Thursday December 07, 2023

Imran running out of political options

Another massive reversal or what Imran Khan would say U-turn is the PTI’s narrative of US conspiracy has fallen flat by the new moves of Imran himself.

August 15, 2022
Former prime minister Imran Khan addresses a rally in Lahore on August 13. Photo courtesy PTI Instagram
Former prime minister Imran Khan addresses a rally in Lahore on August 13. Photo courtesy PTI Instagram

To an Independence Day eve rally of a few thousands PTI supporters in Lahore, PTI Chairman Imran Khan delivered a speech of nearly 93 minutes and many were taken aback.

Nothing new he said, none really. Same old mantra around slavery mixed with religion-coated old rhetoric, no roadmap, no new strategy and no new message except the use of old clips, i.e. bits of his speeches and some from opposition and the crackdown on PTI followers during their last protest.

He is genuinely running out of options post “Haqeeqi Azadi” rally in Hockey Stadium. Here is how: Few would say he has a crowd following. Yes, crowd protests are different, but are not enough to scare off the government and the State.

Even the stadium was not full to the capacity, e.g. 45,000. But, then Imran Khan says he is going for an uprising against what he says domestic “Mir Sadiqs and Mir Jaffars” and their “international sponsors”. For his observers, he sabotaged the perception on May 25 when he failed to bring in a crowd for a long march on Islamabad and thus all had got a fair idea of PTI supporters’ actual strength.

Thus, it can be fairly concluded he cannot dislodge the government by sheer numbers of his supporters to extract concessions. So, he has lost the first option of pulling off substantive political goal through uprising.

The resignations from the National Assembly did not bring dividends and caused even political losses i.e. all important appointments were to be made by his opponents. The piecemeal acceptance of resignations i.e. nine new elections on the seats of PTI would only prove a distraction for Imran Khan, and if he fails to win these seats, it would cause panic in his own party and voters. Nor, he can afford to dissolve his two governments in KP and Punjab provinces.

Another massive reversal or what Imran Khan would say U-turn is the PTI’s narrative of US conspiracy has fallen flat by the new moves of Imran himself.

As reported, he made a phone call to US Ambassador Donald Blome. The meeting was arranged through KP CM. Secondly, PTI hired a lobbyist in Washington to improve relations with the Biden Administration.

This move underlined his double standards promoting anti-Americanism on the home front but encouraging rapprochement in Washington DC. Thirdly, PTI has benefitted fully from US funding in KP. Fourthly, its top leadership has been accused of receiving foreign funds. Lastly, PTI US Chapter called US Congressmen to remove Pakistan’s sovereign government through a petition again seeking help from the US, while PTI wants to end its alleged subjugation.

As a result, Imran Khan lost all grounds to argue for an ‘imported government’ and that there was any foreign conspiracy hatched for his ouster. According to his perception, the only opposition is indeed the establishment. Yet here again he has started to back-paddle after countless trending and trolling against the security institutions. For example, his Chief of Staff, Shahbaz Gill, went on a private TV channel and asked the Army rank and file to disobey the leadership. It was a redline PTI crossed. Though the hatred of Shahbaz Gill runs deep in PTI and most of its top leadership was discreetly appreciative of the government to arrest Shahbaz Gill. He was unpopular within PTI because of his abusive language.

Yet he is Chief of Staff of Imran Khan and what he says comes back to him. After the reaction of the Army and the government, Imran Khan, PTI leadership and even CM Punjab Chauhdry Pervaiz Elahi were forced to disown Shahbaz Gill condemning his statement. Shahbaz Gill was effectively pushed under the bus by Imran Khan. It comes under the heel of PTI’s concerted campaigning on social media against the martyrs of Lasbela helicopter tragedy.

For the first time, Imran Khan has felt the heat that he cannot do anything if the opposition is the establishment. He has hinted at the prospects of other worse case scenarios like possible disqualification under foreign funding case and a conceivable ban on PTI itself. He has failed to destabilise Shehbaz Sharif government which increasingly looks well-entrenched.

With the IMF deal around the corner, Pakistan successfully escaped the Bangladesh scenario. The rupee will soon be around 200 marks vs dollar. The above trajectory would leave less vulnerable pointers for PTI to capitalise.

Imran Khan seems running out of viable political options; he has lost leverages to force elections; his confidence is gone; his body language does not match his hyperbole any more. Any last minute trick up his sleeve is just anybody’s guess.

Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Balochistan. He is Chairman of the Institute of New Horizons (INH) & Balochistan. He tweets @Jan_Achakzai