Captain: Back to Pavilion

Imran Khan’s in-swing and Qasim Suri’s googly couldn’t save the political turf for PTI. The boy(s) certainly didn’t play well
Captain: Back to Pavilion
Imran Khan was ousted as the Prime Minister of Pakistan through a no-confidence motion on Saturday midnight. File/ GK

The political climate on Aug 18, 2018, was sizzling. In the afternoon, I boarded PIA aircraft from Jinnah Airport Karachi to Islamabad to witness the rarest moment, the oath-taking ceremony of Pakistan’s 22nd chief executive who struggled for 22 years to rule 22 crore citizens.

At twilight, Pakistan’s power street was making merry. When the plane was hovering over the skies of the green capital, Islamabad was celebrating the fresh dawn of democracy.

But that honeymoon period lasted for three years with a gradual piling up of woes against former cricket captain, Imran Khan Niyazi. His mismanagement and fragile ego poisoned his politics with vicious propaganda against the opposition.

Those who voted him to power decided to unseat him. Many called him Pakistan’s Donald Trump since he didn’t listen to anyone except his “cult followers”. Sentiments aside, cult worship is deadly dangerous.

Pak Awaam relied on his pinky promises of “Riyasat-e-Madina” but he failed to deliver like any other politician. In the ‘Naya Pakistan’ rhetoric, corruption never ended, horse-trading continued, and only IMF and US, not China, can fill the empty national treasury.

60% population in Pakistan is under 30. He couldn’t come up with a comprehensive vision or any framework to generate employment for them. He failed to stop the massive brain drain. Youth with immense energy and talent is moving out to green pastures and living happily.

During his tenure, the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) retained Pakistan on its grey list. UN and USA isolated Pakistan for involvement in extremist activities.

The economy shrunk in after the CPEC route was halted. Pakistan rupee plummeted to an all-time low. Petroleum prices reached a record high. He messed up the country.

Political pundits believe that it was an utter disregard for the rule of law to advise the president to dissolve the assembly. The constitution was subverted by the civilian government.

The powerful army contradicted his remarks accusing the US of hatching a conspiracy to topple his government. Qamar Javed Bajwa said there was no proof of interference from the US in their internal matters.

A wrong impression was created about the military endorsing the government on the cable. A concocted threat letter was displayed as a certificate of patriotism by the charismatic turned embattled Khan.

The “Foreign conspiracy” narrative, propagated by Imran, to topple his government, is a victim card he played before he was pushed to end his innings. The secret diplomatic papers or “cables” are not publicly displayed by the state head no matter what.

The cable is always confidential & coded information. Waving it in a public address makes it clear that it was not what he made us believe. His dramatic downfall from grace was inevitable.

Nonetheless, like a bold captain, Imran tested the boundaries, generally managed by the Generals headquartered in Rawalpindi but the united face put up by the opposition pulled him down. He could neither manage the economy nor the military.

Imran praising India’s foreign policy speaks of the void and fissures in Pakistan Parliament. In his last address to the nation on April 08, he called India a khoodar quom (self-respecting nation). As Indians, we know he was referring to our neutral stand on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. For India, national interest, he knew, is a top priority.

Politics is like cricket. It is not over till it is over. He played till the last ball since he projected himself as a Messiah of gullible voters. He will go down as a chronic narcissist who surrounded himself with incompetent chaps. He couldn’t cash on this opportunity of power and revamp his “ill-fated” country. He created a toxic narrative of us Vs them. Every critic of PTI was labeled as a traitor. This populist approach made him unpopular. Settling personal scores, resorting to name-calling, addressing opposition leaders as “rodents”, “thieves”, and “vultures”, didn’t behoove an oxford trained graduate. This unethical language pushed his supporters away. The political circus sabotaged the democratic process.

In the run-up to the 2018 elections, the electorate pinned hope on him but he failed to translate “Qaid’s dream” into reality. In any robust democracy, the basic function of an opposition is to make the ruling regime accountable. Not owning the blunders and throwing the garbage on the opposition is a sign of a weak leader.

Sometimes, it is better to control your excitement and not celebrate when someone nearby is in agony. He disappointed both the US and Pak Army with his insensitive remark: “What a time I have come…so much excitement!” while he was received at Moscow Airport (when Russia was gearing to kill innocent civilians in Ukraine). This move lessened his fan base just like Mehbooba Mufti’s highly thick-skinned “Toffee and Milk” remark. The weather was not conducive and the play field was rough.

The winning captain of the yesteryears couldn’t duck down from oppositions bouncers. This power-hungry politician couldn’t read the political pitch and the writing on the wall.

He started hitting screens and streets. “No Ball” from the supreme court for the deputy speaker’s unconstitutional move reposed the faith in the judiciary. The third umpire (read the top court) tested the waters for four days and finally delivered the verdict.

As he goes back to the pavilion after an embarrassing dismissal, he should sit down with his loyal teammates and chalk out a strategy for the next big game. For any good sportsperson, it is a reality check.

In his new dressing room, the PTI chief should find out the reasons for what stopped him to create the history of being the first Prime Minister to complete his term in office. History repeats itself, it seems, has been exclusively written for the post of Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Dissent is the essence of democracy. But the PTI government’s recent amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 were called draconian by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch since “it has been used to silence freedom of expression in Pakistan on the pretext of combating fake news.”

While the world talks about blockchain technology, research missions, Space expeditions, and 5G and gaming, legislators in Pakistan are peddling narratives around hyper-religiosity and using religion as cannon fodder.

They are fighting over petty religious matters. Nobody talks about unicorn companies in Pakistan. There is no counseling or guidance for budding businessmen/women. Niyazi miserably failed to live up to the expectations of youthful Pakistan.

Imran is unlikely to come back. He had an awkward exit. I could see him wilting under pressure while watching his outgoing speeches. His body language defied his deceptive bravado.

Pakistani nationals may not celebrate his defeat since there is no ‘substitute’, as of now. The immediate priority for a “night-watchman” must be to save Pakistan from becoming the next Sri Lanka and evade a possible civil war. There is no silver lining. The deepening political crisis needs a permanent solution.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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