Beware of the flunkies, Imran!

Situationer

M. Ziauddin

On the basis of their brilliant performance in the 2013 general elections one thought both the PTI and its chairman Imran Khan had carved a fairly decent political future. Or maybe even a great political future. The PTI seems to have all the ingredients needed in a popular political party for winning elections. And Imran, without doubt, is an outstanding prime ministerial material.
However, one cannot say the same for Imran’s flunkies -Sheikh Rashid, Dr. Tahirul Qadri and the Chaudhry brothers. In fact one does not see any future, even an ordinary political future for any of these four gentlemen. That is perhaps why they readily latch on to the PTI every time they see Imran Khan forcing himself on to the national political centre stage.
We all know how the two Chaudhries and Sheikh Rashid had betrayed the Sharifs after the latter’s ouster from government in October 1999.The four flunkies were very soon seen latching on to the rising star of the day —General Musharraf—and being paid handsomely for the great selloff.
Of the two Chaudhries, one was paid with the slot of ruling party chief, the other with the chief minister-ship of Punjab and Sheikh Rashid was paid with the slot of the federal information minister. Dr Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) had won just one national assembly seat in the 2002 general polls, that of his own. And in those days not being endowed with the kind of political nuisance value that he enjoys today he was not even noticed, what to talk of being considered worth buying. So, frustration got the better of him very quickly and he left the country after resigning his NA seat in December 2004 using as an excuse the legislation allowing Musharraf to wear two caps— that of the Army Chief’s as well as that of the country’s president.
Dr Qadri had enjoyed very close family hospitality of the Sharifs as long as they had remained the favourites of you-know-who. The Chaudhries and Sheikh Rashid too had remained very close to the Sharifs and had enjoyed with them all the perks of power until the day the then COAS deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a military coup.
Since the return of electoral democracy in 2008 and the retirement of Musharraf from service, these four political non-entities have been trying very hard to get back into country’s political front row but to no avail. Imran provided them the chance of their lifetime when he and his PTI staged a 126-day long sit-in at Islamabad’s D-Chowk in 2014.
However, the very association of these four flunkies with the sit-in proved to be the kiss of death for it as their participation was seen as an attempt by the establishment to bring down the elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a third time. Not that the establishment had any such plans. But the perception that these four gentlemen had tried to create for their own vested reasons made it very difficult for many not to suspect the intentions of you-know-who. This led to questions being raised about the real intentions of Imran Khan which in turn led to PTI’s popularity taking a number of serious knocks.
Now that the four are seen once again latching on to Imran as he and his Party seem all set to ‘lock-out’ Islamabad on November 2, tongues have started wagging once again making it appear as if the undemocratic forces are once again mounting a campaign through the PTI to oust the legitimately-elected government by illegitimate means.
It would be totally wrong to deny the existence of serious differences of opinion between the civilian government and the military bureaucracy on various important issues, especially on foreign policy matters and on issues concerning the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists. The latter has been managing these concerns mostly singlehandedly since the days of General Ziaul Haq. The former, as it is accountable to the electorate unlike the latter, would now like to redesign these policies in a way that would allow the elected government to be able to claim them publicly as their own and pay a price or be rewarded depending on their success or failure.
This is a tailor-made situation for serious clashes to take place between the two while debating the policy choices. But in the changed international, regional and domestic circumstances as opposed to those that existed in the last decades of 20th century the possibility of these clashes leading to a situation that we had witnessed on October 12, 1999 is not only remote but totally impossible.
The arrival of Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the country at this point in time needs to be seen by all those who are anticipating some kind of an undemocratic development in the country in the coming weeks as an international signal that no such thing would be tolerated by the world capitals and also that the civilian government would not be consigned to international isolation.
The three eminent economists of the country—Dr. Hafiz Pasha, Dr. Ashfaque Hasan Khan and Dr. Salman Shah—in their open letter to IMF chief (published in Business Recorder on Monday, October 24, 216) have shown the success of the three-year $6.15 billion Extended Fund Facility of the IMF for what it was. So, it was clearly not to celebrate the success of the just concluded Fund programme and praise our official economic managers for their ‘success’ that Ms Lagarde had come to Islamabad. And come to think of it, she paid a two-day visit to a country which even those of her lowly officials looking after the EFF programme would not dare visit throughout the programme period preferring it safer instead to review the periodic progress of the EFF in the UAE.
But the four flunkies seem still to be living in an out-dated reality and are trying their best to create the impression that what they are doing is what the forces not very happy with the way civilians want to redesign their pet policies want them to do.
This impression if it gets entrenched into popular perception would not only damage the image of our armed forces but would at the same time undermine PTI’s political fortunes.
Imran stands a good chance of making a successful showing at the 2018 general elections if he were to keep his workers constantly mobilized using every political opportunity that comes his way, no matter how small or how big. Panama papers scandal is, indeed, a big opportunity. More so, because the PML-N seems to be shying away from making a clean breast of things behind the scandal.
Imran is demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif knowing very well that he was not going to get the PM to resign. In 2014 too he had demanded that the PM resign knowing very well that he would not get what he was demanding but would get his workers mobilized enough to the needed pitch. Indeed, had it not been for the kiss of death the four flunkies had dealt the last time he staged the sit-in Imran would have inspired his workers enough to perhaps sweep all the by-elections that had followed the sit-in. He did not because the four—the two Chaudhrys, Sheikh Rashid and Dr. Qadri— by their association had given his sit-in an ulterior political colour which cost him a good number of his supporters.
One would not put it past these four gentlemen to sell Imran down the drain at the last minute by undermining the lockout plan from within. One recalls that even President Zardari was able to buy them off when he needed their support. He offered the post of deputy prime minister to Chaudhry Elahi and allegedly paid a handsome amount to Qadri to get him off his back when the good doctor had occupied the Blue Area demanding the dismissal of the government just before the 2013 elections. And who does not know that after having blackmailed the Zardari government for almost three years Sheikh Rashid went mysteriously silent in the last two years. In fact he was heard praising Zardari’s political sagacity in the final years of his rule. Could it be that this happened because of some underhand cash deal between the two?
So beware, Imran!