25 May, 2024


Vain Attempts To Bowl Imran Khan Out! 

By Mohamed Harees –

Lukman Harees

“Are we Pakistanis, children of a lesser God? Is there one law for the west and one for us? Is our democracy supposed to be only democracy if you give us a no objection certificate?”― Imran Khan

Pakistan is no stranger to political unrest. It is a fact that no prime minister in its independent history has completed a full term in power; some of its most popular leaders have been assassinated or executed. Even so, the recent political developments were extraordinary. Imran Khan’s confrontation with the military and subsequent ouster from power has now devolved into an existential, zero-sum fight between the country’s most popular politician and a regime backed by Pakistan’s most powerful institution. 

The 70 year old star cricketer turned populist politician and the former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan (IK) was arrested at his home in the city of Lahore recently after being found ‘guilty’ of alleged charges of corruption and later sentenced to three years in prison. The verdict is likely to bring an end to his hopes of contesting future elections with the Election Authorities banning  Khan from running for office for five years. But despite his age, he has vowed to fight on. IK has denied any wrongdoing and lodged an appeal. 

IK iconic international fame on the cricket pitch was formidable as the charismatic captain of Pakistan’s national team, which won the World Cup victory in 1992. Being married to Jemima Khan, daughter of the wealthy Goldsmith family with whom he has two sons, he could also have enjoyed a happy family life. However, he first chose a career in charitable works, opening  Shaukat Khanum Memorial  cancer hospital, and then a political career dedicated to reforming Pakistan, even sacrificing his marriage to Jemima and his sons for the cause. Few people in Pakistan would make such a sacrifice. 

For much of the last 27 years, he has pretty much been a lone outspoken crusader against the Pakistani autocracy and its foreign policy, an opponent of the US-led war against Afghanistan and drone strikes, calling for political settlements of problems not war. As his influence locally grew, Khan went into politics, founding the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), or the Movement for Justice, in 1996, winning a seat in Parliament in 2002. PTI boycotted the 2008 elections. Finally, after nearly two decades on the political front, Khan was elected prime minister in 2018. IK vowed to eradicate poverty and corruption, and promised a “new Pakistan” to millions in the country. He was serious about reforms and Naya (New) Pakistan, tackling corruption, ending the war against Afghanistan, and particularly adopting an independent foreign and domestic policy. 

IK with his political charisma was seen as a new face among the established political figures and his promise to clean politics of corruption attracted young voters disillusioned with the old political order. His philanthropy also won him plenty of plaudits. His rule also had some notable achievements to record. For example, during his tenure, Pakistan recorded some of the lowest COVID-19 rates in South Asia, and a poverty-alleviation programme helped alleviate the economic hardships brought by the pandemic. However, politicians pledging to tackle corruption in Pakistan is not new, even army Generals like Gen. Musharraf pledged to do so. Yet corruption is so entrenched in the Pakistani political, public, media, judicial and military sectors that in practice there will always be great resistance to change.

The real change in Khan’s fortune came when Joe Biden was elected as President of the USA in January 2021 and his administration set about isolating Khan because of his warm relationship with US President Donald Trump. The US blamed Pakistan for cooperating with the Taliban in what was widely seen as a humiliation for Biden and the US. With IK already reorientating Pakistan towards a changing multi-power world and different foreign policy for the benefit of his country, it was the Russian invasion of Ukraine that would lead to his downfall. He  refused to condemn Russia and called out Western double standards and responded “What do you think of us? Are we your slaves … that whatever you say, we will do?”. Pakistan thus maintained neutrality and abstained from the UN vote.

As later disclosed in a leaked cable (cipher) ,there was the infamous meeting between the Pakistan ambassador to the US and two US State Department officials including Donald Lu. It was  obvious that Donald Lu and the Pakistani Ambassador were already aware of a plotted no-confidence vote which had not even been submitted to the National Assembly. It was clear that Pakistan’s isolation from the US will only end if IK was not PM, otherwise, things could get much more difficult. After losing a no confidence vote in parliament ,on  9th April 2022, he was removed as PM after just three and a half years in power not even completing a full term in office. Shehbaz Shariff—brother of corrupt Nawaz Shariff—whilst still on corruption charges, became the new PM.

Eventually, he was found guilty of flouting the rules on the declaration of gifts for MNAs without a fair trial or due process, or even a chance to present his defence. The prison selected by the government to detain him is a lowly and distant facility that houses hardened criminals and does not have facilities that political prisoners are entitled to. According to his lawyers, it is a small room which has got an open washroom where he said there were flies in the daytime and insects in the nigh. There was no air conditioning, in an area known for high temperatures and humidity during the summer and monsoon months, adding that Khan was spending his time praying and reading the Qur’an. The lawyers also added that Khan had no access to television, which he is entitled to given that he is a former prime minister. He was being given basic jail food, including lentils and bread.

Has the establishment ended Imran Khan’s careers, or should we never say never in Pakistani politics? It is said that Pakistan’s politics is like a nine-round boxing match. Unless somebody has been completely knocked out, or has lost all nine rounds, the game is not over. IK thus may seem out for the moment, having made a classic blunder of taking on the military in Pakistan’s context. It is unlikely that he will have the kind of return that Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto had by virtue of their ability to compromise with their dubious past; he has proved one thing that he does not compromise. But not only that, his followers, most of his hardline followers too dislike the word compromise. So it’s complicated.

As per international analysists, Pakistan’s polity lives with one basic contradiction- while politicians fight elections, no government rules without the military’s backing. This is the single reason no Pakistani Prime Minister has completed a full 5 year term since the creation of Pakistan in 1947. What the Sharif government has done to IK and his party PTI in terms of cases, shutting down their media coverage, and arresting all, is something every government does to its predecessor, forgetting that the real threat to the democratic process comes not from political rivalries but from a force outside the polity. Khan’s critics argue that he has become power crazy and that his vendetta against the establishment is a personal one, not for the benefit of Pakistan. But IK maintains that only he can rid the country of corruption and lift its citizenry out of the worst economic crisis in its history. 

IK’s story in politics is symbolic of any politician who falls out of grace in the eyes of the Army which holds the reigns in Pakistan. However, the impact of his ouster appears to have woken up and inspired the next generation of Pakistanis who will hopefully bring an end ultimately to this rotten two-dynasty-army rule in Pakistan. IK still enjoys phenomenal public support. His popularity was tacitly acknowledged by the military in a recent ban on stories about Khan, and he appears to be counting on it as his best hope for getting out of jail. Polling by Republic Policy, an Islamabad-based think tank, during 10 to 15 May found that he has a 70 per cent approval rating; Mr Sharif trails on 18 per cent. Yet the scale of Sharif government’s crackdown means that it will be unlikely that Pakistan’s public may come out en-masse openly to support him again. However, despite all the attempts to smear and eliminate IK by the Pakistani Generals and the Shariff/Bhutto families, he remains the most popular politician in Pakistan and the one on whom most people pin their hopes for a better future. He also remains more trusted than all the other political leaders. All attempts to destroy him simply seem to make him more popular. The majority of his supporters are bound by social constraints on personal conduct that Khan shunned for decades, and endure poverty he has never experienced, but like followers of Donald Trump in America, they have found inspiration in his story.

“I just have one appeal for you: don’t sit and hide in your homes,” he said in a video statement released after his arrest, casting the fight for his political career as a battle for Pakistan’s soul. “I am not doing this struggle for myself. This is for you and the future of your children”. He says ‘some of my first life lessons were learnt on the cricket pitch’ You learn how to take pressure, that’s number one, and the ups and downs, the dynamics of losing. You learn how to pick yourself up again’. Thus, IK as once told his cricket team to “fight like cornered tigers”, he looks set to be a formidable character behind bars as well. He urged people to peacefully protest until they get their rights, namely a government of their choice through voting and “not the one like today’s occupying power.”

Beyond Pakistan’s borders, global Muslims in particular have much to thank IK for his pivotal role in fighting global Islamophobia. United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) unanimously adopted a “landmark resolution” introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), designating March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. This means the day will now be cemented as an annual reminder of the need to combat Islamophobia across the world. Prime Minister IK was the first Muslim leader to raise the issue of Islamophobia at the UN in his maiden address to the UN General Assembly on 27 September 2019. He has since been regularly advocating the need to effectively combat the scourge of Islamophobia at various regional and international forums.” 

His political persecution represents something much bigger than the machinations of the corrupt internal Pakistani politics. It represents a terrible turning point for the plight of persecuted Muslim populations around the world. it also represents a stunning defeat to everyone who has taken a stand against the US war machine. He spoke against the people of Kashmir and brought this issue to the top of the international agenda. However, IK was not vocal against the systematic efforts of the Chinese government to annihilate the Uyghur Muslims, perhaps due to compelling economic reasons. Sri Lankan Muslims particularly owe much gratitude to IK for his decisive role in actively intervening and helping to bring the anti-Muslim forced cremation during covid crisis time to an end. The Western world for obvious reasons has referred the IK arrest and being jailed as an internal matter. If an opposition politician was arrested in Russia, Iran or China, the US and Britain would be loud in their condemnation. Chinese have begun to deal with the corrupt Pakistani leaders as before and the silence of the Muslim world has been deafening. This silence speaks volumes.

Hatred of corruption brought both Pakistan’s Khan and Egypt’s Morsi into conflict with the entrenched vested interests that have governed their respective countries so badly and for so long. Their honesty shamed the governing classes, which is one powerful reason both made enemies. The Pro-democracy and Human rights watchdogs and activists particularly in the West should speak up against the lawlessness of the corrupt Pakistani regime backed by the military.

There is no rule of law and an undeclared martial law in Pakistan currently. As journalist Peter Oborne says, this is a dark moment for freedom and democracy – not just in Pakistan, but around the globe. The only way out of Pakistan’s political crisis now is to hold elections and let Pakistan’s people decide what direction they want the country to go in. That puts Pakistani voters in the undesirable position of choosing between an entrenched and corrupt military-backed system and a civilian populist politician. 

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Latest comments

  • 2

    Are we your slaves … whatever you say, we will do, True sacrifice is joy-giving and uplifting. Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It’s easy to stand in the crowd but it takes courage to stand alone “Service without humility is selfishness and self-importance. Pakistan’s people decide what direction they want the country to go in. This is democracy

  • 4

    “The real change in Khan’s fortune came when Joe Biden was elected as President of the USA in January 2021 and his administration set about isolating Khan because of his warm relationship with US President Donald Trump.”
    Totally oversimplified.
    Trump was not friendly during his first two years as President. He was hostile until “By the fall of 2018, the Trump administration seemed to have calculated that an exit out of Afghanistan would not come via a military victory. Trump appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as his special envoy to Afghanistan, and Khalilzad began the painstakingly slow work of the Afghan peace process. Though Trump had engaged in a war of words on Twitter with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan just a few weeks before, Trump wrote Khan a letter in the fall of 2018 asking for help with the Afghan peace process.”
    See “https://www.brookings.edu/articles/evaluating-the-trump-administrations-pakistan-reset/”
    Biden’s foreign policy has been a disaster, and not everything can be explained by his hostility towards Trump.

  • 4

    Mr MH
    “the systematic efforts of the Chinese government to annihilate the Uyghur Muslims,” (By how much has the Muslim population in Xinjiang shrunk?)
    No Muslim government has pointed its finger against China on this count.
    What is your source?
    Study the matter in depth rather than parrot Western media’s tales.

  • 4

    “Hatred of corruption brought both Pakistan’s Khan and Egypt’s Morsi into conflict with the entrenched vested interests “
    Interesting parallel. The Morsi regime created its own enemies. When Morsi was overthrown there was only a weak whisper of protest. Imran Khan had a more secular approach.
    The US conspired to overthrow a popular president. There is more to it than Biden.

  • 0

    Now elections are going to be held in 3 months.let us wait and see whther it will be a free and fair election.If it is then imran’s party should do well. His decision making skills are not that good.When we won the world cup beating australia in 1995, before the match he told arjuna to bat first,but arjuna fortunately did no heed that advice as he always believed that chasing a total is always easier.

  • 3

    War is the most reliable economic driver for the US. It will manipulate and start wars wherever and under any pretext, but mostly about a supposed existential threat to the Western World. (The World in which people have a lighter skin?). No need to go far: there was the Yellow Peril for which the US and its allies bombed and killed millions of combatants and civilians in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, or sprayed chemicals from planes between the 1960s and 1970s, the legacy of which still causes infants to be born with hideous deformities. Before Vietnam there was the US-engineered Korean war, then wars in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq Syria. Also minor wars in Libya, countless US-engineered skirmishes in South America, including Cuba. Now there’s the Ukraine war. All keep the US military-industrial complex profitably, which is a major component of the US economy, and the largest arms exporter in the world.

    Continued 2/-

  • 2

    Continued 2

    The legacy of such US wars are left in abeyance or become a bargaining chip in all US negotiations. That includes US-laid landmines around the world and the dioxin-laced Vietnam War defoliant. All of which continue to maim and kill.
    And after killing and maiming millions of Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere, the US is now shedding tears over the Muslims in Xinjiang, China. It should not worry. China adequately looks after its people, Muslim or otherwise.

  • 4

    The Muslim world has been bought over by the non-believers or infidels who pay off the dictators in corrupt Muslim countries. That is why Palestine is still enduring genocide and crimes against humanity on a daily scale. Imran Khan dared to speak truth to power, and he is lucky to be alive. The military in Pakistan is a greedy, autocratic and corrupt institution, no different to Egypt’s under Mubarak. I pray that Imran Khan survives this ordeal and returns to lead poor Pakistanis to freedom and prosperity.

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