I can tell from my 30 years of experience that you have different people as friends when you are leading the government, as opposed to when you are an opposition leader. When you are an opposition leader and the streets are your refuge, you require rebellious, selfless, neutral, brave but emotional and foolish people. But as soon as you take the reins of power, your preferences change – and so do your friends.
Then, you need those who praise you, and this kind of people are specialists at what they do. As soon as they reach the corridors of power, they dig a trench around the prime minister and his ministers, and push the emotional and foolish lot to the other side of it.
The specialists multiply with time and take over the entire presidential palace in a matter of days. They serve as the ears, nose, eyes and senses of the prime minister, the president or the army chief, till such time as they eat up all power. That is what happened in 2014.
But as they say, the past is a dead body, and we can’t move forward until we bury it. So, Imran Khan and I buried it on the 4th of July this year. I went to meet him at Bani Gala after eight years and I got to spend an hour with him.
As usual, Imran was emotional and in high spirits. I felt that the ex-premier now knew the weightage and effect that his words could carry.
As the conversation started, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman began to ‘spill the beans.’
“We wanted accountability, but our hands were tied. The chairman of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) used to take orders from somewhere else,” Imran claimed.
“Whenever I talked to him about Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto and Karachi’s corruption cases, I was asked to remove Usman Buzdar in Punjab,” he added.
“And I told them that Punjab and Buzdar are not the issue, the issue is Karachi, the financial capital and we have to clean it,” he maintained.
When asked why he didn’t remove Punjab chief minister, he replied, “There were three groups in Punjab and none of them wanted a CM from a rival group, so they had a consensus on Buzdar serving.”
He continued: “I knew that the moment I removed Buzdar, Punjab will face the same situation that it is facing now.”
Rifts with the Establishment
“You used to be the establishment’s favorite politician. Where did it go wrong?” I asked.
“The first difference of opinion was at the time of the US pullout from Afghanistan. Our institutions thought that the war would drag on for at least a year.”
“The second instance,” he added, “was when rumours were strife about General Faiz Hameed. I had never thought about appointing him as the next army chief. But the rumours soon turned into a wall of misunderstanding.”
“Third, the ‘Neutrals’ used to think of Shehbaz Sharif as some super genius. I tried to tell them that handing over power to these looters will destroy the economy, and that’s what happened,” Imran said.
The regime’s fall
I asked the former premier: “What happened on the night of April 10?”
He replied, “We received a few telephone calls. I took the approval from the Cabinet to declassify the cipher and met the [TV] anchors. When I entered the prime minister’s house, I felt a chaos. Speaker Asad Qaiser was unable say a word.”
Imran added, “I told him to stand firm, but he caved in on one call and it was followed by a successful no-trust vote. Otherwise, we had decided to drag the assembly proceedings for four more days.”
The way forward
I asked, “What do you see happening in the days to come?” and he replied that the country would default sans elections. “Only a fresh mandate can save Pakistan. This regime will only take the country backwards.”
Then I asked, “How can the country be brought back on track?” and his response was: “Only by making sure that the premier has all the powers, or else there will be a stalemate.”
“Who is responsible for the prevailing situation?” I asked, and Imran Khan replied: “Only one individual,” and the meeting ended.