Faced with an almost certain defeat in a vote of no confidence that was supposed to happen on the 1st of Ramzan, the Prime Minister connived with the deputy speaker of the National Assembly and the President of Pakistan to first dismiss the vote and then to dissolve parliament and call new elections.
Some have described this move as unconstitutional. The matter is now for the Supreme Court to decide. If conditions worsen, and anarchy descends on this strategically-located country of 220 million, the army may take over to “save the country,” as it has done five times since 1958.
Opposition to his rule has been rising steadily during the past several months. He has failed to deliver on the grandiose promises when he assumed the office of prime minister in October 2018.
He promised to bring home $200 billion of looted wealth on Day 1, stop going around the Arab world with a begging bowl, and stop borrowing from the IMF. He would build a Welfare State that would combine the high moral values of the original Islamic state with today’s democratic traditions in Scandinavia and China’s economic policies.
Pakistan would become a role model for the world. It would attract workers from the Arab world, reversing a long historical trend.
He failed to deliver. The trade and fiscal balances worsened. Foreign borrowing ramped up. The Rupee plummeted against the dollar. All of this led to runaway inflation.
Several of his party’s elected assembly members turned against him. It did not stop there. In the past few days, one of his coalition partners, MQM, joined the opposition, ensuring the collapse of his government.
Imran Khan began resorting to name calling and accusing his opponents of every possible crime under the sun. To add fuel to the fire, he accused the US of threatening to bring about “regime change” unless he was removed from office.
In his last speech, he accused the US of conspiring to remove him from office, pandering to widespread anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. The speech was less of an address about national policy as it was a stump speech for the next elections.
The speech began with an Islamic recitation and ended with an incineration of his opponents. He called them the “three stooges.” As for those within his party who may defect, he gave them one last chance not to sell their conscience.
He kept repeating that the pending vote of no confidence was about the future of the country, the independence of its foreign policy, the prosecution of the three stooges who own properties and financial assets in the millions of dollars domestically and overseas.
He also said that unless he stayed on as the prime minister, the country would become a stooge of the West. He said he cannot be blamed for the performance of the country during his three-and-a-half years in office since the problems went back three decades.
He fell back on high school histrionics by citing Mir Jaffer and Mir Sadiq as traitors who had bonded with the British to overthrow genuine Muslim leaders. In history, he said traitors often decide the fate of nations by selling their conscience to foreign powers for monetary gain.
He said that the West was fully aware of the corruption of the three stooges. Its intelligence agencies knew every detail about just anyone. But the West was malicious. It knew how to buy people to serve its self-interest.
The West wanted Imran out of office because he did not want to be their slave or servant. Then Imran Khan began talking about his cricket career. He said he had never accepted defeat on the field and was always going to play to the last ball.
He was not going to resign even if he lost the vote. In a prior speech, he had said that he would become more dangerous. He has done away with that rhetoric, perhaps because it backfired on him.
He would continue living in his house like he had always done. Unlike Nawaz Sharif who had built three factories during his term of office, he had built none. In other words, he was the only honest, incorruptible man with impeccable credentials in Pakistan and thus should continue to govern the country.
Perhaps the only new content in this speech was its commentary on three army chiefs who had turned into military dictators.
He lambasted General Musharraf by name more than once and said that he had betrayed the largest interests of the country by joining the US-led war on terror. The US had mercilessly carried out drone attacks that had killed thousands of innocent civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These attacks had occurred on Musharraf’s watch and he was to blame.
Without naming him, he also indicted General Zia for joining the US in the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, saying that Pakistan had suffered enormously from the spillover effects of the decade-long war.
Finally, without naming Field Marshal Ayub, he commented on his tenure, but positively. Imran said that Pakistan in the sixties was a country that was admired globally and people from South Korea would visit it to learn and to emulate.
In assessing three military dictators, he must have known that he was treading on forbidden soil. It remains to be seen how these remarks will be appreciated by the powers that be. Only time will tell. Imran may have crossed a redline.
His speech carried self-glorification to a new level. Not in so many words, he was saying that he and only he is qualified to run the country. Anyone who opposes him is corrupt and has a nefarious agenda to loot the country and sell it to foreign powers.
His speech was packed with enough religiosity and moral content to convince the nation that he was wearing Jinnah’s mantle, if not a caliph’s mantle. His partisan harangue demeaned the high office of prime minister. It would have been appropriate for a rabble-rousing rally, not a national address.
History will remember him not only for his multitudinous failures but also for hanging out with tyrants such as MBS of Saudi Arabia, Xi of China and Putin of Russia. He will also be remembered for his multiple gaffes, such as referring to Osama bin Laden as a martyr and saying that the Taliban, by defeating the US in Afghanistan, had “broken the shackles of slavery.”
He will leave behind a legacy of boasting and grandstanding.