Pakistan, politics and PTI – The Express Tribune

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Pakistan, politics and PTI  The Express TribuneRead More

The writer is a retired major general and has an interest in International Relations and Political Sociology. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @20_Inam

If popular mood and pulse are any guide, Imran Khan’s narrative (irrespective of its merits or otherwise) has mobilised Pakistan up to and including the upper middle class, for the first time after the populist politics of ZA Bhutto. However, unlike Bhutto’s, Imran’s five attributes — neo-Islamism, nationalist outlook, charisma, spine to stand up and be counted, and ‘relative’ integrity — endear him to many Pakistanis, tired of the tried cabal of politicians.

However, PTI’s abysmal record at governance and his own combative obsession with rhetorical battles of no/ insignificant consequences make him a difficult leader. Yet, given his attributes, he needs to be correctly packaged, ‘used’ and not wasted in the larger national interest. Packaging him is a tough ask. Imran’s consciousness of his charisma, self-righteousness, pride bordering arrogance, impulsive decision-making and keenness to envelop incompetence with bluster are some uncontrollable strains for forces-that-be/other king-makers, let alone the filibustering kids of PTI surrounding him. The party badly lacks level grey-heads in ‘sufficient’ numbers, and a competent cohort to run administration with efficiency.

Even if PTI returns with 100% majority in next elections, governance is not PTI’s forte and it will be more of the same. When some PTI legislators were asked if they had any shadow government following developments in the various state institutions/organs after losing power, naive expressions were betraying their inexperience. So, in one’s reckoning, Imran Khan needs to seriously rethink party organisation, making ‘taskforces’ that follow different issues and update him regularly. The party should start head-hunting for different positions now, and prepare to handle the complex politics and governance of Pakistan with improved competence and dedication. People wish them luck.

Mr Khan also needs to shun campaign style container politics for more pragmatic postures, accommodating and not confronting all other stakeholders like judiciary, military, media and even the opposition. His angry motherin-law style outbursts only divide an already divided nation and waste precious time that could otherwise be spent on improving governance. Imran could seriously consider being Rahber-e-Tehreek without holding any office, like Imam Khomeini for example. He should leave governance to capable, experienced hands…and the country has no dearth. A blueprint was provided in my piece, ‘The Wastepool of Retirees, published here on November 25, 2021.

The brain-power consumed by all and sundry in PTI to fight rhetorical duels could be spent finding out-of-the-box solutions for economy, trade and commerce, for example. Governance and only governance remains the enduring credential. The ugly saga in the holy month of Ramazan has tanked the economy with no pliable solution in the short term. There would be no politics, no high offices to occupy, no grace and no dignity if there is no Pakistan, irrespective of who is right and who is wrong.

And for the civil-military relations, when I confronted some PTI bigwigs as to why Imran Khan locked horns with the Military Establishment (Miltablishment) over the change of command at the ISI, their agitated retort was that it was the handiwork of PTI’s kitchen cabinet, the filibustering school kids. No Army chief would allow any politician and/or civilian official in whatever capacity to interfere in the routine working of the Army, like postings and transfers. This goes against the basic and most cherished principle of ‘unity of command’ in the armed forces. No service chief would want to have his star officers looking towards political masters for promotions, postings, appointments, perks and privileges. That is a non-negotiable given. Civilian supremacy of the armed forces stops here even in the US Armed Forces.

The recent vicious, most unfortunate and mostly ill-informed criticism of the Army in particular aside, Miltablishment had worked overtime to nurture, guide, advise and ‘mentor’ PTI leadership like never before. Truth be told. Although the sequencing, mannerism and timing of some recent steps by the Miltablishment could be debated (as correct factual information is not known), their nationalist credentials could never be doubted.

My 2020 (30 January) Op-Ed ‘Imran Khan — the dying pangs of a dream’ had commented that “Military support is neither unlimited, nor unconditional” and that “One earnestly hopes the dying pangs don’t become the death of a dream that once upon a time, not long ago, was PTI and its Kaptaan.”

On the debate about extension in tenure of four-stars, sufficient to say, any extension should be ‘constitutionally barred’. Extension is cursed, as it is haq-talfi, promotes the incorrect notion of indispensability, and wrongly paints the military’s nurturing process, for those waiting to lead with equal ability.

One also strongly feels it was foolhardy for an experienced opposition and its wizards like Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Asif Zardari, etc to table a vote of no-confidence, especially when PTI had just over a year of tenure left. Resultantly, PDM got mauled; is now dealing with the unenviable task of steadying a faltering economy; is confronted with acute national polarisation; and has boosted Imran’s political fortunes like never before. Opposition’s maleficence, opportunism and incorrect reading of situation notwithstanding, left to its own devices, PTI would have met its own inevitable fate at the 2023 polls.

PTI has proved having no political acumen, no competence and no experience to handle complex issues at ‘national’ level. Not even a capable finance minister. So, raw emotionalism aside, there is some serious soul-searching required by PTI rank and file, in their own interest. Long marches would further tank down a bad economy, distract policymakers from timely/good decisions, and allow our nemesis to take advantage of our polarisation and instability. At international level, one feels PTI has overplayed the issue of American interference in our politics, although its denial by PDM is also a laughable hypocrisy laden with political expediency. Imran’s initial anger at ‘neutrals’ to remain aloof (apparently) against a cabal with foreign funding and dictation had hit the right chord amongst nationalistic circles. If global movers and shakers could change regime in Pakistan for a pittance like 10 (some say 15) million USD, making a mockery of your democracy and system…that is worrisome, very worrisome. And Imran or no Imran, people stood up to speak.

But Khan needs to understand the limits of our foreign policy. ‘Nationalist pragmatism’ with ‘palatable’ foreign policy is name of the game for leaders like him, till economic emancipation

Although people still see the ‘inexperienced and incompetent’ Khan in ‘relatively’ better light against tested and tried ‘capables’; willing to give him another chance. His asking for eternal protestation in seething summers would squander away his political capital, which is never unlimited.

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