Imran Khan continues to suffer vitriolic barrage of sarcasm, criticism and disparagement by ruling elite for his alleged shenanigans to maneuver his way to power while virtually bidding farewell to his ideology of change. Before elections, sights were set on luring/fielding electable by him. Now it is on netting of independents elect and disparate smaller winning political parties to form his governments at Center and Punjab through unnatural grouping, petty inducements and enticements. Contrarily to his earlier endless assertions, no access and method is being left untried to bait them into own fold. He called them blackmailers. They have no political faith and ideology. They auction themselves in order to make money or share spoils of high offices. Their time in politics is over because now they have to confront PTI, imbued with ideology, grit and will not to succumb to their sordid tactics. Ironically, finding no majority, PTI has to run from pillar to post at Tareen Speed to pursue them to land in its yard and understandably would do everything possible to keep them in good humor. At face value, contentions of its detractors sound plausible however, given background, reality may be different if viewed objectively.
One may have to resort to unpleasant means to achieve great ideals. It is called pragmatism if intent is to serve a greater goal. In his book “In the Arena” former US President, Richard Nixon aptly summarised this when he wrote “idealism without pragmatism is impotent. Pragmatism without idealism is meaningless. The key to effective leadership is pragmatic idealism”. The case of Imran Khan appears to be a case of idealism to pragmatic idealism. He has made compromises but has not waivered on his principles of a welfare state, accountability, supremacy of law and ascendency of merit, if assessed in backdrop of his marathon, arduous and difficult political odyssey.
Probably overwhelmed by his impetuous passion, zest and dire need to rid country of deep seated and all pervasive menace of corruption, , he launched his party, PTI in April 1996 which ought to challenge almost all parties, particularly PML (N) and PPP which symbolised corruption in the country. With dissolution of Benazir government, party had to fight elections in early 1997 nevertheless, PML (N) even sure of its electoral victory, reportedly, offered 25 NA seats to Imran Khan if he joins them. It may look absurd to shortsighted people but to people with far sight and deep insight, it was a clever move to cut short a man who could upstage them on one day on sheer strength of his credibility and resolution. The offer was unacceptable to idealist Imran Khan. As expected, his party was routed in elections.
On the eve of elections 2002, he was being considered PM of General Musharraf but when asked to join an electoral alliance which also had known corrupt people, he refused fearlessly and suffered grievously. His party could only get one NA seat. Once again it was idealist Imran Khan who took the plunge and fell steeply. He was left stranded. Being prisoner of conscious, he boycotted elections 2008 for not restoring deposed judiciary by government; a mass demand of people. Other major parties participated in elections under the rubric of strengthening democracy. Finally, on Oct 30 2011, he struck right kind of chord with people of Pakistan at a huge public gathering at Lahore. Soon he was an electoral force to be reckoned with.
In 2013 elections, PTI vigorously took part but failed to have a worthwhile victory despite massive appeal/following for being unable to translate it into votes. It is uncertain when it dawned on Imran Khan that he needs to come into power to bring change. For this, he needs to win elections. He needs people who have solid presence in their constituencies with capacity and skill to fight elections. Such people are known electable. In 2018 elections, PTI entered electoral field with a large number of electable despite discontent within and bitterness of its rivals/critics. Along with other factors, PTI emerged victorious but fell short of requisite numbers to form government. Eventually, it looked inevitably towards independents/smaller parties to make up the deficiency.
Consequently, PTI is charged with indulging itself in power politics whereas, it implicitly calls it a necessary evil for sake of collective good without compromising its ideology. Its conduct as KP government is reflective of their claim. More than once, it threatened to dissolve assembly if its coalition partner; JI and own offending MPs do not refrain from colliding with its ideology. Its sympathizers also have more to subscribe it more. Whole ruling elite considers Imran Khan a serious threat to their existence and have fought tooth and nail to ditch him. After elections, they took no time to unite on superficial grounds not to let him implement his ideology smoothly. Seeing this, it is hard to desist a quote from Marcus Aurelius “when a bunch of known corrupt people unite against one man and spare no effort to ridicule him, blackmail him and attempt to assassinate his character, blindly follow that one man”. Imran Khan never minces words to elucidate his ideology/strategy even in presence of electable/other influential people. Nation trusts him and is hopeful of change with his electoral triumph. Coupled with all this, Imran Khan’s instant approach could possibly be termed pragmatic idealism.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.