Wayward ideology

Published December 2, 2022

INCREDIBLY, former prime minister Imran Khan has now placed the entire responsibility of resolving the ‘deficit of trust’ between the state and the nation squarely on the shoulders of the new military leadership.

Congratulating Chief of Army Staff Gen Asim Munir and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza through a tweet on Wednesday, the PTI chairman made a pointed reference to an August 1947 speech by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah to drive home the point that it is the civilian leadership that must prevail in the relationship between the executive and the military.

He added: “We hope [the] new military leadership will work to end [the] prevailing trust deficit that has built up in [the] last eight months between the nation and the state.”

Surely, Mr Khan could not already have forgotten his own role in precipitating this ‘trust deficit’ with his bold-faced claims about a regime change conspiracy and the related ‘Cyphergate’ hoopla? Was it not him who made the claim that ‘Mir Jafars’ and ‘Mir Sadiqs’ were involved in an elaborate conspiracy to oust him from power?

Though he himself may not have directed that insult to any individual specifically, it was clear from the DG ISI and DG ISPR’s Oct 27 press conference that they understood whom he meant. And did he not also allege repeatedly that his political opponents had worked with ‘local handlers’ to realise this alleged conspiracy, which again was perceived to be an insinuation about the establishment’s involvement?

Therefore, while there is definitely a desperate need for the armed forces to detach themselves from the political process and establish a distance from the daily intrigues that define it, it is a bit rich for Mr Khan to be sermonising on this occasion.

He has arguably been the number one beneficiary of the establishment’s largesse in recent years and, one must not forget, sought its intervention repeatedly in these past few months to get his early election.

One may argue that Mr Khan is correct, in principle, in asking that the army sticks to its constitutional role. But his remarks would have been less exasperating had the former prime minister shown any self-awareness when making them.

As of now, it remains unclear whether by ‘bridging the trust deficit’ Mr Khan only means that the establishment should fulfil his wishes about early polls or whether he genuinely wants to do politics without having to worry about his opponents getting any unfair advantage.

One hopes it is the latter, but Mr Khan’s recent words and actions say he desires the former more strongly. Mr Khan cannot have his cake and eat it as well. The Quaid was always clear about his vision for Pakistan. Anyone who claims his legacy for themselves should not treat his words so whimsically.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2022

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