Friday May 17, 2024

Some grace, Mr PM

By Mohammad Zubair
March 15, 2022

Imran Khan and his party have decided to fight back – but fight back against whom? Rather than conceding that all is lost and let the constitutional process run its course, the PM is leading the way in this fight against the people of Pakistan. He seems oblivious of the catastrophic consequences of his actions or statements as he sets out to fight the final battle – or so it seems.

Imran Khan set new standards when he was in the opposition, creating chaos and anarchy against a legitimately elected government. Instead of following the legally laid down procedure in the constitution against alleged election irregularities, Imran Khan decided to literally wage war against the government of Mian Nawaz Sharif. Along with Tahirul Qadri & his frenzied supporters, Imran Khan not only tried to disrupt the functioning of the government in Islamabad with his 126-day dharna but also announced a civil disobedience movement across Pakistan. This was the first of its kind – asking people not to pay taxes and duties, or their electricity and gas bills. He went even further, asking the IMF and other global financial institutions not to lend any money to Pakistan.

In terms of the language used against the then prime minister and other cabinet ministers, he introduced the choicest words in our political vocabulary – never seen or heard before. He not only used abusive language against his political opponents but would also physically threaten opponents and encouraged his supporters to take on those who opposed his political philosophy.

On the receiving end of Imran Khan’s diatribes were not just political opponents but other major stakeholders too, especially the media that was targeted to ensure compliance of his narrative. Even the bureaucracy, including police officials, were intimidated and threatened. Indeed, on several instances, police officials were physically beaten and police stations attacked, showing no mercy for those performing state duties.

The dharna was only called off after the tragic and brutal attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar. But before this tragedy much harm had been inflicted on state institutions – some of them were physically attacked. None was spared including parliament. That Imran Khan and the PTI leadership have never shown any remorse for their actions to date is even worse. Later a commission comprising the chief justice of the Supreme Court and other judges rejected all the allegations of the PTI leadership with regard to the legitimacy of the 2013 elections and held that Mian Nawaz Sharif was elected prime minister through a transparent, free and fair electoral process.

Imran Khan came into power in 2018 not on the basis of the popular mandate but rather through massively rigged elections. After the dubious decision resulting in the disqualification of Mian Nawaz Sharif in July 2017, all efforts were made to break the PML-N in order to ensure victory for the PTI. Despite the rigged elections, and keeping their reservations aside, the opposition parties agreed to sit in parliament. The ruling party was also given full support by all stakeholders, something necessary for the smooth running of any government.

With the kind of promises and commitments made before the elections, Imran Khan and the PTI leadership had created unusual hopes and expectations of a major economic turnaround. After more than three and a half years, those hopes and expectations have turned into anger and frustration. That the failure would be so massive on all fronts was not expected, given the perfect economic situation left by the PML-N government in 2018. Except for the twin deficits, all other economic indicators were more than positive. Importantly, the PML-N government had completely resolved the energy crisis and through sustained operations, Pakistan was more peaceful than it had been for decades.

Imran Khan had promised the best possible team to run the country. What we got instead was probably the worst ever cabinet in Pakistan’s history. Most cabinet ministers are mediocre and once you add the corruption factor, it becomes a lethal combination. Instead of providing any relief, the PTI government has made the lives of the people miserable. Indeed the economic numbers confirm the misery of the people. Inflation, unemployment and poverty – all at record levels. Pakistan’s total debt and liabilities jumped from Rs30 trillion in June 2018 to more than Rs51 trillion at present.

Whatever he preached before elections 2018, Imran Khan did the exact opposite. Rather than ensuring media independence, Imran Khan muzzled the media in a manner not seen for a long time. All through his 22 years in political struggle, Imran promised to eliminate corruption. On this front, he failed as well – making Pakistan far more corrupt than at any time in its history.

Having waited long enough and with alarming signs of deterioration on all fronts in the coming months, the opposition was left with no other option but to use the constitutional method to remove the prime minister. However, the reaction from the PM and the ruling party is not just appalling but dangerous. Rather than fighting it out in parliament, the ruling party has termed it an international conspiracy to unseat Imran Khan.

Using state resources, the prime minister and cabinet ministers are going around the country accusing the opposition and using derogatory language – taking discourse to a new low even by Pakistani standards. Members of parliament – particularly those belonging to the ruling party – are being physically threatened and intimidated not to vote in support of the no-confidence motion. Even media houses are being accused of being part of the international conspiracy, openly and brazenly warning those opposing the government.

Such a strong reaction from the government is an acknowledgement that the PM has lost the support of the majority in the house. This was the time for Imran and his team to reflect and accept the many failures over the last three and a half years. But no: the PM and his team have chosen a path which is not just bad for the PTI but can possibly plunge the country towards anarchy and violence too.

As it clearly looks, the PM has lost the confidence of the majority. As a former sportsman, he should know more than anyone when to concede defeat and be gracious in acknowledging the loss. Mr Prime Minister, it is time to show some grace and allow the no-confidence motion to run its course.

The writer is the spokesperson for Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, and former governor Sindh. He tweets @Real_MZubair