Imran Khan: Contradictions and beyond
HE is visibly disoriented and clueless about the future course of action. The speed of his trade mark U-turns has suddenly touched the top gear and the shelf life of his “decrees” has dropped from weeks to hours.
His dilemma is that, despite being at the height of his popularity, he is slipping into the smog of uncertainty and despair.
Growing plethora of scandals on a daily basis, a series of legal cases in the courts and the Election Commission, and his inability to go ahead with his so-called trump card of dissolution of assemblies to pressurize the power brokers to announce snap elections have shaken the very foundation of his political rhetoric.
Fatigue and exhaustion have enveloped his daily ritual of media appearances. Yes, he is master of creating new stories to engage his supporters, but, in doing so, he is unashamedly — and may be unconsciously — contradicting himself on a regular basis.
The biggest contradiction, perhaps, in his political outlook is his obsession with the military establishment as the epicentre of power in Pakistan.
The manner in which he is twisting and meandering his storyline on the “neutrality“ of the establishment is a reflection of his innately blurred political outlook which is thickly laced with the assumption that the military establishment is the ultimate nucleus of political power in Pakistan.
Till the time he assumed power in 2018, Imran Khan was used to brag about his conviction in the civilian supremacy as the main plank of his political philosophy.
In the pre-2018 election period, he frequently swaggered about his abhorrence for taking dictation from the military establishment.
But the 2018 election, which was manoeuvred by the power brokers to install him as the prime minister, were the first big dent to his previously ‘untested political conviction’ in the civilian supremacy.
The person who always bitterly censured his political opponents as the product of military establishment was himself claiming to be the ‘mega project ’of the establishment.
His proud assertion to be on the “same page” with General Bajwa was propagated by his supporters as the ultimate symbol of his political acumen.
He has now openly admitted that the military establishment wholeheartedly helped him in strengthening his government.
Be it the budget approval or the Senate Chairman election, he always sought help from the establishment to manage the critical situations for him through all kinds of backdoor manipulation.
Throughout his stint as the prime minister, Imran Khan never directly or indirectly broached the issue of civilian supremacy.
It was only after the no-confidence vote against him in March when he for the first time introduced the tagline of “neutral to janwar hota hay” while inciting the sitting army chief to abandon his “new-found neutrality” in favour of Imran Khan.
As per his narrative, the army chief should not be “neutral” and should be loyal to Imran Khan.
Strange contradiction for a politician who claims to be the flag-bearer of civilian supremacy. As per his thesis, the establishment should not be neutral and it should keep supporting the PTI and Imran Khan.
By continuously talking about Mir Jafer and Mir Sadiq to symbolise the Establishment’s decision to abstain from putting its weight behind Imran Khan, he launched one of the most slandering campaign against the sitting army chief in our political history.
What Imran Khan is unable to comprehend is the dichotomy of his political stance on democracy and civilian supremacy.
Imran Khan‘s ill-advised misadventure to manipulate and disrupt the process of selection of new army chief till the last minute has effectively closed the doors for any possibility of support from the establishment in the near future.
The manner in which Imran Khan has tried to malign General Bajwa, who was his chief patron throughout his premiership and even reportedly tried to salvage him during the co-confidence vote, has sent a message across the board that Imran Khan is not a “reliable bet”.
Imran Khan has also lost the credibility as a trusted political ally, as we are witnessing total disconnect and distrust between Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and him on the issue of dissolution of the Punjab Assembly.
The fact is that Imran Khan, after exhausting all his energies — and party funds — on the eight-month long protest campaign, is still empty-handed as far as his primary objectives are concerned: Neither he was successful in getting the appointment of the new army chief of his choice, nor he has been able to force the PDM government to call early elections.
Now he is making a new twist in his narrative by requesting the army establishment to remain neutral.
From academic and technical perspective, his continuous deliberations about the establishment’s neutrality raise big questions about his understanding of the constitutional role of the army in politics.
It seems that he is indirectly endorsing the army’s role in politics by insisting on the establishment to remain neutral.
Though it is again a big U-turn from his earlier stance that “even God does not allow us to be neutral”, but, aside from his signature contradictory attitude, it shows that he has accepted the role of army in politics as the integral part of the political equation in Pakistan.
This is very alarming. Interestingly, for all practical purposes, the army leadership is completely apolitical in its approach at the moment.
The pressure of scandals and legal cases is now taking its toll on Imran Khan, who is now looking for some excuse to divert the attention of his target audience to the current government’s inability to steer the country out of lingering economic crisis.
But the withering interest of his supporters in his threadbare and punctured narrative is compelling him to make some adjustments in his political rhetoric to remain in the limelight in the coming days when the expected negative verdicts in some cases may further create problems for him.
Imran Khan is increasingly being squeezed by the mistakes committed by him after being expelled from the Prime Minister House through a no-confidence vote. He is still not learning anything from his mistakes.
—The writer is political analyst, based in Karachi.