Mr. Imran Khan, I stand with your narrative like millions others. But, as a well-wisher, I have a piece of advice for you. I have been here on these Leader pages. I kept on reminding you to stay aloof from sycophants, focus on your real agenda of change, introduce reforms across the board as soon as possible, and not to get distracted with issues that are beyond your writ.
I have no qualms in saying that you were quite successful, but you could have done more well if you had not lent an ear to the doomsday stories concocted by the so-called electorates. You shouldn’t have crossed swords with the sacred cows with whom you enjoyed extraordinary leverage. Having stressed too much on accountability, which wasn’t there to happen because of a fractured and compromised prosecution, you have burnt your fingers.
Yet, you have a success story under your belt. You have sailed fairly well as a great visionary in your truncated tenure, and led from the front against all adversities. But what makes you invincible is your unimpeachable integrity. That’s why the nation is willing to rally for you despite all odds and shortcomings of your governance.
Your dismissal trajectory is a doctrine in itself of deceit and palace intrigues. While Pakistan lacks robust national institutions, and a zealously guarded representative rule, it makes room for clowns and spoilers, who rule the roost at the cost of national cohesion. Moreover, we are deep in moral turpitude and have amassed avenues of easy money to keep us bogged down in corrupt practices. That phenomenon is unfortunately reflected in all walks of national life.
Your sermons on erecting a welfare state and responsible governance module mostly fell on deaf ears. They were never realised in policymaking because of several inherent factors, and prime among them is that you faced a sustained bad Press, your media team was a disaster, and most of your advisers and Cabinet members were either too cosmetic or full of rhetoric. Only the few who mattered in your kitchen cabinet made the difference.
This is why your grandiose achievements in rectifying macro-economic indicators, galvanising national potential on the international stage, successfully overcoming the pandemic constraints, a remarkable Ehsaas and related welfare deals for the downtrodden, health assurance, a robust crop yield for three successive years, sizeable enhancement in exports, record remittances, buoying of tourism and the world-fame plantation campaign are now footnotes. They didn’t get publicised well.
The ‘Absolutely Not’ shut-up call to the United States on seeking of bases and airspace, and the resolution at the United Nations against Islamophobia are two of your major sixes. The first-ever National Security Policy and voting rights to overseas Pakistanis are feathers in your cap. But the diatribe on revenge politics overshadowed your marvelous gains, and today you seem to be struggling at the hands of a disgruntled coalition.
Your anti-imperialist rhetoric is getting dividends. But I’m sure you are not an anti-American, per se. Your clarion call to rally against the Cable Communique, which is anyway an established piece of “blatant interference” in the internal affairs of Pakistan with the express intention of regime change, has mustered unprecedented support. You have exposed the hidden hypocrisy in the system and unmasked bitter realities of realpolitik.
You are now choreographing a momentous agenda of neo-nationalism — never ever seen in the last seven decades. Your stress on revitalising the goals of freedom, and proudly chartering a path of self-reliance are remarkable. They have drawn appreciation across the board. All those who believe in a resurgent Pakistan are rallying for you.
Surely, you have to make headway, and channelise the new synergies for viable political objectives in the best of national interests. Thus, while you sit at the zenith of your popularity, now is the time to take a pause and ponder what you should be doing in good faith.
I’m sure, reverting back to the corridors of power is not your sole aim. That should be a means to an end. You are a harbinger for change. So let’s jot down a doable list:
One; reconstitute your political house. PTI, unfortunately, is a herd of flocking birds. The best brains and honest arms are sidelined. Time to listen to critics, and reform. People like Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed are rare. Hope you still remember his piece of selfless advice as you go on to reform the party. This is how you can weather the tide of Imran vs The Rest at polls.
Two; prepare a foolproof timeline-laden reforms package to usher in change as soon as you are back in power. Judicial, police and bureaucracy reforms are indispensable. They should be done in the first 100 days of returning to power. No more appeasement. Likewise, introduce local government tiers with maximum autonomy and ensure that they are workable at any cost. This will spontaneously help address the woes of more than 150 million people, who rightly cry foul vehemently.
Three; your accountability drive stands marginalised. There are enough black sheep in the system, and the prosecution bodies are rotten to the core. It is not your business as chief executive to conduct the drive, rather let the institutions do it by default. Just empower them under law as much as you can, and then sit and chill. The process will come full circle.
Four; while you have rolled out a blueprint of independent foreign policy, you need to set in some benchmarks. It can’t be non-aligned for good. National interests will compel you to lean and bend very often. This is an era of hybrid warfare and you are a victim of a bloodless regime change. The United States, China, Russia, the European Union and the Middle East mantle will now be up for test.
Mr Khan, you have staked a claim to change the governance of Pakistan, and this is what makes you relevant to the people of Pakistan. You need to watch your steps, choreograph your line and length and meticulously adjust the field before your next spell. Take a conscious route to avoid Waterloo. There is no room for a no-ball!
Note: This article appeared in Tribune, dated 10 May 2022.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.