Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.
Imran at his political best
“Crooks might have a hundred days but a single day of law is heavier” Punjabi saying.
Calling off the lockdown of Islamabad after Supreme Court’s acceptance of Panama case opened the flood gates of criticism and ridicule for Imran Khan. He was called master of u turn, unstable and a lot of other things. Surprisingly the biggest critics of his decision were also the biggest opponents of his threat to lockdown Islamabad calling it a conspiracy against Pakistan. This well-oiled ridicule brigade of his political foes was doing it with a difference this time, they had a somber face and lacked the well-known energy and confidence in their voice. On the contrary some close observers thought that it was Imran’s best political decision since entering politics, his political coming of age. He caught the master manipulator Nawaz, someone in power for most of last 35 years, on the wrong foot forced to give explanations he doesn’t have. All this with a single master stroke of not insisting on resignation.
Panama leaks became public 7 months back from nowhere as Gods blessings for reformers and an absolute disaster for Nawaz Sharif and his family. It confirmed what everyone knew all along that Nawaz and his family owned very expensive property in London raising very serious questions about his integrity. Nawaz always denied it and tried to pose as an honest, God fearing politician, kind of a saint. With very effective use of media and organized image building he partially succeeded,
On the other had Imran always characterized Nawaz as the most corrupt and dishonest politician who uses elected offices for his personal gains making the people suffer while harming the country. These allegations were taken serious by a significant segment of society but his inability to prove disheartened many. The last tirade against rigging in elections and decision by the Nasir ul Mulk commission made many resign to their fate of the invincibility of the well-entrenched but corrupt politicians. Road appeared clear for Nawaz encouraging him to get aggressive and pick more fights, his favorite hobby, and he opened unnecessary fronts. And then came the Panama leaks indicting him.
Nawaz and coterie very effectively dealt with it by ridiculing, diffusing and distracting the issue. Their first phase was a nervous one in which they gave different self-incriminating statements but later stabilized. Without giving any reasonable explanation others were attacked with allegations and even the philanthropic hospitals weren’t spared. They created lot of commotion trying to diffuse the topic of Panama papers. Later a commission was proposed with TORs that could only create confusion. Think of it, how can anyone hope for someone to make a probing commission with the ability to convict himself? An absolute preposterous situation. One of the cabinet members openly declared that people will forget Panama leaks and focus on the next crisis.
PTI tried to investigate and resolve Panama issue in the Parliament but nothing happened. NAB refused citing some strange reasons as did FIA, FBR and everyone else. Supreme Court also wanted some reasonable TORs while its clerical management returned PTIs petition labelling it as frivolous. All doors were closed.
This strategy of ducking the issue worked well for 6 months in which Imran tried to bring other opposition parties together but their intentions were dubious from the very beginning. Many argue that after the COD Pakistan’s polity became a one party system where 2 major parties would take turns at center while having permanent power in their respective provinces doing whatever they want unchecked. Excellent plan but not realizing that lacunas don’t last, new factors arise to fill them and this didn’t last long either.
Short of options Imran announced lockdown of Islamabad with very serious risks. Government opposed it vehemently even jeopardizing the unity of the country by effectively cutting of the capital, something Imran had threatened. Message of Nawaz and the government was clear; at any cost we will not let allegations against us investigated. When armed showdown between Punjab and KPK police was narrowly averted all serious sections of the society were forced to respond and resolve the issue of Panama Papers. Finally, the honorable courts took the matter in their hands and Imran called off his strike ensuring the probe of Panama scandal and accountability of the accused.
Imran got what he wanted while his opponents wanted and expected him to be stubborn insisting on PMs resignation which was out of question. With the lock down of Islamabad Nawaz and his media team would have labelled Imran a trouble maker, immature, greedy for power, lacking respect for law and institutions and host of other negatives. Now; after ridicule of PTI finally Nawaz will have to explain where he got the money for expensive flats in London and how he transferred it. He has no answers to these questions because if he had he would not be evading the issue and would have shut his opponents’ mouths by disclosing evidence. This can effectively criminalize Nawaz destroying his decades of image building and political career.
Nawaz Sharif is no ordinary politician; he certainly possesses some kind of Chamak, as mentioned by BB, that has enabled him to get away with the things absolutely unimaginable in the past. He can still be expected to resist and disrupt this situation too although he is running out of options. Many argue that Nawaz has influenced this society more than anyone including Bhutto. He is a pioneer of a system of muk muka. He got away with filthy allegations against BB and came out as clean. Pioneered horse trading at Changa Manga, taking bribes from agencies, only Pakistani PM to get reinstated by SC where the CJ announced the judgement on the first day and heard the case later. This list is endless. He physically attacked Supreme Court in 1997 and can do it again. He resorted to provincialism with Jaag Punjabi Jaag earlier and can do it again. He sent people loaded with money to Quetta and can do it again. He still has a very effective media team ready to disrupt and malign. Imran and the society cannot be complacent and must make sure Panama scandal is properly investigated and the guilty punished.
Imran got what he wanted. Battle is won but war is on with the over smart and corrupt who are deeply entrenched in the last 35 years. Economic crimes are the worst kind, causing more pain and suffering than other crimes and must be forcefully countered. No country in the world can afford theft of the public money and neither can Pakistan with over 50% children underfed and out of school, with majority not having drinking water or sanitation and people controlling their money living in Park Lane.
Hopefully bringing the dishonest to justice will have positive affect on our future and politics will not be a license to corruption and enrichment anymore. With honest service oriented leadership, we can make Pakistan a glaring example within a generation but for this we will have to shed the baggage of corrupt leadership and foolish gimmickry we have accumulated over the years. More such effort and political acumen needed from you Imran Khan.