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Pakistan: Prime Minister Imran Khan outsted

Sunday 10 April 2022, by siawi3


The ‘honest’ captain myth

Pervez Hoodbhoy

Published April 9, 2022 - Updated about 24 hours ago

WITH the no-confidence motion to be voted upon today (Saturday) by a parliament restored on the Supreme Court’s order, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stint in power could be over by midday. But even if that transpires, the cricket captain and his cult are out to create chaos in the weeks and months ahead. For his devotees, he is the only honest and sincere politician in Pakistan and must be followed.

Cults — political and religious — can be long-lived and deadly dangerous. In 1978, devoted groupies followed Jim Jones, their discredited leader, in a mass suicide that claimed 909 lives, including 304 children. More to the point: Donald Trump spent four disastrous years in office and assaulted American democracy, but he is still adored by simple-minded Americans from the Bible Belt who cling to their guns and religion.

Building on his cricketing success and cancer hospital, Imran Khan worked relentlessly for decades at self-promotion. His growing cult swallowed story after story: corruption would end in 90 days; the national treasury would overflow once ‘looted dollars’ stashed by political rivals in secret overseas accounts were brought back. Never again, he said, would Pakistan see the dirty politics of horse trading.

Naya Pakistan would overflow with milk and honey — Khan would “commit suicide but never return to the IMF”; foreign policy would be based upon principle rather than expediency; the world’s most sought-after passport would become the green one; and Pakistan would turn into a tourist haven. Jobs would be aplenty, the justice system would be overhauled, civil service officers appointed purely on merit, and the police system revamped. Emigrants, said Khan, would choose Naya Pakistan over Europe and America.

Imran Khan may not be a money-chaser but his lust for power makes him dangerous for Pakistan.

Well-meaning overseas Pakistanis, desperate for good news from their ex-country, lapped it up. But the reality turned out starkly different.

Just months after winning a bitterly disputed election, Khan’s government requested the IMF for a loan. Critical dependency on the United States was traded for equal dependency upon China. Today, the Pakistani passport is no more desirable than before and the only foreign tourists are intrepid mountain climbers. In January 2022, Transparency International announced that perceptions of corruption had taken a quantum leap. As for looted billions returning: sure, keep dreaming! Meanwhile, the dollar has gone through the roof.

Read: Tracking Naya Pakistan — Three years into power, here’s where PTI stands on some of its promises

Horse-trading politics got a boost once Khan decided that “electable” candidates would be preferred over principled candidates. Although he now admits “mistakes”, the future may be no different. In a desperate move, the Punjab chief minister — apparently chosen by his first lady and praised sky-high by Khan until two weeks ago — has just been thrown under the bus. His replacement, handpicked by Khan himself, was once derided by Khan as a scumbag.

To save his sinking ship, Captain Khan has invented the cock-and-bull story of an American conspiracy to oust him. This, he said, owes to his independent stand on Ukraine. So why hasn’t Narendra Modi — also ambivalent on Russia’s aggression — alleged the same? Khan’s groupies cannot explain why this weeks-old ‘revelation’ came only after a no-confidence motion threatened his survival.

What makes cults so attractive and cultists so impervious to factual evidence and reason? Why do so many people set aside good sense and worship leaders? Of course, some followers do quit when the truth becomes ugly enough. But for others even that doesn’t happen. The herd instinct, reluctance to admit a past mistake, or continued attachment to some utopic vision still keeps some going.

Anthropologists have related the degree of cultic affiliation to the perceived uncertainty within an environment. For example, they find that rougher seas make fishermen engage in more elaborate magic rituals. Correspondingly, Pakistan’s lack of a shared national purpose creates space for putschists and captains who promise to steer the ship of state out of stormy waters. Reason and rationality are temporarily suspended lest they undermine faith, unity and discipline.

Military interventions that debilitated democracy paved the way for fix-all miracle magic men like Imran Khan. The broken idols of other wannabe messiahs with fanatical followings litter the political landscape. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Altaf Husain, and Maulana Fazlullah also had sophisticated urbanites among their followers. This happened even before the invention of social media, but technology has created virtually impenetrable silos of political groupthink.

Today, one particular belief sits securely in a nuclear-protected bunker and may survive even the no-confidence vote. Common wisdom is that all opposition leaders are money-hungry cheats and Khan, even with his shortcomings, is clean as a whistle. Correct? After all, it is commonly held that all opposition politicians are venal, even if there is disagreement on which is the more corrupt one.

Imran Khan wins out on this. Chasing money is not his first priority. Of course, opponents do point to his magnificent Banigala palace, high-style living, minimal payment of personal taxes, and the doubts raised by the ECP regarding PTI’s foreign funding. These are minor sins. But it is Khan’s insatiable lust for power that makes him truly dangerous for this country. While money fattens individuals, absolute power brings catastrophe. Donald Trump wanted both money and power but Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot craved only the latter.

If parliament dismisses Khan, how will he rally his followers again? He has already revealed his strategy for the forthcoming elections: whip up xenophobic nationalism; mobilise the religious sentiment that he helped generate through encouraging TLP’s anti-France anti-blasphemy agitations; and turn Pakistani against Pakistani. Pro-Khan people are patriots, those against him are traitors, and fence sitters are, in his words, mere animals.

If Imran Khan is voted out of power today, Pakistan will have won a temporary victory. However, its larger interest demands that all political parties obey rules and the Constitution. They must embrace democracy and pluralism, and cease pursuing narrow interests. Aggression and hate propagation, use of foul language, and denigration of women and religious minorities should have no role to play in politics. Instead, live and let live. Let reason and rationality take precedence over blind faith in leaders.

The writer is an Islamabad-based physicist and writer.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2022



I accept Supreme Court’s decision, says PM Imran in address to nation

Published April 8, 2022 - Updated a day ago

VIDEO here: Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the nation on Friday. — DawnNewsTV 33minutes

Prime Minister Imran Khan in an address to the nation on Friday said he accepts the Supreme Court’s verdict issued a day ago.

He also vowed to not accept what he termed as an “imported government” and called on the nation to come out on Sunday (April 10) after Isha prayers to hold peaceful protests.

“I am saddened by the verdict, but I accept it,” the premier said at the start of his address.

He said the deputy speaker prorogued the assembly and set aside the no-confidence motion in light of Article 5 of the Constitution.

“There was foreign interference in Pakistan’s no-confidence. I wanted the SC to at least look at it. It was a very serious allegation that a foreign country wants to topple the government through a conspiracy.”

The premier said he was at least expecting a probe by the SC.

“The SC could have at least asked for and looked at the document to gauge whether we’re speaking the truth. I was a bit disappointed because this is a very big issue and there was no discussion on it in the SC.”

PM Imran said he was also saddened at the haste with which the court made its decision.

He said open horse-trading and “buying and selling of consciences of lawmakers” was going on in the country. “Every child knows the price at which consciences are being sold.”

“What kind of democracy is this? Which democracy in the world allows this (horse-trading)? And the biggest forum for justice, the judiciary, we expected it to take suo motu action if nothing else.”

He added that “politicians are not sold this way even in banana republics”.

He lambasted PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, claiming that they had “begun horse-trading” in Changa Manga 30 years ago and the country’s politics had worsened since then.

Even lawmakers elected on reserved seats were selling their consciences, he said, adding that those seats were a “gift” from the party.

The premier lamented that the spectacle that was taking place at the moment was a “huge setback” for his dream of seeing Pakistan become a great country.

He said he had asked people to come to the PTI’s power show titled Amr Bil Maroof (enjoin the good) — held on March 27 — because he wanted to tell them it was their responsibility to stop “evil”.

“I say to my nation, you have to save yourselves from this foreign conspiracy. If you do not stand against this, no one will come to save you.”

’Threat letter’

Moving on to a document — that he had first shared in the March 27 rally that purportedly contained details of a “foreign conspiracy” to oust his government — Prime Minister Imran said he wanted the public to see it but could not share it as it would “expose Pakistan’s secret code” that was used for conveying messages by missions abroad.

Detailing the contents of the cipher, he said Pakistan’s ambassador to the US had met an American official who said that the prime minister should not have gone to Russia.

“The ambassador tried to tell that [the trip] was already planned and there was a consensus. He (the US official) knew a no-confidence [motion] was coming. He said if Imran Khan is saved from it, then Pakistan will have to face consequences. See the arrogance [in his saying that] if the sitting prime minister is not removed, Pakistan will be damaged.”And then he (US official) said that if [Imran Khan] loses, Pakistan will be forgiven. He did not even say that if [I] lose and whoever comes next, we will first see what he does and then forgive him which means he knew who was coming [to power] and had gotten his achkan sewn."

The prime minister termed the US official’s remarks an insult to 220 million people of Pakistan, asking why the nation gained independence from the British if this is the way it was going to live.

He also shared that American diplomats had allegedly met PTI lawmakers a few months ago.

“It is necessary for all of us to decide whether we want to live as an independent, sovereign nation or be slaves like this,” he said, claiming that the US knew of Shehbaz’s plan to come to power because of his messaging of ’beggars can’t be choosers’.

Shehbaz had said the country had to do slavery because it was indebted, the premier said, asking who had put the country under debt when the opposition parties had been in power for the last 30 years.

’West knows Imran Khan cannot be controlled’

Prime Minister Imran said the West knew him the best and had a profile on him, claiming that they wanted to remove him because of his opposition to drone strikes and the Iraq war and his “consistent” stance that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

“When [those who say] beggars cannot be choosers were in power, who demonstrated and held sit-ins [against drone strikes]? Imran Khan. They (the West) know Imran Khan has no stolen money or property or bank accounts abroad which means he cannot be controlled. It is necessary to remove [me] because [I] cannot become [their] puppet.”All this drama is being done to remove one man."

The premier again asked the country to decide what kind of Pakistan they wanted.

PM vows to not accept ’imported govt’

During his address, Prime Minister Imran vowed to not accept an “imported government”, saying he would instead go to the public.

“The public brought me and I will [stand] with them. Choose people through elections. What kind of democracy is this?” he asked.

Criticising the opposition parties, he said they all called each other thieves in the past and initiated corruption inquiries. “Now they are all gathering together to get power by any means,” he said, adding that once in power, the opposition would disband the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and end corruption cases.

“They (the opposition) have never played with neutral umpires. Their biggest fears are EVMs (electronic voting machines) and overseas Pakistanis’ voting. They will end [voting for overseas Pakistanis] and appoint their own bureaucrats, fix the match, and then contest elections. If they are democrats, [they should] announce elections and see who the public votes for.”

He appealed to the nation to come out after night prayers on Sunday (April 10) to protest against the “imported government”, advising however, to refrain from causing damage to property.

“You have to protect your sovereignty. This is your responsibility,” he said, vowing that he would stand with the people and not accept the “imported government” under any condition.

Praise for Indian foreign policy

Prime Minister Imran said he knew India better than other politicians and expressed sadness that Pakistan did not have good relations with it because of its “RSS ideology and what happened in Kashmir”.

He praised India’s “independent” foreign policy, saying no superpower had the courage to tell the neighbouring country to change its foreign policy. “They (India) are saying they will import Russian oil because it is better for their people despite the sanctions [on Russia].”

He said he had the “same problem”. The premier elaborated that he was not against any one or any country but he put the 220m people of Pakistan first and then looked at what other states were saying.

I cannot sacrifice my people for any other nation, he said, adding that this was what happened when those in power had decided to involve Pakistan in the US war on terror. “When you [collaborate] with someone for money, they do not respect you. They (the US) did not appreciate Pakistan and imposed sanctions.”

The premier said the country had to try to lift its people out of poverty and it could only do that if it did not enter into any war.

“I want to tell my youth, your future is your own hands. The country’s sovereignty is in your hands. No army or foreign power can protect democracy, it is the nation that does so. This attack on our sovereignty, if you do not take a stand against it today, whoever comes into power will look at what the superpowers want and act accordingly.”

He called on the nation to stand with its leadership for an independent foreign policy, explaining that it would need to make the US understand that Imran Khan was “not anti-America” and that Pakistan wanted to maintain good relations with all countries.

“We are not a nation to be used as a tissue paper. We do not want a one-sided relationship with anyone. When European Union ambassadors gave a statement against protocol asking Pakistan to condemn Russia [over its invasion of Ukraine] ... can they say that in India? Do they have the courage?”

’Will continue to fight till last ball’

Yesterday, the apex court had in a 5-0 unanimous verdict set aside the April 3 ruling of National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri in which he dismissed the no-trust motion against the premier and also reversed the dissolution of the NA by the president on the PM’s advice.

As the opposition celebrated, the prime minister took to Twitter to announce that he had summoned a meeting of the federal cabinet for today and would also address the nation.

He said a meeting of the PTI’s parliamentary committee would also be convened today and that he would “continue to fight for Pakistan till the last ball”.

’Speaker’s ruling contrary to Constitution’

The apex court, in its short order, ruled that the deputy speaker’s ruling was “contrary to the Constitution and the law and of no legal effect”.

It ruled that President Dr Arif Alvi’s decision to dissolve the NA was also “contrary to the Constitution and the law and of no legal effect”, noting that the prime minister could not have advised the president to dissolve the assembly as he is facing a no-confidence motion.

“It is further declared that the [National] Assembly was in existence at all times, and continues to remain and be so,” the short order said.

The court’s verdict restored the prime minister and his cabinet in their position. “In consequence of the foregoing, it is declared that the prime minister and federal ministers, ministers of state, advisers, etc stand restored to their respective offices,” the office said.

The court also ordered for the NA session to reconvene on Saturday (tomorrow) no later than 10:30am, saying that the session cannot be prorogued without the conclusion of the no-trust motion against PM Imran.

The saga

The joint opposition had submitted a no-confidence motion against the premier with the NA Secretariat on March 8.

In the days to follow, the country’s political landscape was abuzz with activity as parties and individuals changed alliances and the PTI and opposition were seen trading barbs and allegations alongside intensifying efforts to ensure their success in the no-confidence contest.

Eventually, major allies of the ruling PTI — Balochistan Awami Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — deserted the government and joined the opposition ranks which led to PM Imran losing his majority in the lower house of parliament.

It was expected that if voting on the motion went ahead as scheduled on April 3, PM Imran would be ousted from office. The joint opposition, meanwhile, had nominated Shehbaz Sharif as their candidate for the top post.

But before voting could go ahead, the deputy speaker, who was chairing the session, in a shock ruling, dismissed the no-trust motion, terming it contradictory to Article 5 of the Constitution, which mandates loyalty to the state.

According to the deputy speaker, the no-confidence motion was part of a foreign conspiracy to oust PM Imran, evidence of which had been seen by the National Security Committee and the federal cabinet in the form of a ’threat letter’ sent to Pakistan through its ambassador in a foreign country.

Immediately after Suri prorogued the session following his ruling, the premier addressed the nation on television, saying that he had advised the president to dissolve the National Assembly. Hours later, the president issued a notification to dissolve the lower house.