With Imran’s exit, history repeats itself in Pakistan, again - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

With Imran’s exit, history repeats itself in Pakistan, again

Apr 18, 2022 08:20 PM IST

Apart from several other things, the all-intrusive army also “manages” democracy for the country. As a result, no PM has completed a full term

The ignominious exit of Imran Khan from power fits the oft repeated cliché — history repeats itself perfectly. The recent nail-biting drama in Pakistan lives up to what American-Spanish philosopher, George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Khan didn’t get the job because the people of Pakistan wanted him. He was “selected”, as his lacerating critics say, for the office of prime minister (PM), by the army through one of the most rigged elections in Pakistan’s besmirched electoral history.

Imran Khan’s conduct, after the united Opposition moved a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly, was dodgy even by Pakistan’s abysmal standards. (Reuters) PREMIUM
Imran Khan’s conduct, after the united Opposition moved a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly, was dodgy even by Pakistan’s abysmal standards. (Reuters)

The very first PM, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951. The first president, Major General Iskander Mirza, in 1956, dismissed the constituent assembly and PM Feroz Khan Noon as well. He appointed General Ayub Khan as the chief martial law administrator. Two weeks later, Mirza was shown the door by Ayub Khan, who appointed himself president.

Since then, the army has been the fulcrum of Pakistan’s public life. Apart from several other things, the all-intrusive army also “manages” democracy for the country. As a result, no PM has completed a full term. The “democracy” optics are a compulsion for the Pakistan establishment — it makes it easier for the generals to get patronage, funds, and arms from the United States (US) and the West.

Once known for his flamboyance, Imran Khan has since assumed many avatars. After a successful career in international cricket, he turned philanthropist for a while. In 1996, he founded the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and has been a dyed-in-the-wool politician since.

Besides the celebrated Bhuttos (Zulfikar Ali and Benazir), Imran Khan is the only other politician in the chequered history of Pakistan with a charisma of his own. His first marriage (1995-2004) to Jemima Goldsmith, a British socialite from an aristocratic English family, and his current one to Bushra Bibi, an enigmatic mystic-sorcerer (known as peerni in Pakistan), added to his charm. A large section of Pakistan’s population is still somewhat mediaeval, still in the awe of both magic and westerners.

All nations have armies. But, as one Pakistani put it to me during my semi-official visit (as a Member of Parliament) to Islamabad in August 2003, in Pakistan, the army has a country. The army decided to drop Nawaz Sharif in 2016 as it felt he was getting too big for his boots. He initiated a dialogue to start trade, and normalise relations with India. Such ideas go against the very raison d’etre of Pakistan.

Once “selected” in 2018, Imran Khan went by the script, marched lockstep with the deep State, courted the Taliban and legitimised the Tehreek-e-Labbaik, a far-Right, Islamic extremist political outfit. However, at some stage, he forgot he was just a character in a charade called democracy. He started internalising the role he was enacting. The dividing line between Imran Khan and the character he was playing got blurred.

In this identity confusion, he committed a cardinal sin. He locked horns with army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and refused to sign on for the replacement of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general Lt. General Faiz Hamid with Lt. General Nadeem Anjum.

Imran Khan’s conduct, after the united Opposition moved a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly, was dodgy even by Pakistan’s abysmal standards. Contrast it with how Atal Bihari Vajpayee reacted after he lost the confidence motion by one vote on April 17, 1999. He immediately drove to Rashtrapati Bhavan and tendered his resignation.

Imran Khan came to power on the promise of a naya (new) Pakistan. But the Pakistan he has left behind is bankrupt, mired in unprecedented corruption, suffering runaway inflation, saturated with toxic religious fundamentalism, polarised on regional lines, nursing a bruised polity and has hardly any friends (barring China) in the global arena.

While this high-octane drama was unfolding, an intriguing sideshow was on – there were surprise statements, from General Bajwa and beleaguered PM Khan, exuding goodwill for India. “I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptual biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” Bajwa said.

Not to be left behind, Imran Khan, at least on three different occasions during these tumultuous days, “saluted” India, hailed Narendra Modi for following an independent foreign policy and called India khuddar quam — a self- respecting nation.

This was a shocking departure from the past. Generally, Pakistan, when caught in a crisis, finds a convenient whipping boy in India. This diversionary tactic works well with Pakistani society, brought up on toxic diet of radical Islam. Why has there been such a departure from the past? Once the imbroglio in Islamabad was over, the mask dropped. Even before Imran Khan’s successor, Shehbaz Sharif took over, he reiterated Pakistan’s oft-repeated stand, “No peace with India, without resolution of Kashmir issue”. The PM-designate was obviously speaking for the army – the only stable and effective institution in the crisis-ridden country.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. For India, Pakistan remains unchanged. And nothing has changed in Pakistan as well.

Balbir Punj is a former Member of Parliament and columnist 

The views expressed are personal

Tell us what your First Vote will stand for in a short video & get a chance to be featured on HT’s social media handles. Click here to know more!

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On