Failure of a ‘saviour’

Ghazi Salahuddin

No, it is not the windmills of corruption that the great leader is now tilting at. The target has changed, for the time being. Now he is hunting for ‘traitors’ who may be involved in a conspiracy, hatched by a foreign country, to oust him from power. The threat, we are told, was conveyed in a letter sent by our ambassador in that country.

And what country is it that wants him out of power, apparently through a vote of no-confidence? Ah, this is a matter of high diplomacy, possibly within the purview of the Official Secrets Act. So the country is not to be named. This is what the PTI leaders said.

But the name that was not to be named has been named. It was uttered, unintentionally (?), by Prime Minister Imran Khan himself in his address to the nation on Thursday evening. It is, as everyone seemed to have known even before the ‘slip’, the United States of America. As would be expected, there was a prompt rejection of the allegations from the White House.

There are a number of reports about what this is all about. Former senior diplomat Abdul Basit told Geo that the so-called threatening letter is an assessment by Pakistan’s ambassador and not a threat from the American government. He said Imran Khan has harmed Pakistan’s interests in the manner he has conducted diplomacy. Didn’t he do something similar when he withdrew from the Kuala Lumpur summit in December 2019?

But this focus on an ‘international conspiracy’ by Imran Khan is a distraction. The moment of truth is arriving today, when the National Assembly is set to vote on the no-confidence motion. The outcome of this vote is writ large on the horizon.

Though it is natural to be excited and anxious about the actual vote, there is a great sense of drama in how Imran Khan and his devotees are refusing to gamely accept the reality and the logic of numbers. We are witness to the spectacle of a political leader raising hell while still in power and desperately seeking some magical way out of the no-confidence trap. He is still aggressively asserting that the game is not over and he has surprises up his sleeve.

In the process, we have some revelations about who Imran Khan is and what he is aspiring to become as a leader. There already were some hints of a fascistic bent of mind. The PTI has always boasted about its youth power and a ‘tiger force’ was actually formed to promote its social and public service initiatives.

However, the evidence we have in the wake of the no-confidence entanglement is enough to show that Imran Khan wants to use street power as a political weapon to harass and intimidate his adversaries. When PTI dissidents made their appearance in Sindh House, it was attacked by a number of people. They were led by two PTI members of the National Assembly. Simultaneously, there were noisy demonstrations at the houses of the dissidents.

A very large gathering was first planned on D-Chowk to block the way of the defectors to the assembly. The threats were open and Fawad Chaudhry dared any “mai ka lal” to pass through that crowd. The show of force held last Sunday on Islamabad’s parade ground was meant to convey another message. The idea was to argue that people’s support would be weightier than the vote in the legislature. But the rally was not what it was supposed to be.

Remember Imran Khan threatening the dissenters that no one would marry their children? He set the tone and it remained the same even after he became the prime minister. This harangue, the stamp of a demagogue, has continued until this weekend, when country-wide demonstrations are also being held.

At another level, this is the time to also ponder what a charismatic leader like Imran Khan can achieve. It is true that a society like ours, lacking strong civil institutions, yearns for a charismatic leader in times of crisis. Imran Khan was very lucky in this respect. He had all the right credentials. Without the prescience of all the U-turns that lay ahead, he made all the right promises.

His address to the nation can be a good measure of what Imran Khan has become. One aspect of it was the digital calculation of how many times he said “mein” or “mujhey” or “mera”. Geo made the tally and found 88 ‘I’s’ in the speech. He uttered his own name 14 times. Altogether, there were more than 200 variations of the first person singular.

By way of summing up, we can say that the Imran Khan experiment has failed. This judgment would also apply to what they describe as a hybrid regime. Another lesson for us is that a charismatic leader, with the conceit of being the nation’s saviour, is potentially divisive. Look at how polarised Pakistan is at this time.

Do we need a saviour or leaders who are more human and capable of creating consensus in the country’s search for the resolution of its fundamental problems? This is a debate for another time. Now, we must quickly take the next step and allow the political temperature to cool down and restore some order in the corridors of power.

With his new narrative of the foreign conspiracy, Imran Khan has apparently launched his election campaign. He insists that in a new election, he will win with a landslide. But before that election, we have to play the game according to the rules. And make an objective and patient assessment of who has done what. We should waste no more time in this naughty game.

Coincidentally, the no-confidence vote overlaps with the advent of Ramazan. In addition to piety and religious observances, the attention of the people will also shift to the prices of food items – and these prices will certainly rise. Someone has to think of these things.

(Courtesy The News, Pakistan)