AFTER about a week of remorse triggered by the blowback over his chief of staff’s controversial statement, it appears that Imran Khan is back to complaining about the establishment to the establishment.
In a Thursday speech, the former prime minister regretted that the powers that be had allowed ‘crooks’ to return to power despite knowing about the corruption his political opponents had allegedly been involved in. It may not be ‘news’, but it was still disturbing to hear from the horse’s mouth that the country’s intelligence apparatus would feed the prime minister information on politicians and their alleged corruption and that the accountability apparatus was used for political engineering.
Mr Khan suggested that his much-hyped anti-corruption drive ultimately failed because the National Accountability Bureau was being ‘managed’ during his tenure by “a helping hand” — who would, in Mr Khan’s words, “press the accelerator” or take their hands off whenever it suited them. The former prime minister implied that NAB was unable to close cases because the establishment never let it.
Mr Khan’s Thursday speech presents a strange worldview. It appears that he still wants those he now disparagingly calls ‘neutrals’ to continue to interfere in domestic politics rather than see them detach completely from the legislative and judicial apparatus.
If so, is one to understand that he has learnt nothing from the folly of his over-reliance on his former benefactors for perpetuating his tenure? Surely, he should have understood by experience that any power that is not answerable to the people has no compulsion to act on any will but its own.
Aside from Mr Khan’s renewed gripes about the establishment’s role in politics, there were other indications on Thursday that the ebb and flow of the PTI’s relationship with the powers that be may be reaching another inflexion point.
After earlier calling for legal proceedings against Shahbaz Gill for his controversial remarks, PTI Senator Faisal Javed changed his stance to demand that all political leaders who have ever criticised or spoken out against the military should first be tried on similar grounds.
Meanwhile, Mr Gill remained in the headlines for the tug of war over his custody as well as concerns over his physical well-being. Though images of a politician being dragged around by police to courthouses and hospitals are, unfortunately, nothing new in Pakistani politics, the concerns over his alleged torture are quite serious.
With some journalists and a PPP lawmaker claiming to have seen evidence that Mr Gill was indeed tortured in custody, the matter cannot be ignored any further and must be looked into critically and independently.
The Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention and Punishment) Bill, 2022, just landed in the Senate after passage from the National Assembly. It would be a great shame for this government if it emerges that it is not serious about putting an end to inhumane practices under its watch.
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2022