Wednesday October 04, 2023

An apology

By Editorial Board
September 23, 2022

Finally, and expectedly, former prime minister Imran Khan decided to apologize for his remarks at a rally in August in Islamabad during which he used certain remarks against Judge Zeba Chaudhry. The words used for the respected judge were both derogatory and misogynist. The Islamabad High Court had rejected two previous replies from Imran Khan in the contempt case and was set to frame charges if deemed necessary. He has now apologized – despite his party stalwarts spinning the case as a challenge to Imran’s popularity. It is unfortunate that the much-talked about ‘respect’ the PTI wishes for its own somehow never transcends into respect for others – be it political rivals or state institutions.

Imran’s politics has been erratic of late but to those reading frustration there is a word of caution by political observers who see a method to the madness, a sort of calculated erraticism. The PTI may have been caught in a bind the past few months but it has had a plan all along – discredit both the PDM government and state institutions; use aggression and reconciliation as potent tools; know when to threaten and when to take a hasty step back. Till now, the PTI’s plan seems to have worked as far as the popularity graph goes. Imran is still on top of the game as an almost-Messianic figure for a frustrated-with-old-politics nation. But could it be that this may end up becoming a case of overconfidence? The contempt case was surely a setback, as have been the revelations in the ECP foreign funding case and the Toshakahana reference. But none of the PTI’s narratives – though popular with the people – have resonated where it matters most. And Imran seems to be losing patience at not getting his way with the only goal he has had since April: early elections. The former PM looks to have decided that this is a now or maybe-never game. If elections are not held early, then perhaps the PDM government could pull itself together – no matter how unrealistic it seems right now – and even deliver to the people for an electoral win. Let us not forget that rules were broken and laws moulded to favour the PTI and to ensure that Imran got power in 2018. So why is it that he seems so impatient now? The answer probably lies somewhere between the heady feel of populism, the question of political rivalries, and the temptation of making important state appointments.

The PML-N is in no hurry to go for elections. It knows it has ample space it needs to make up for, what with inheriting a difficult economy and having to make tough decisions. However, we can almost never say never in Pakistani politics. The road ahead is tricky for all parties. With the passage of time, Imran may start losing his steam – something the government and its allies may be looking at. But will he?