Sunday, June 8, 2014

Daily Times Editorial June 9, 2014

Our Don Quixote One year after the May 2013 general elections, Imran Khan appears to be angry with the whole world. His bitterness stems from the perception, nay conviction, that his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), was robbed of its electoral victory last year. Throughout his life, Imran Khan can be accused of many things, but never any lack of confidence. If that stood him well on the cricket field and later in philanthropic ventures, no one could possibly object; on the contrary, these were grounds for admiring his accomplishments, raising his status to that of a national hero. It must be said, however, that Imran Khan’s foray into politics has proved trickier than negotiating any inswinger. After long years in the political wilderness and an abortive ‘back door’ deal with Musharraf to be catapulted into power on the basis of just his one seat (himself) in parliament, Imran Khan believed, and convinced his supporters, that his time had come. Starting from the ‘tsunami’ rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in December 2012, the PTI fell for its own propaganda that it would sweep the 2013 elections, flying in the face of a sober assessment of its strength, party machinery and constituency-based electable candidates. Measured against these ground realities rather than the PTI’s wishful thinking and flights of fancy, the results of the elections would have normally been considered a triumph for a party with hitherto zero representation in parliament. The PTI’s 35 seats in the National Assembly and becoming the largest party and therefore in a position to form a coalition government with the Jamaat-e-Islami in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) would by any criterion be considered a formidable performance. However, there are none so blind as those who refuse to see (the truth). The result of this false bravado centred on a self-perceived ‘stolen’ election victory has been to pitch Imran and the PTI on the path of a fool’s errand. The list of windmills our Don Quixote is tilting against has by now expanded to include the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), its election tribunals, the judiciary (including in particular former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry), the government, the two largest mainstream parties, the PML-N and PPP, and now a media group that is already in trouble. All these ‘nemeses’ of Imran and the PTI came in for a bit of stick in the party’s anti-rigging rally in Sialkot on Saturday. Calling the 2013 elections the “biggest fraud” in the country’s history, Imran Kan lashed out at the judiciary for allegedly covering up the rigged election and failing to provide his party justice. Citing odd instances of electoral mistakes by the ECP, involvement of a DPO in a by-election and admitted ‘typos’ in one constituency’s result, he tried to weave this flimsy evidence into a grand rigging conspiracy. He went so far as to argue that if ‘four boxes’ were opened up, the whole sham would be exposed (a reference to the four constituencies whose results the PTI has challenged). Throwing both logic and caution to the winds, he demanded action under Article 6 against the PML-N and former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry (once held in high esteem by Imran). Criticising the government on its economic policies (record breaking loans in one year, ‘pro-bandits’ budget, etc), Imran vowed he would tax the rich when he came to power and promised change was coming in KP (don’t hold your breath). Flailing around in search of a coherent critique, he touched on the curse of dynastic politics (‘monarchy’), food, shelter, clothes (the PPP’s slogan) for the poor not metro trains, and vowed to overcome the prevailing system of elections that otherwise would ensure the monopoly on power of the PML-N and PPP for the foreseeable future. Stung by criticism that his anti-rigging campaign was aimed at destabilising or toppling the present government, Imran was at pains to deny this in his rally speech as well as in interaction with reporters later. Denials notwithstanding, our Don Quixote’s tilting at so many windmills (with the conspicuous absence of mention of a powerful state institution) has given rise to, and continues to agitate perceptive observers regarding the real aims and objectives of what otherwise seems a case of ‘protesting too much’.

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