Wishing Imran Khan Away: Eliminating Him Has Consequences
By Lt Gen Muhammad Haroon Aslam (Retd)
It’s a stark reality that the current political tornado that has engulfed the entire country revolves around Imran Khan. Like it or not, he is in the eye of the storm. His followers want him to bounce back with his charismatic appearances in characteristically large public gatherings, while his enemies wish he is gone. He has already survived an assassination attempt and is facing umpteen charges against him. His character assassination goes on unabated with a professional finesse that would put Goebbels to shame. Efforts are being made to detach his stalwarts, party leaders and followers from him with the intent to wane him politically.
Despite this onslaught, Imran Khan has remained determined and unruffled with his usual impudence but with a streak of exasperation. The chief stimulus of this resilience is the unflinching support of the people from all over Pakistan, particularly the younger lot. This exposition is intended to share thoughts about two important aspects. Firstly, the possible reasons behind acrimonious bellicosity against the Khan and, more importantly, what if he is eliminated, either physically or politically?
Imran Khan has a self-proclaimed political ascend to his credit and cannot be accused of being catapulted to fame through archetypal enablers that are responsible for the rise of few known political personalities. It is alleged that during the General Elections in 2018, the establishment favoured Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI), due to which the latter attained a majority to form the government. PTI categorically denies this accusation.
As per another assessment, the truth is somewhere in between the two contentions. It says that the establishment favoured PTI but kept the parliament hung through precise calculation. For what purpose? Its answer is beyond the scope of this write-up, and I leave it to the readers’ assessment.
In the aftermath of the alleged ‘Regime Change Operation’, the country has gone into a political and economic tailspin, which the coalition government has been unable to check. Imran Khan has emerged as the most popular leader of Pakistan, the reality that drives the political milieu in Pakistan today. It is a fair assessment that coalition parties are wary of a thumping PTI win in elections in case these are held free and fair. Thus all efforts, foul or fair, are directed against avoiding elections as long as possible. The funny part is that this all is being done “in the spirit of the constitution.”
Why is Imran Khan and his PTI being wished away? Why are visible and invisible forces hell-bent on eliminating him? The answer lies in the political philosophy of Imran Khan, which has actually challenged the status quo and its beneficiaries. The status quo forces are powerful and deeply entrenched. The mafias want to keep a stranglehold over different domains, while strong political families consider it a ‘hereditary right’ to rule over the masses at all costs. The unidentified elements have their own axe to grind. Somehow the interests of all these elements converge on one point, ‘The Khan must go’.
Then there is the external factor that is being downplayed nowadays because Pakistan cannot afford to annoy the powers that have influence over international monetary agencies. I had predicted much earlier than 25 April 2022, when Imran Khan was deposed, that the US would not tolerate him because of his political philosophy and policies. The US and its allies are characteristically opposed to a Pan-Islamic approach from any leader since the abrogation of Khilafat under the Ottoman empire. They were quick to discern this leaning in Imran Khan when he started to appear as a popular leader in the Islamic world due to what he intermittently spoke at international fora and the way he gave importance to the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) as a representative body of Ummah. On top of it, Imran Khan’s emphatically declared policy of not permitting the establishment of US bases within Pakistan must have surprised the US because it is not used to such behaviour by Pakistan’s leaders. Imran Khan emerged as an upright, distinguished and audacious leader from Pakistan, a fact the world is not accustomed to.
If the personality of Imran Khan is evaluated, particularly with reference to his political thoughts and what he stands for, one is reminded of leaders like Martin Luther King from the USA, Patrice Lumumba from Congo and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from Pakistan. Yes, all three great men were killed. Imran Khan could have joined their list but was lucky enough to get away with injuries. It’s more than probable that the attempt on the life of Imran Khan was perpetrated by those whose interests this person hits while being in politics with the potential to be in power again.
In the historical context, the elimination of the political leaders of Pakistan created enormous problems for the country. Liaquat Ali Khan was gunned down in Rawalpindi in 1951, and the ugly incident left a wake of political inconsistency that ultimately resulted in the imposition of martial law. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in 1979, but he lives eternally in Sindh, unfortunately in the form of misrule and bad governance of dynastic politics. Benazir Bhutto was killed in 2007; the nation lost a very talented, competent and popular political leader. She was a leader who had international standing and recognition. Undoubtedly, political leaders of ability and stature are an asset to the nation.
What if Imran Khan is eliminated? It is a question best answered in the first sentence of the introduction to the book authored by the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto from prison. It says, “More than my life is at stake”.
Certainly, if Imran Khan is removed from the political scene of Pakistan, either through his murder or through the application of much trumpeted “minus one” formula, the effects will not only worsen the ongoing political turmoil and economic mess but will also ceaselessly resonate in the future with grave consequences. Kill Imran Khan, and you will kill the hope of the people for a better Pakistan. You will kill the hope that the nation will have leaders who stand by them and not align their policies with the interests of foreign powers. Leaders who have no interest whatsoever in wealth and fortune outside Pakistan. Leaders with empathy “Ehsas” for the hapless and the poor. Leaders who want Pakistanis to be a respectable nation in the world comity. Leaders who want to establish the rule of law and equality before the law. Leaders who want to build a nation based on the vision of its founder father, Quaid-e-Azam.
The world is seeing multidimensional changes. There is a gradual but imminent adjustment in the balance of power. China has emerged as a global economic and military power and has started to challenge US dominance. This situation of flux is conflict-prone, and the Russian-Ukrainian war is one indicator of this propensity. Pakistan is a country that stands at a geopolitical crossroads and is seriously affected by the global tussle for power and influence. Pakistan needs political leadership that can withstand pressures and undertake policies in the best interest of our country.
If Imran Khan is eliminated, those external powers who can manipulate political changes in our country will be emboldened to repeat such ventures; we will be at their mercy. The people’s empowerment through free and fair elections will strengthen Pakistan. The people and not the foreign powers should be able to select their leaders to be in positions such as Prime Minister and other high positions. Our politicians must stop lobbying outside the country to attain top slots. Imran Khan symbolizes the same phenomenon of true democracy and national sovereignty. Pakistan needs him and his philosophy.
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