Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party addressing supporters at a pre-election rally in Islamabad on June 30. Photo: AFP/Aamir Qureshi
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party addressing supporters at a pre-election rally in Islamabad on June 30. Photo: AFP/Aamir Qureshi

According to Chrystine Oksana, author of the book Safe Passage to Healing, the truth will outlast any campaigns mounted against it, no matter how mighty, clever, or long. Truth is invincible. It’s only a matter of which generation is willing to face it and, in so doing, to protect future generations from ritual abuse. This statement is relevant to the current political situation in Pakistan.

After a huge amount of propaganda and political engineering, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was brought to power last month by the military establishment. It was expected by many critics that sooner or later the incompetence of Khan and the PTI to run state and political affairs would be exposed, but no one expected that from Day 1 it would be showing its true face.

It has been a shaky start for the military-backed civilian government. The military’s man, the new prime minister of Pakistan, is still in the mode of opposition politics and with each passing day, he just tries to marginalize his opponents and dissenting voices.

In the very first meeting of his cabinet, Khan’s sole focus was to put the names of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz on the exit control list and to find new ways of for both Sharif and his daughter to face more corruption charges.

Then came the journalists’ turn. Saleem Safi, a renowned journalist and columnist, pointed out in a TV program that Sharif during his tenure had paid his personal expenses out of his own pocket during his stay at Prime Minister House. He also referred to the frequent use of a helicopter by Imran Khan to travel to the Office of the Prime Minister from his residence, which is just a few kilometers away.

In response, the PTI social-media wing and party allies started a notorious campaign against Safi. In another incident, a police officer in Punjab was transferred simply because his police team had stopped the ex-husband of the first lady of Pakistan to check the licenses of the arms his guards were carrying.

Pakistan Railways’ chief commercial manager is in hot water because he asked for leave as a result of what he called the insulting behavior of the PTI government’s new railway minister, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad.

If this was not enough, a controversial call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo exposed the inability of the current government and Imran Khan to understand foreign-policy protocols and dynamics, as it almost created a rift between the two countries. According to the US State Department, Pompeo congratulated Khan on his victory but also delivered the message that the new government in Pakistan should take stern action against alleged terrorist organizations on its soil.

But Khan, as usual in a hurry to prove his legitimacy, issued his own version of the conversation with Pompeo, and according to that version the top US diplomat congratulated him on his victory and told him the US was looking forward to working with him. In the end, it was a State Department press release that revealed the truth of the exchange, and it upset the military establishment.

The wrath of the military establishment forced the PTI government to issue a statement that the US State Department must correct itself as it was factually wrong. Of course, the US never accepted this request from the Pakistani government.

This actually embarrassed Pakistan before the whole world, and it showed the incapability of the current government of handling sensitive diplomatic issues.

When he was prime minister, Nawaz Sharif absorbed the pressure from the establishment and instead asked it to take action against extremist organizations. But the PTI appears to be facing a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has to appease the military establishment all the time in order to survive in government, and on the other hand, it has to deliver the promises it made during the last five years.

Perhaps Khan doesn’t understand the art of running a state and political affairs. His wishful thinking of turning the country into a progressive economy through charity is nothing more than a hallucination, as countries or states are never run or built on charities. Likewise talking about the lavish lifestyles and protocols of political opponents is very easy but to adopt a simple lifestyle and shun protocol is not that easy.

Since Khan’s regime is backed by the establishment, he might be getting some breathing space unlike previous elected governments, but he will not be spared by the opposition or by the large section of the masses who still accuse him of stealing their mandate. Right now instead of implementing its first-100-days plan, the government is busy lashing out at opponents and dissenting journalists. Meanwhile, the division in society is getting wider and wider.

While there is a segment of society that blindly loves Imran Khan and the military establishment, there is also a large segment of society that strongly hates the policies of the establishment and dislikes Khan for being the establishment’s puppet. The affairs of state remain hostage to the powerful establishment and the immature political party PTI is not going to end this divide, as it actually believes in victimization and takes criticism as enmity.

It will be a very tough road ahead for both the establishment and the PTI-led government, and they should realize now that it is time to do some damage control by really contributing to the economic and social growth of the country, as the cost of bringing Imran Khan into power seems to be too heavy for society and the country.

Almost an entire generation of youth has been fed hateful propaganda against the opponents of Imran Khan and the dissidents’ voices against the establishment. The entire leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is being victimized, and both Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam are sitting behind bars.

The whole judiciary and Election Commission of Pakistan have lost their credibility, so the establishment and Imran Khan both should know that now there is no way back for them: If they fail to bring prosperity and economic progress as promised, the entire system will collapse. This leaves the question to be asked of the establishment: Was it worth it to take that much risk to get rid of the dissenting Sharif and bring a puppet like Khan into power?

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.

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