Monday, August 25, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Aug 26, 2014

Imran Khan’s increasing desperation Imran Khan’s desperation seems to be growing as his sit-in in Islamabad continues, seemingly indefinitely. Part of his frustration stems from the fact that he has painted himself into a cul de sac with his demand for the resignation or going on leave for a month of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while a mechanism is created to audit the allegedly rigged seats in the 2013 election under the aegis of a Supreme Court commission. Now he has once again given a 24-hour ultimatum for the prime minister’s departure. By the time these lines appear in print, that deadline will also have passed, like all the others given by the Imran-Qadri duo so far. The government has on the one hand showed exemplary patience with the protestors and its negotiators agreed with their PTI counterparts to address five of their six demands related to the election audit, etc, while firmly rejecting any notion of sending the prime minister home, even for a short period. Imran Khan’s argument is that the prime minister can influence the commission’s investigations if he remains in power. This is a vote of no confidence in the judiciary that has acquired a fair modicum of independence since its restoration in 2009. The desperation of Imran Khan is reflected in his threat on Sunday to widen the PTI protests countrywide to include wheel-jam and shutter down strikes. Partly, the call may also be a response to the march the PML-N has stolen on Imran by staging Istehkam-e-Pakistan (Stability of Pakistan) counter-rallies in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad, etc. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has ordered Constitution Avenue cleared of protestors, which poses a challenge to both the government and the supporters of the Imran-Qadri duo. Because of the convergence of the two, the government seems now to be making efforts to separate the ‘Siamese twins’. This is being attempted by government and other mediators trying to persuade Qadri to stand down if the FIR of the Model Town incident is conceded. Of course the question still remains what pound of flesh Qadri will try to extract. For example, the question of whether Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s name will be included in the FIR or not is still unsettled. And if it is, whether Shahbaz’s chief ministership will be sacrificed for the greater cause of a settlement with Qadri remains moot. The pendulum has swung Shahbaz’s way because of Qadri’s insistence on the registration of the FIR and the ‘human sacrifice’ of former Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and the chief minister’s secretary Tauqeer Shah having failed to douse the cleric’s verbal fire and brimstone. The PTI on the other hand seems to be backing itself into a corner with each passing day. Imran Khan’s announcement of the resignations of his MPs has not gone down well with some of them, if media reports are to be believed. There is even a report that a disgruntled faction of MPs from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have decided to form a Forward Bloc with its own leader, although this is being denied by the ‘official’ PTI. It is still not clear how many resignations have been submitted to the National Assembly Speaker since he was expected back to review them yesterday. Political parties, especially the Jamaat-e-Islami, have asked the Speaker to make haste slowly, if at all, on these resignations, since they still hope some negotiated settlement can be achieved. Meanwhile, the phenomenon of the media being ‘played’ by vested interests has come to the fore in this crisis, with Afzal Khan, an ex-Election Commission of Pakistan member’s sensational charges of rigging proving a distracting tactic and patently challenged by all the Election Commission’s members, past and present. Journalism in Pakistan has to be careful how it conducts itself if it is not to find itself used for partisan purposes. And speaking of journalism, The New York Times’ analysis underlines Imran Khan’s isolation from all the political parries in the country and the bleak future that awaits him and his party as a result of his over-reach in this long march adventure.

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