Imran Khan is so blinded by his “popularity” that he has lost his way. Consider.
His obsession with the Miltablishment is a key factor in both his success and failure. He blows hot and cold with its leaders. He is so fixated on being on the “same page” with them that he can’t bear it when they slip out of it. They were great “patriots” when they supported him, now that they are “neutral”, they are “animals” who can’t distinguish between good (Imran) and evil (Everybody else). Last week he thundered that the “lions” of the Pakistan Army were led by a “jackal” (no prizes for guessing who) and would be routed by an army of jackals led by a lion (no prizes for guessing who).
He used to say that when he became prime minister he would never give an “extension” to any army chief. Yet he became the first prime minister in history to change the law and extend the term of General Qamar Javed Bajwa. He used to say that it is the sole prerogative of the Prime Minister to appoint the army chief. Now he says that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif should not appoint the next Chief in November, instead he should extend the term of General Bajwa until after fresh elections are held so that he (Imran) can appoint his successor after he wins them. Indeed, he says that any Chief appointed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will not be a “patriot”, thereby ensuring that all Lt Generals in line to succeed to the post are made controversial on Day-One. He used to praise General Bajwa as a great democrat and patriot, now he calls him names and exhorts his commanders to revolt against him.
He used to say that he should have been allowed to complete his term instead of being kicked out via the democratic Vote of No Confidence. Now he says that he won’t allow the present PDM regime to complete its term and will launch a long march of tens of thousands on Islamabad to (undemocratically) oust the government.
He used to say that when he became prime minister he would never go begging to the IMF for an economic bailout. But when he was in power he signed on a USD 6 billon loan package with the IMF. Now that he is out of power he is blackballing the government for embracing the very program that he signed with the IMF, even going so far as to try and sabotage it through his henchmen.
He used to say that the United States engineered his “regime change” last March and paved the way for an “imported” government to seize power. Now he is busy hiring ex-CIA lobbyists in Washington to build fences with the US government while laying out the red carpet for American dignitaries in Islamabad and scraping the barrel for crumbs handed out by them to his government in KP.
He used to heap laurels on NAB, FIA and their Heads when they victimized his political opponents. Now he heaps scorn on them for returning to the straight path. For years he praised the Election Commission of Pakistan and its Commissioners when they put the Foreign Funding Case against the PTI into cold storage. Now he is abusing the Chief Election Commissioner (that he appointed) for hauling him up.
He used to praise the judiciary when it was a handmaiden to his executive. Now he is daily contemning it when it refuses to bow under pressure. He said he would never apologize for his remarks against judges. Now he is inching toward an unqualified apology to the Islamabad High Court.
He said he would never talk to the PDM. Now he has nudged PTI loyalist Arif Alvi to “secretly” start the process. He used to send party leaders to “negotiate” with the Miltablishment, now he warns them to desist from opening channels of communication with them.
There was a time when many serving and retired serviceman openly lent support to him. Now they are having second thoughts about his erratic and dangerous behaviour. There was a time when enthusiastic young men and women used to throng his jalsas and clutch at his every word. Now they are tiring of his repetitive rhetoric and thinning his rallies.
Last week he told his loyalists that it’s “now or never”. He fears that if the PDM government isn’t dislodged immediately, it will appoint the next army chief, put the economy on the rails again and consolidate power, thus diminishing his support base and chances of sweeping the next elections when these are held late next year.
He has announced a Long March on Islamabad soon but stopped short of giving a date. He fears it won’t succeed if, as is likely, the Miltablishment stands with the PDM government. Under the circumstances, he can then expect to be dealt with an iron hand, starting with his “disqualification” from contesting elections on any one of a number of solid counts.
Imran Khan’s apologists claim that the longer the PDM government stays in office, the more discredited it will become in the face of the rising popularity of their leader. But in the same breath they are demanding its immediate ouster because they fear their own leader is losing his lustre with the masses and clout with the Miltablishment.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, has offered some gratuitous but valuable advice to Imran Khan. Return to parliament and resolve your political problems there, he instructs, instead of constantly trying to drag the judiciary into political controversy.
The Miltablishment and Judiciary have slowly but unmistakably distanced themselves from Imran Khan. His youthful supporters are fatigued and frustrated. His senior colleagues in the PTI are bewildered and confused by his histrionics. He is looking increasingly like a desperate Maverick out of touch with reality. If he continues on his reckless path he will do himself and Pakistan incalculable harm.