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Saturday September 24, 2022

It’s Imran’s Waterloo moment

Imran Khan lost the trust, loyalty and cooperation after he crossed all the red lines without a clear strategy, requisite prowess and political sagacity

September 12, 2022
Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan (C) arrives to appear before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad on September 1, 2022. —AFP
Former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan (C) arrives to appear before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Islamabad on September 1, 2022. —AFP  

Following his aggressive, disproportionate and overreaching campaign, PTI Chairman Imran Khan further deteriorated his relations with the key stakeholder, Pakistan’s Establishment. He also failed to translate his steam into his political objective, i.e. immediate elections.

Imran Khan started his political campaign as opposition leader after his ouster (in a no-confidence motion) and set himself a realistic goal of new elections. However, where he miscalculated was unrealistic linking of his goal with anti-US demagoguery, alleged treachery, name-calling like “Mir Jafar” and “Mir Sadiq” and other euphemisms. He steamed the political balloon to an extent that it simply fractured.

Historical analogies of late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Altaf Hussain and Nawaz Sharif have in a way interesting relevance to the contemporary politics of Imran Khan. It has to be clarified at the outset that nevertheless Imran Khan’s claim of popularity, no political campaign no matter how popular it has been, has ever succeeded in drastically turning around the position of the Establishment as a gravitational pull.

Late Bhutto was very popular when he was in opposition. He rallied millions of people across Pakistan after the Martial Law regime under Ziaul Haq. But, when a point arrived he could not translate the public pressure into the tangible realisation of his goal. His goal was to remove Ziaul Haq. So, the political confrontation became a two-way fight resulting in either a “me or you’’ scenario. It ended up in his ultimate demise and defeat. The context was not different either.

The second example is Altaf Hussain. He was a blue-eyed man of the then Establishment. He had access to successive spy masters, but then he became divergent. One fine morning, he crossed the Rubicon, and the minus-one ensued. Altaf failed to understand where to translate his power into talks and accommodation. The rest is history.

Similarly, Nawaz Sharif started as the Establishment’s political proxy in his career launch. Later on, he presided over his ouster in the post-Panama court verdict. Unlike reckless Imran Khan, he was smart in exercising where and how far to leverage pressure on the Establishment.

He started talking while determining when he needed to fight on the back foot in confronting the powers that be. For example, by October 2020, he called names in Gujranwala public meeting. In November 2020, he generated enough high voltage against the power centres, which led to robust engagement and negotiations in January 2021. In a calculated move, Maryam Nawaz went mum and Shehbaz Sharif started bridging between the two centres. This was a testimony to Nawaz Sharif’s political acumen. Today, he is dominating the political space of Pakistan yet again. He saved himself from meeting the fate of late Bhutto and Altaf Hussain.

Imran Khan, however, has failed to understand the art of winning a political war in his confrontation. He turned achievable goal – immediate elections – into unrealistic ones with head-on collision leaving no room for flexibility and back-door negotiations. Unfortunately, this is how he arrived at his Waterloo moment.

Notwithstanding, he defeated many a challenges along the way, i.e. political wilderness, no traction among political electables, and above all a non-viable political entity, for over a decade, to be considered worthy of any investment by the power centres. Yet, he rose to the highest pedestal enjoying the overwhelming support by the Establishment during his government never extended to any prime minister in the country’s history.

However, he lost the trust, loyalty and cooperation after he crossed all the red lines without a clear strategy, requisite prowess and political sagacity. Thus, he is dangerously staring at political demise. In other words, the minus-one-status after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Altaf Hussain is the only fate largely awaiting Imran Khan in his misconstrued but overzealous “revolution” (political campaign).

The writer is a geopolitical analyst and a politician from Balochistan. He tweets @Jan_Achakzai

Comments

    Love Your Country commented 2 weeks ago

    Big ego and lots of U-turns. Let's see what happens next. One thing is for sure; Pakistan is not going forward.

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