Monday June 17, 2024

A week of discomfiture for Imran

By Jan Achakzai
January 23, 2023

In the course of just one week, Imran Khan experienced a series of dramatic events: he lost the Karachi LB polls, brought down his own two governments, had resignations of 70 Members of the National Assembly accepted, with the threat of disqualification in two legal cases becoming even more pronounced.

Khan has been on a downward trajectory since its poor performance in the Karachi local bodies elections. The party’s failure to address the city’s issues, disorganization, changes to the local leadership, and lack of delivery on promises after winning 14 National Assembly seats from Karachi all contributed to the dismal result.

Additionally, the dissolution of the Punjab and KP governments is a sign of the party’s dissatisfaction with its own performance, as well as a lack of public support for its policies. This has caused a shift in public opinion and weakened PTI’s power base.

The National Assembly speaker’s acceptance of 70 resignations further weakened the party’s influence in the national structures. It means Imran Khan has lost a window to have an opposition leader in NA and thus lost the opportunity to influence formation of the next federal caretaker government (which will conduct general elections). This also means the government parties and the remaining opposition now hold more seats and have more resources at their disposal. This has resulted in a weakened PTI, unable to effectively pass legislation or influence decision-making.

The caretaker government in Punjab will be highly consequential for the PTI in the final outcome of the general elections. In other words, this indirect power could directly impact the fate of PTI in the upcoming elections, making the caretaker government a key player in determining the result.

Legal issues surrounding Imran Khan’s multiple fights could have serious consequences for the former Prime Minister as hearings continued. If he is found guilty of failing to declare the proceeds from gifts (called the Toshakhan Scandle) in his nomination papers, he could face disqualification from the National Assembly due to his failure to meet the criteria of being sagacious, righteous, and non-profligate.

Unexpectedly, Imran Khan himself made another admission. He revealed that he had invested $3 million of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) funds in a private housing project, but later returned the money. This raised serious concerns about the potential misuse of charity funds intended for the Shaukat Khanum Hospital.

Furthermore, Imran Khan could also be disqualified from the National Assembly if it is determined that he concealed the existence of Tyrian White, his alleged daughter, which would be seen as a violation of the Representation of the People Act, 1976. The case’s hearing was proceeding in the Islamabad High Court.

The parties in the government (comprising eleven major and smaller parties) have created a more balanced and democratic system, allowing for more checks and balances and giving the public more representation in the government. This has resulted in heightened scrutiny of Imran Khan’s actions, and could be a factor in why he is facing legal issues. However, the number of opposition parties now all in the government has also resulted in a more fragmented and gridlocked government, making it difficult for any one party to get anything done. This has led to frustration among the public, who feel that their needs are not being represented, which is another debate for another day.

Undoubtedly, Imran Khan’s reputation as a popular leader has been tarnished after the electoral defeat in Karachi, and his party, the PTI, has lost popularity due to its poor governance, failure to keep its promises, and inability to competently manage the party’s affairs.

Even the diplomatic corps has taken note of Imran Khan’s waning popularity after the Karachi elections. This declining popularity has come under increasing scrutiny from the international community. As Pakistan’s political landscape changes, the diplomatic corps is closely monitoring the situation to see that the country remains stable and secure.

The PTI’s lack of a clear policy direction, combined with its divisive politics, has further alienated its support base. As the economic crisis continues to worsen, it remains to be seen whether Imran Khan and PTI will be able to address the issues and regain the trust of the major segments of the people.

Imran Khan’s political influence is waning, but he is not out of the game yet. Despite recent setbacks, he still has a chance to make a comeback and reclaim his place in the political arena. His supporters remain hopeful that he can turn things around and prove that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

The past week has been a rollercoaster ride for Imran Khan. As the weeks go by, it will be interesting to see how he continues to navigate the ever-changing political landscape. Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a Balochistan politician, and a former media and strategic communications advisor to GOB. He tweets @jan_Achakzai