duty of any patriotic Pakistani is to stand with the democratically elected government, no matter what our criticisms of it are. Pakistan cannot afford any adventurism by any quarter. I hope better sense prevails on Imran Khan. After all, the next election is hardly a year and a half away.

Yasser Latif Hamdani

Yasser Latif Hamdani

The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He tweets as @theRealYLH (twitter.com/therealylh)

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

  • Tahir

    Hamdani, are you too naive to sense Govt resorted on Kashmir issue to avoid Panama investigation? With such writting, you clearly appear so unfortunately. How was this session necessary? With such logic, we shall also help Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman as he sees Islam always in danger and needs our help in this regard.Recommend

  • FAM

    My Hamdani, what was the total count of the legislators present in this joint session? If you dont know, find out the count and you will know the seriousness of the government on the issue.
    what has “Kashmir committee” chairman Fazal Ur Rehman has done for the cause? I hope you will be picked for judge appointment in Punjab soon or AG office?
    India or any other country will never be able to do the kind of damage to this country, which corrupt leadership is doing. Corruption and incompetency is the biggest danger Recommend

  • Sd Ad

    Can Pakistan afford to continue giving a piggy back ride to the thugs in Government [so called champions of democracy] who claim immunity [against accountability] in defiance of all morality?Recommend

  • Nana

    Honest or not, Pakistan cannot afford this child politician called Imran Khan. He should concentrate on his social work and shouldn’t try to cash upon it.Recommend

  • RA

    This can all go away if Nawaz Sharif allows an investigation into Panama gate.Recommend

  • Khalid M

    Mr Hamdani how much cash has some PML-N wala has paid you. Seems like you have no comprehension of the way this country has been destroyed by the like of Nawaz Sharif gang and Zardari gang. Recommend

  • sher khan

    I don’t understand ,You couldn’t stand three years with the party (3 years in power) you vote for, no matter what. You are telling us to stand with the current setup(30 years or so in power) no ,matter what in your last paragraph?Recommend

  • SalmanAhmed6

    Message from the author >>

    1. Do not go against these corrupt politicians who are destroying the country.

    2. Oh and don’t look at any of their faults too. Only IK has faults. The others are angels.

    Did I miss any other message? Recommend

  • faisal

    fully agreedRecommend

  • Feroz

    Author is acting like an naive and innocent child. Everyone who is anyone knows who is backing Imran Khan and why too. Without that backing all these Dharnas would become a no show and fold up.Recommend

  • Nana

    Very convenient timing of Kashmir uprising. So in essence you are saying that what is happening in Kashmir is Nawaz’s doing. Do you know Kashmir agenda is who’s agenda in pakistan?Recommend

  • cautious

    The Civilian govt doesn’t have a meaningful say in Pakistan’s foreign policy so Imran maybe right on this one. What’s the point in a bunch of speeches about something you don’t influence. Never have understood why typical Pakistani is reluctant to admit that the military controls foreign policy – pretty clear to the rest of the World.Recommend

  • sherzaman

    Imran khan want implemetation of law but himself want to remain above the law as it is obvious from his statement on decision of Islamabad high court not to close down the city. He and his other party leaders simply refuse to follow court orders. Still Imran folowers justify his desiciion with illogical resons.Recommend