Per ways the Romans

By Asha’ar Rehman
June 03, 2023

The Punjab law enforcers’ long-drawn expedition on Zahoor Elahi Road in Lahore appears to have finally yielded them the treasure they were direly searching for. Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the prize catch, has been securely shifted to a safe place reportedly for investigation of a corruption case.


The catch leaves the story of the unraveling of the PTI tantalizingly poised. The Chaudhry from Gujrat had performed the ultimate sacrifice of merging his own affectionately-nursed party into the then high-surging PTI in a move tied to the fortunes of his son Moonis Elahi. Still the jury held that Pervaiz Elahi, at this age and with his long political history, could hardly ever be considered too far removed from the real power centres which control the running of the country – the nucleus Imran Khan drifted far from. His arrest could mark the beginning of the endgame that Imran Khan is engrossed in right now. Or at least it could signify the winding up of the current intense round. The latest sequence in the ongoing round required the classical Pakistani Romans to do what is always expected of them and which sets a precedent to follow. Right on cue, a trickling of the Khan brigade renegades had materialized in all corners of the country in a prelude to an expected exodus. In more recent days, there was a kind of a drop in the number of those who bade Khan Sahab farewell with moist eyes. The declaration by former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister Pervez Khattak that he was now a man free from the PTI’s party responsibilities, together with the nabbing of Pervaiz Elahi, reinforces the intent behind the push against Imran Khan.

The knowledgeable legions stand wide apart from the few dreamers who would have us believe that, the other side having played its hand, it was now Kaptaan’s turn to play his customary surprising move. The severity of the drive against him left more aware and conscious with no choice but to wait for the emergence of a PTI without Khan Sahab. The redoubtable Chaudhry Fawad Husain’s sprint towards inventing a viable alternative to Khan Sahab from within is evidence that this is what we are going to have shortly. Fawad Chaudhry, otherwise your everyday guy like you and me who seemingly shares ordinary people’s fears about being persecuted and incarcerated by hostile authorities, must be confident enough about his alternate endeavour to come out of (forced) retirement so soon after he quit politics. However, those backing him will do well to keep in mind Khan Sahab’s prowess along the way as he moved merrily towards a clash with those he most needed to please.

Much has been made up of the Jahangir Tareen factor in the politics of Pakistan, especially of Punjab. There is no rejecting the opinion which says that Kaptaan used Mr Tareen in furthering his candidacy for the prime ministers office but at no time during his stay in the PTI or before that did this affable progressive from Lodhran appeared to suggest that he was capable of collecting around him a group of powerful figures who could lay a claim to power backed by a grand enough public display of popular aspiration.

The situations he found himself in during his early years in politics and the circumstances which later led to his inclusion in the PTI was evidence that Mr Tareen was cut out to be an associate – an influential, able associate ready to deliver men and money to his chosen leader. About a decade and a half ago, he had made the tactical move of floating a group of likeminded people actually willing, demanding to be led by someone with the credentials and charisma. That was when the members of the Jahangir Tareen croup of the clean and untainted were at the peak of their political careers. Since then, the graph of these associate leaders has plummeted as the popularity of the man they chose as their benefactor and of the people of Pakistan touched a notch seldom achieved in Pakistan’s history. Their appeal has been severely compromised for them to harbour any realistic hopes of ever arriving at a stage where they could pose as a challenger, much less as an ‘alternative’ to Imran Khan.

So much for the Pervez Khattaks and Pervaiz Elahis of this world ever coming to a point where they can compete with Imran Khan – the man who gave them and so many other similarly pragmatic politicians in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa a new lease of life. But what if the idea is to once again cast these veteran character actors in supporting and not lead roles? What if an as-yet-unrevealed name is to ultimately take command of this tribe of the well-meaning and the likeminded? The scenario may seem improbable to so many in the audience at this moment but definitely not because of a lack of the junior accomplices, the associates forever ready to work with the king and kingmakers.

The writer is a senior journalist.