FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 39

Imran fighting a losing battle?

Politics is called the art of the impossible in the world, but in Pakistan it is a game of miracles. It can happen in Pakistan which is impossible in the rest of the world. There are distinct signs that former Prime Minister Imran Khan will be disqualified and he would be barred from taking part in politics, while former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been disqualified for life, will be free to run his party’s campaign in the next election.

According to analysts sympathetic to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), there are only 20pc chances of the survival of Imran Khan in politics because all state machinery is working against him. Almost all institutions; the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), police, courts, media and Election Commission of Pakistan, are being used to malign his image. The government has filed references against him in courts and the Election Commission of Pakistan to disqualify him. Even his close aides fear he might be disqualified and his party could be banned.

On the other hand, Imran Khan appears to be on the back foot after the decision of the foreign funding case by the Election Commission of Pakistan. He has abandoned his aggressive approach and threats to besiege the federal capital to press for the acceptance of his demand for new elections. Instead, he has announced rallies in all big cities, which shows that he has realized the ground reality that he cannot force the government to hold early elections. On the other hand, he also needs time to consolidate his position in Punjab after a landslide victory in recent by-polls. Another reason could be that he believes the government will discredit itself as long as it stays in power and his popularity would continue to increase till the next election.

Many people in Pakistan are not willing to believe Imran Khan could be disqualified and Nawaz Sharif would become eligible to take part in politics again. Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and his review petition has also been dismissed. He was serving a 10-year term in jail when he was allowed to leave the country for treatment in the UK. He is not even on bail. If he returns to Pakistan, he will have to go to jail before applying for bail. Most people believe overturning his disqualification is impossible after the Supreme Court has rejected his review petition. However, many believe Imran Khan will be disqualified to pave the way for a general amnesty for all politicians, who have been disqualified, including Nawaz Sharif and Jahangir Tareen. However, even if Nawaz Sharif is brought back and given a free hand to run his party’s campaign, he cannot compete with the rising popularity of Imran Khan.

According to people close to Nawaz Sharif, an assurance has been provided to him that Imran Khan will not be eligible to contest the next election. In his Lahore rally, Imran alleged that another plot was being hatched to disqualify him in Toshakhana and prohibited funding cases to pave the way for Nawaz Sharif’s return from London. “They have made a new plan to register new cases and disqualify Imran Khan in Toshakhana, and prohibited funding cases,” he told a mammoth rally at the National Hockey Stadium in Lahore. He believes the recent onslaught of legal actions aim at disqualifying him to force him to strike a deal with the government to nullify Nawaz Sharif’s lifetime disqualification so that both can compete in the political arena. “Under the conspiracy, Nawaz Sharif will be brought back to the country by the end of September and a character assassination campaign will be launched to malign me. Don’t compare me with a dacoit. Listen to me, conspirators, no matter what you do I will not strike any deal,” he warned.

Defending his stance on the military, the former prime minister said nefarious elements were attempting to drive a wedge between the PTI and the armed forces in order to harm the country. Terming it a “foreign conspiracy”, Imran Khan asserted he would never want the army to be weak. Clearing the air about his remarks about the military, he maintained that, unlike the parties of the ruling coalition which have swung out against the army in a brazen manner, his own criticism was always “constructive and wise.”

There are also reports that a new party is also being formed to dent the popularity of Imran Khan. It will comprise almost 25 MNAs and over 50 MPAs from South Punjab. Some former ministers in the PTI government will also join it. It too may not be able to compete with Imran Khan and his popular narrative.

Meanwhile, an inquiry team appointed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe the PTI prohibited funding case sent a letter to PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Secretary General Asad Umar and sought details of the party’s accounts, Form-1 submitted with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other relevant information and record within 15 days. It is ridiculous that a party which raised funds from Pakistanis abroad and brought them to Pakistan is being prosecuted, while those who looted national wealth and laundered money have been given a free hand.

It is clear that the government and all state institutions are working to malign Imran Khan and his party. It is feared that besides his disqualification, his party could also be banned. Imran Khan appears to be besieged from all sides. However, he is known for his fighting spirit and his followers believe he also can perform miracles.