With a ‘khatarnak’ prime minister, ‘ghatiya’ people and a ‘Banarsi’ thug — the tamasha is on in Pakistan. The horns are locked, but what remains a mystery is, who will eventually win the battle of the bands. History will tell you that the winner in Pakistan’s political musical chair is always the apolitical team that pulls the chair from under the sitting PMs. And someone’s chair is about to be pulled again. Or so the hulchul in Pakistan suggests.
If Prime Minister Imran Khan was having a meltdown, former PM Nawaz Sharif was tweeting in dismay about the brutal killing of a leopard in Pakistan. Khan was threatening on television Sunday that he’d become more khatarnak (dangerous) if booted out, compared to how he was sitting in PM office and only witnessing tamashas until now. Threats are the last refuge of a man with no vocabulary. The PM has enough vocabulary to put across his exact thought process – that’s why people have been informed that they are ‘ghatiya’ (useless, disgusting) and he is waging jihad against dakoos (dacoits) not chors (thieves), namely the Sharifs.
I am warning you, I will be more dangerous if out of the govt, you will have no place left to hide your face: PM Imran Khan pic.twitter.com/UdvqrKsQy9
— Murtaza Ali Shah (@MurtazaViews) January 23, 2022
From ‘mujhe kyun nikala’ to ‘agar mujhe nikala’
Imran Khan first threatened the ‘system’ as a leader of opposition and now he is back to threatening it again as prime minister. Why? The answer lies in the failure of his biggest agenda – recovering money from the ‘dakoos’ and ridding Naya Pakistan of corruption. Other than the Rs 50 from a stamp paper that Nawaz Sharif signed while leaving the country in 2019, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has gotten zilch. The departure of PM’s accountability czar, a day after the PM’s national rant, Pakistan sliding 16 points on Transparency International’s corruption perception index has made the ‘no-corruption’ claim fall apart. To top it all, the rumours that Nawaz Sharif is planning a return to Pakistan has piled up on Khan’s stack of problems.
Earlier we’d hear ‘I will bring back Nawaz Sharif myself’ and more than two years passed with nothing happening. Now, suddenly, after one statement from a Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader saying, “Nawaz will be back soon”, everyone in the government and their uncles wants to bring back Sharif.
“Wo nahin ayenge, hum unko layenge (Nawaz won’t come, we will bring him),” says a government run on comical strategies. Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan’s report revealing that PTI kept the lid on foreign accounts worth millions, just won the PM the title of ‘Banarsi thug’ from Sharif. Not that anyone knew this State secret, but corruption, according to PM Khan, ended in the first 90 days after he took office.
سابق وزیراعظم نواز شریف کا الیکشن کمیشن رپورٹ پر سخت ردعمل بنارسی ٹھگوں کا لفظ کس کیلئے استعمال ہوا خود سنیے پارٹ ٹو pic.twitter.com/vIXSP1eyAm
— Azhar Javaid (@azharjavaiduk) January 7, 2022
From Sharif’s journey of ‘mujhe kyun nikala’ to Khan’s ‘agar mujhe nikala’, we’ve come a full circle. The road to Naya Pakistan has now become a threat of “I will come on the road” and protest. Where does the idea of taking to the streets stem from? Remember Khan was heard saying that Pakistani Generals were such cowards that if you’d bring 20,000 people to the streets, they’d ‘pee their pants’. Just saying. Though one thing is sure, the crowd that was managed for years for Khan’s political rallies won’t be there anymore. However, ministers daily reiterate how all is well with the umpires.
Sleepless, now breathless
In the first week of 2022, Pakistanis were told that there is no inflation, but before January had even ended we were told that PM Imran Khan is having sleepless nights in Banigala because of inflation. What do we know, chances are both things might be true? Not to forget that Pakistan’s economy is doing better than India’s – a cause to be breathless too. Rumour has it that the anti-anxiety pill, lexotanil, is in short supply in the capital since ‘political change is coming’. Opponents want to take credit for PM’s sleepless nights, with or without inflation.
Inflation has become a sensitive subject now – media persons asking about inflation invokes ‘aunty gormint’ kind of reactions from leaders. A case in point is US President Joe Biden, who, earlier this week, was caught on swearing at a Fox News reporter. Here, PM Khan is unhappy with the media’s coverage of inflation, poverty and even the guest format on talk shows. He’s not liking how there are three people, one from PTI and two from the opposition, and they all gang up on the government, the anchor included. So, he cribs the government’s version is lost in translation. The government that increased 17 per cent sales tax on locally produced infant formula and baby food has no response other than giving Canada and England inflation figures to the people. Let’s blame it on the 1:3 talk show ratio.
The endless speculation of a change, backdoor deals of Nawaz Sharif’s party with the establishment, the mounting pressure of misgovernance and poor performance has now visibly frustrated PM Imran Khan. His opponents smell a victory and his critics are excited again. His rather careful well-wishers suggest he should take one week off, go to his favourite Nathiagali resort and enjoy the snowfall, re-watch Ertugrul on Netflix and reset. Better yet, PM Khan should offer mediation help between Ukraine and Russia. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ‘Western leader’, is a new favourite with previous ‘successful’ mediation stories between Iran and Saudi Arabia, China and the United States, and the Taliban and the rest of the world. Who knows, this reset might actually work.
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
(Edited by Neera Majumdar)