Imran’s Greek tragedy

By Ghazi Salahuddin
May 28, 2023

Caught in the eye of the storm, it is not easy to fully grasp the meaning and the drift of events that are taking place at such a fast pace. What we can see is the decimation of Imran Khan’s party, a spectacular turn of events in Pakistan’s political history. And further consequences of attacks on military installations on May 9 are exploding all around.


But is the former prime minister about to be tried in a military court for his alleged involvement in the planning and execution of those attacks? Or will he be removed from the political scene through conviction in any of the many cases pending in the regular courts?

Besides, there is still a great sense of bewilderment and disbelief about what has happened and is happening. At the heart of all this is the sudden decline and fall of a leader who was dominating the scene with his passionate following across the social spectrum. It will stand out as a spectacle in our history that something of this magnitude could happen, so to say, in the blink of an eye.

So much more is happening at other levels that will finally affect the equilibrium of power and authority in the country. The elite in Punjab, for instance, will have to come to terms with the tensions that are bursting forth within its ranks. The higher judiciary has its own discords to contend with.

There is the example of the Supreme Court suspending on Friday the federal government’s notification on the constitution of a judicial commission to probe a number of audio leaks that involved close relatives of the chief justice and a judge of the Supreme Court himself. The commission was headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

On the other hand, we have also had some clarifications as to the resolve of the authorities to deal sternly with all those who had participated in the attacks on military installations and memorials. A number of rioters have been handed over to the military to be tried in the military courts.

A cautionary tale highlighted in the media was the arrest on Tuesday of fashion designer and socialite Khadija Shah, daughter of former finance minister Salman Shah, on terrorism charges for allegedly participating in the attack on the home of the Lahore Corps Commander. There are other instances that show that the operation mounted by the authorities is stringent and steadfast. This has, of course, been fortified by a concerted and meticulously designed push at promoting patriotic fervour.

I have underlined the high drama of what is happening. And it is an emotional experience for most of us, including for those who are not ardent supporters of Imran Khan. One ongoing spectacle is how the leaders of the PTI are addressing press conferences, one after the other, to announce their decision to leave the PTI and part ways with Imran Khan. Simultaneously, they condemn the events of May 9.

The pathos of it, particularly in the case of esteemed women like Shireen Mazari and Maleeka Bokhari, can be heartbreaking. There are other cases of grown-up men sobbing on live television. It is true that the PTI is actually the person of Imran Khan but the disintegration of the party’s senior leadership in accelerated motion is a definite repudiation of where Imran Khan has led his party to, with his decisions and policies.

Imran Khan often boasts about his knowledge of countries and things. He had the audacity of going to a foreign country and telling one audience that he knew the history of that country better than some of those present. One wonders if he has any inkling of classical literature to see himself as a protagonist of a Greek tragedy.

In ancient Greek theatre, a tragedy would be a play in which “a person of importance and outstanding personal qualities falls to disaster through a combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he or she cannot deal”.

Getting lonely and lonelier in his Zaman Park abode, waiting perhaps for something ominous to happen, Imran Khan should now have time to reflect on how he squandered the great cult following he had acquired with his reckless U-turns and shifting narratives. An objective assessment of the decisions he made at critical junctures would show that he lacks the wisdom of a politician and the vision of a leader.

That such a large number of people were (are?) willing to blindly look up to him for redemption also says a lot about the state of our society, with its dismal state of intellectual and moral attributes.

There will be time to take stock of Imran Khan’s long journey to May 9. For the moment, we wonder why he seemed willing to take on the army, after frequently identifying its chief as some kind of an adversary. More details are likely to emerge soon but there are strong suggestions that the attacks of May 9 were planned by someone somewhere.

According to the Ansar Abbasi report published in this newspaper on Friday, an intelligence agency has told the government that the events of May 9 and 10 had been conceived and planned with the involvement of Imran Khan. The intelligence report alleged that Imran Khan had given specific directions about targeting specific venues in case of his arrest.

This is what the federal ministers have also asserted in their statements. One of them posed this question: if there was no reaction after a murder attempt on Imran Khan, why this violent reaction on just his arrest? And, portentously, it was Firdaus Ashiq Awan who upped the ante by saying in her farewell to PTI press conference that the plot against the military was made in Zaman Park. Imran Khan is still holding his own in a difficult situation, but it is Maryam Nawaz who insists that “the game is over”.

The writer is a senior journalist. He can be reached at: ghazi_salahuddinhotmail. com