Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has come up with a new narrative after losing a no-trust motion. He claims he was voted out through a conspiracy hatched by the US and implemented by the opposition. His new slogan has become an instant hit but it has also created serious divisions in society.
Imran Khan’s popularity was decreasing fast towards the end of his government because of rising prices and bad governance. If he had been allowed to complete his five-year term, he would have not been able to win more than a few dozen seats in the next general election. The no-confidence motion by the opposition was a blessing in disguise for him. It has revived his politics and popularity. Accountability was his main slogan in his last election, which failed miserably. However, he has found a new slogan, which is becoming even more popular in the country.
Anti-Americanism already exists in the country and several political parties, including the PPP and all religious parties, have attempted to exploit it in the past, but failed largely. However, it has become an effective tool in the hands of Imran Khan. A few weeks ago, he was facing the wrath of the people for rising prices and bad governance. Now he has changed their focus from inflation to an international conspiracy to subjugate Pakistan and its people. Almost 10m people took to the streets in all major cities and towns of the country to express solidarity with him, even though he had not asked for it and was not personally leading the rallies. His tweet was enough to pull the huge crowd to the streets. He had tweeted, “Today marks the beginning of a freedom struggle against a foreign conspiracy of regime change. It is always the people who protect their own sovereignty and democracy.”
His Peshawar rally also attracted a large number of people, mostly youths, who raised slogans against the US, the new coalition government and the Pakistan Democratic Movement, as well as dissident members of the PTI. A large number of women also attended the rally with their children, which shows the passion of his workers.
In his address to the charged crowd, Imran Khan looked angry with national institutions, especially the judiciary. He questioned why the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Islamabad High Court had felt the need to open their doors on Saturday night, hours before he was ousted. “My dear judges, my judiciary, I have spent time behind bars in the struggle to secure your freedom. I ask the judiciary why did you open the court in the dead of night. This nation has known me for 45 years. Have I ever broken the law? When I played cricket, did anyone ever accuse me of match fixing?” He also claimed that during his political career, he had never “provoked the public against state institutions or the judiciary” because he would live and die in Pakistan. “I ask you, what crime had I committed that you opened up the courts at midnight,” he asked.
Provoking anti-US sentiments, which prevail more in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa than other parts of the country, he said a “decisive moment” had arrived and the nation needed to choose if it wanted slavery or liberty. “Do we want to be the slaves of the US or do we want real freedom?” He said that he had been ousted because he replied “absolutely not” to America’s demand to provide airspace for its operations. He said the US didn’t like him because he believed in an independent foreign policy. “I will not engage my nation in the wars of others. While Pakistan was fighting for America in the war on terror, on the other hand, Washington continued to humiliate the Pakistani government and the nation. Now you people have become a brave nation and no country can dare enslave you,” he said.
He said he had started the fight for the “real independence” of the nation and “we will not accept the imported government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif”. “Shehbaz Sharif is out on bail, his son is out on bail, his second son is an absconder in London, Nawaz Sharif is a convict, and the same is the case with his sons, daughter and son-in-law. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is involved in Rs40 billion corruption cases,” he alleged.
It appears Imran Khan has already started his election campaign when all other political parties are busy at the parliament forming a new government. It appears the new coalition government, the judiciary and political rivals will be his prime targets in public rallies. However, some questions are also being raised about his narrative and some analysts believe he will face resistance from his own party. It is also feared that a smear campaign against him and his family could also be launched. In fact, it has already started. It is also feared the PTI could be divided into several factions and even banned. However, he and his activists will not take it lying down. Social media has totally changed political dynamics.