FORMER prime minister Imran Khan needs to give it a rest. His expectation from the armed forces that they should be ‘guiding’ the government towards an early election is quite embarrassing. It gives the impression that he has learnt little from his years in power and that any ‘regrets’ that he had about never really being in the driving seat were more an expression of unhappiness with the last chief — who seems to have let go of his hand towards the end — rather than an actual realisation that governance should always remain the exclusive domain of the politician. “I have expectations from the new set-up that the national security institutions will take into account this serious situation of the country’s economy on a downward spiral,” he said on Sunday. Why should they? The management and mitigation of economic risks is not the army’s job, even if it has, in the past, assumed that role. Mr Khan cannot and should not expect the army chief to take over this responsibility if he himself will not take any initiative.
For a political leader, all legitimacy and power flow from the court of public opinion. Given his popularity, why does Mr Khan lack confidence in his ability to negotiate a deal with his opponents, without the armed forces around to back him? It is high time Mr Khan stopped relying on powerful benefactors to get him what he desires and started putting in the elbow grease, learning how to work the democratic system and making an effort to understand its mechanics. As a public representative, his place is either in parliament or at the negotiating table, fighting to get the people he represents what they want. There are only two legitimate paths open for him at the moment. He can sit tight, refuse to negotiate, and wait till the next election comes around on schedule, or he can return to parliament, initiate a dialogue, present his case, and, through some compromise, reach a deal with the PDM over an early election. If he is so concerned that the country and the economy may be irrevocably harmed if we do not go towards an early election, Mr Khan must ask himself whether Pakistan’s welfare should be above the intense personal dislike he has for his political opponents. Perhaps it may make it easier for him to reach for the second option.
Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2022