Saturday April 13, 2024

The Maulana’s claims

The truth probably lies somewhere between what Maulana and others are claiming

By Editorial Board
February 17, 2024
Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman can be seen in this image. —Facebook/Maulana Fazl ur Rehman
Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman can be seen in this image. —Facebook/Maulana Fazl ur Rehman

Maulana Fazlur Rehman has been busy, from being courted by the PTI to join hands against the alleged rigging in the elections and to collaborate as part of the opposition, to dropping bombshell ‘revelations’ in an interview (Maulana has claimed that the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan was orchestrated by former army chief General (r) Qamar Javed and ex-spy master Faiz Hameed. However, Maulana changed his statement on Friday and said he named former ISI chief Gen Faiz by mistake but stuck to his claim regarding Bajwa. According to a report published in this newspaper, his claims are factually incorrect. Maulana referred to the meeting with Gen Bajwa on March 26, 2022, and at that time, Gen Faiz was neither serving in the ISI nor was part of the meeting. What is also interesting is that, while Maulana claims that Gen Bajwa was the architect of the vote of no-confidence, the former army chief had reportedly asked the opposition leaders to withdraw the no-confidence motion against Imran who would then ‘resign and announce elections’. This message was reportedly sent by Imran Khan through the establishment and it is not the first time that this particular meeting has been reported. Another report in this paper has denials by sources close to Bajwa and Faiz, who say Maulana’s claims are not true. Both the PML-N and PPP leadership have also rejected Maulana’s claims about the vote of no-confidence. Some are asking if Maulana is raising this issue to exert pressure on the upcoming government to extract his pound of flesh in the next setup or whether he is sending a message to a ‘weak’ establishment.

The truth probably lies somewhere between what Maulana and others are ‘claiming’. It is no secret that the then-opposition wanted to bring a vote of no-confidence against Imran for a long time before it finally materialized in 2022. We had been hearing from the PPP about an ‘in-house’ change since 2020. After Yousuf Raza Gilani defeated the PTI’s Hafeez Sheikh in the Senate polls in March 2021, there were whispers that the opposition was confident enough to bring about a no-confidence motion against Imran. However, there was a falling out between the PDM and the PPP and these whispers stalled for a while. But by the end of 2021, many reports indicated that the opposition would go for an in-house change through constitutional means. It has always been pointed out that Imran Khan was brought to power by the ‘powers that be’ who had also always saved his government from falling. The only way his government could go was if a green signal had been given to the opposition that it would not be thwarted as long as they managed the votes themselves. Experts also remind us that Benazir Bhutto survived an establishment-backed VoNC because she was a politician who didn’t rely on others but knew how to maneuver these things through negotiations with other politicians. Imran, on the other hand, has relied solely on unelected interventionists to run his government and has to date not had the patience to deal with other parties or with dissidents from his own party. When his patrons stopped helping him, his government fell.

There are lessons to be learned from what happened in April 2022. Politicians have to act like politicians and rely on the people’s mandate – not on patronage from institutional heads. Our institutions’ interventionist role is no secret and until that ends, we will keep hearing new ‘claims’ and ‘inside stories’ of how things were managed or brought about. At the end of the day, Imran Khan is the only prime minister of Pakistan to have been ousted through constitutional means. Governments should not fall through dharnas or undemocratic meddling but by exercising constitutional means to get rid of a prime minister is a democratic right. That said, perhaps Pakistan and Pakistan’s politicians need to exercise some patience and self-restraint and finally allow a prime minister to see it through to the end of their term. If we have meddling institutions, they have not only been supported but at times even goaded by politicians who have zero respect for the people they say they represent.