Narrative U-turn

Published November 22, 2022

FORMER prime minister Imran Khan’s most recent U-turn must have left even his own party confused. Ever since his ouster from power in April, he had consistently accused the security establishment of having partnered with his rivals to pull off a US-backed conspiracy against his rule. The objective of his anti-establishment stance had all along been to somehow put pressure on the military leadership to give up its so-called ‘neutral stand’ and help him return to power through early elections. But now, he is ready to dilute his anti-establishment narrative — which has poisoned Pakistan’s polity and caused deepening divisions in recent months — to perplexing levels. This was evident on Saturday when the PTI chief argued that “even if we assume that the establishment wasn’t behind the regime change, it could have thwarted it”. A few days earlier, he had told a British newspaper that as far as he was concerned, Washington’s (alleged) role — on which rested his entire conspiracy narrative — in his ouster from power was behind him.

One does not know what is actually behind these feelers he has been putting out of late. Does he have reason to be encouraged by the reported back-channel talks led by President Arif Alvi on his behalf with the establishment and the government? Or is his new narrative an attempt to gauge the reaction of the top generals and put pressure on the next army chief to help him in his aim of early polls? All this lies in the realm of speculation. However, Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi is claiming that the former prime minister no longer blames the security establishment for his ouster or the assassination attempt on him earlier in the month. If so, why has he been bent upon making the selection of the new army chief so controversial? In his effort to regain power, his demand that the security establishment should unconditionally support him against his political opponents — in spite of the military’s repeated claims that it no longer wishes to be dragged into politics — betrays Mr Khan’s lack of faith in democracy and the people. It is a demand that no leader who supports a true democratic culture should make — especially in view of the outcome of the establishment’s interference in politics throughout Pakistan’s history. Sadly, the PTI chief does not seem to be learning from the past and has not yet recognised the benefits of political pluralism.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2022

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