It is over. Imran Khan is no more the prime minister of Pakistan.
There are no more twists, turns, intrigues or surprises. About time someone said we don’t like surprises.
Voted out of office, Khan now becomes the first ever Pakistani prime minister to be removed through a no-confidence move, democratically, in a country where political history is marred by prime ministers’ assassinations, military coups and judicial ousters.
Till Saturday midnight, things remained turbulent in Islamabad as the Khan government, in violation of the supreme court verdict, had no plans to proceed with the voting on the no-confidence move. But it was touch and go, before the clock struck 12 with the speaker resigning and making way for the vote.
The way Imran Khan presided over his three years in office, his last one month wasn’t much different — laced with hate, mockery and going nowhere. That’s how it started, that’s how it ended.
Back to kaisa laga mera surprise? Just last Sunday, the PTI government was asking the opposition. But the supreme court of Pakistan asked ‘howzat for a surprise’? Undoing the unconstitutional steps undertaken by the government and restoring the national assembly.
Between surprises, surrenders and secrets, the political drama in Pakistan continued. Those who were happy on last Sunday were sad on Thursday. Last Sunday, the prime minister who almost lost his government was elated. And the opposition, with no more rivals in government, unhappy. Yet on Thursday, the government that was restored earlier in the week was unhappy, while the opposition was not only ecstatic but eating ghulab jamans. This was next level Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.
Surrender on the last ball
Facing ouster for over a month now, the much-talked-about “fighting till the last ball” was actually a no-show match. Imran Khan remained that captain who vowed to fight till the last ball from the comfort of his home. While his minions were thrown in the deep end to do everything for their captain.
In ‘Take 2’, speaker Asad Qaiser was in-charge of derailing the assembly session, while the likes of Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Shireen Mazari were tasked to bore us with their speeches. In ‘Take 1’, deputy speaker Qasim Suri had dismissed the no-trust move and PM Khan illegally directed President Arif Alvi to dissolve the national assembly, which the latter happily obliged. This was a televised 15-minute stunt that pushed the country into a constitutional crisis. Over the next five days, the supreme court of Pakistan on a suo moto notice, heard the case on speaker’s ruling and assembly dissolution. While Khan and Alvi remained vigilant on their next move — the election.
US President Joe Biden wanted a “regime change” and Imran Khan gave him exactly that. Something Pakistan’s opposition could not deliver to Biden, before Khan. Amused must be, Biden.
In a matter of few days, those abusing the constitution now wanted to follow it in letter and spirit to have an election in 90 days with the President seeking suggestions for a caretaker prime minister and the ‘self-proclaimed’ PM suggesting the name of a recently retired chief justice as his nominee. A nominee, who for the next two years, since he retired two months ago, won’t be eligible to take on any government post. But who cares about such minor stuff in a Banana Republic? ‘You [opposition] wanted an election, I am giving you an election, why are you running away from my surprise’ were the sporadic rants on the State-run Pakistan Television.
But thanks to the supreme court shocker, Imran Khan now has the distinction of becoming prime minister thrice — first when he was selected in 2018, second when he was anointed by President Arif Alvi on 3 April and third when he was reinstated by the top court. Only if there was a Guinness Book entry for such a record.
A siyasi shaheed who wasn’t
It is one thing to have military dictators treating the constitution as a piece of paper that could be thrown in the dustbin. It is quite the other, actually a first, to have a civilian leader flout the constitution and shamelessly claim it as a victory. It’s misadventure to keep sticking to the PM’s chair like Fevicol after having told a thousand times of not carrying the need or the desire for power. Not having seen the writing on the wall when the no-confidence motion was tabled, or when a revolt from his own party members came forth, or when his allies left him, Imran Khan’s entire focus was on how not to leave the office. He was trying to control a parliamentary exercise set in motion.
Now, ideally, PM Khan would have wanted to be forced out and become a siyasi shaheed (political martyr). The history of Pakistan is filled with such shaheed prime ministers ousted by military coups and judicial interventions. That hall of fame includes the likes of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Benazir Bhutto, Yousaf Raza Gilani and others. Last one month’s meltdown, instigations and eventually abusing the constitution and even a last minute effort to remove a security official — all were a fine try to get the label of siyasi shaheed. But no, it just didn’t happen. Imran Khan couldn’t stomach the idea of the opposition leaders — whom he called chor, dakku throughout his reign — pushing him out of office. The people he considered beneath him, people whom he didn’t want to shake hands with, will now oust him? How dare they! A man telling us “I am democracy” never realised that democracy never sat well in power.
Ladla, abba and future
Desperate attempts to remain in power, by hook or by crook, is characteristic of a politician who knows that he will never come back to office. No one will ever give Imran Khan a government on platter again. There is no such thing as live to fight another day for a ladla who was not only propelled into power but continued to have abba’s support for a good part of his innings. And if you are disowned by the same dad, your future is bound to look bleak.
The electable members of the national assembly who were brought together from various political parties to make Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were the first ones to leave the nest. Was there ever any future for a bhanumati ka kunba, kahin ki eenth, kahin ka roda? Organic parties like Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party survived under military dictatorships, because their grassroots workers stayed intact. These traditional parties survived the fascist regime of Imran Khan when all top political adversaries were being jailed. PTI is a one-man-show, rest is just a crowd begged and borrowed. Before 2011, this struggling leader couldn’t make much of an impact, till the time the generals thought he could be their race-horse. And look how that turned out. Once used by the establishment, such parties wither into oblivion. Where Imran Khan will end up depends on how he left things with those who brought him on. Because the view from the outside doesn’t look that bright.
Only if someone told the former prime minister the difference between a political suicide and political martyrdom. There is also lesson for the selectors to stop making political test tube babies when ultimately the price is paid by the people.
Imran Khan had an opportunity to go with dignity, grace and honour, yet he chose a disgraceful exit.
Naila Inayat is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)