Malik M Ashraf
In a democratic dispensation, the litmus test for the popularity of a political leader and the party he heads is the ballot box and not the public rallies. Political analysts rightly believe that there are three kinds of people attending a public rally. One segment comprises diehard supporters and followers of the leader and the party, the second component consists of opponents of the party and the third group is of the people who are there just for the fun of it. If this barometer is applied then the attendance claimed by the organizing party loses significance in terms of the following of the leader.
The reality of Pakistani politics is that the PML (N) continues to be the most popular party among the masses notwithstanding the crowds attracted by Imran Khan in his public rallies and the sit-in. His party failed to win franchise of the people in 2013 elections, the subsequent by-elections, local bodies elections and AJK polls. Just before the Raiwind rally the PTI lost by-election for NA seat for Chichawatni which the party had won in the general elections. Imran Khan and the PPP Chairman Bilawal Zardari Bhutto, who personally led their election campaigns in AJK attracting big crowds in their public rallies had to eat dust when people reposed their complete confidence in PML (N).
That reality has not changed after the Raiwind rally. What Imran Khan said at his rally was a repetition of his unsubstantiated allegations against the state institutions, state functionaries and in many ways self-contradictory. That is what he is the best at doing. He contradicted himself by again mentioning Najam Sethi for having rigged polls for PML (N). In this regards it would perhaps be pertinent to point out that when Imran started his campaign against rigging, his allegation of 35 punctures by Najam Sethi formed the pivot of his entire effort. He tried to rub this notion at every convenient forum. However when the Judicial Commission repudiated his claims of a systematic rigging in the general elections and legitimised the PML (N) mandate, he in one of interviews with an electronic channel admitted that his claim of 35 punctures was just a political talk. Somebody said it and he made it a pillar of his campaign. Now repeating those allegations after having admitted that they were not true, is probably the biggest contradiction of all his similar misadventures.
Considering the mounting tensions between Pakistan and India, which almost is a near war situation that requires impregnable national unity, Imran Khan should have postponed the rally and added his voice to the voice of the govt, people and other political leaders to convey a strong and unmistakable message to foe that nation was united in its resolve to defend itself. But he is a kind of politician who lacks sense of proportion and his whole effort is centred on reaching corridors of power by all possible means, except ballot. Only thing different from his usual rhetoric in his public rally was his announcement to shut down Islamabad after Muharram if PM did not present himself for accountability.
As far as Panama Leaks are concerned, I have maintained since this issue erupted that it was not possible to conduct a probe unless Pakistan becomes part of some international arrangement that makes countries involved to share information in regards to tax evasion and illegal investments. The parties demanding probe have been fully aware of this fact and that is why they have been emphasizsing on accountability of the PM, only to gain some political mileage. On the other hand the government has been striving to put in place a mechanism which ensure across board accountability instead of a witch-hunt.
Notwithstanding the allegations of the opposition particularly PTI, the government has practically shown its commitment to curb corruption, prevent tax evasion and illegal investment in off-shore companies by signing the OECD Convention on Sept 14. The PML (N) government in fact had launched this initiative in 2013 much before the Panama Leaks revelations. The Convention is the most comprehensive global instrument against off-shore tax evasion and could become increasingly relevant in the context of Panama Leaks probe when it comes into force by the end of 2017. In view of the foregoing realities, Imran Khan must revisit his political creed and refrain from fomenting instability in the country.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.