HE has done it again. Misreading current events, recent history and the will of the people, Imran Khan has claimed that there would be celebrations in the country if a military coup ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office.
Astonishingly, the PTI supremo made his comments at an election rally in AJK — an event that is intrinsically about the democratic process and that took place adjacent to India-held Kashmir, where the Indian security forces are brutally suppressing protests against India.
It is perhaps too much to hope that Mr Khan did not mean what he said and got momentarily carried away. He is now far too experienced a politician to be given the benefit of the doubt and he has accumulated a record of anti-democratic statements over the years.
Mr Khan must not only be told that he is emphatically on the wrong side of history, but that he is positioning himself as a threat to the democratic order itself in Pakistan.
No politician ought to be able to use the cover of free speech to call for undemocratic politics without being emphatically denounced for his betrayal of the Constitution, democracy and the will of the people itself.
Nearly as offensive as Mr Khan’s thoughts is his grasp of international events. Clubbing together the ousters of Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qadhafi, Mr Khan suggested that the reason for their fall was that the people had turned on them.
While all three were deeply problematic leaders and categorically not democrats — indeed, each of the three relished their reputation as a dictator — their fall was because of a variety of reasons.
In fact, given that Mr Khan has opined on the recent Chilcot report, it is strange that he appears to believe that Saddam Hussein was ousted because he had lost the support of his people.
Mubarak and Qadhafi were indeed turned on by their people. But what does a legitimately elected prime minister who will face another election in 2018 and who has made no attempt to undermine the Constitution to prolong his rule have in common with military dictators who ruled for decades and were reviled by large sections of their people?
Bizarrely, Imran Khan does not even appear to understand what transpired in Turkey over the weekend.
Mr Erdogan is a deeply divisive leader and the only reason he is not the all-powerful president he wants to be is because the electorate has baulked at giving him the majority necessary to amend the Constitution.
But when a coup was attempted, the Turkish people and political class came together to defend the democratic process, not simply save Mr Erdogan. The Turkish public has realised what Mr Khan has evidently still not grasped: democratic continuity is non-negotiable.
Indeed, it is political leaders like Mr Khan who appear to be a persistent threat to the democratic process.
Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2016