Desperate times for cornered Imran Khan

Imran Khan is under the weather these days, and for the first time doubts are being expressed over the viability of his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI)-led government in militancy-infested province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

This is majorly removed from the expectations made of the rock star of the 2013 poll campaign and his party. Although the PTI has been around for eons, Imran's resounding pitch for the May 11 vote billed as a "do-or-die" exercise for Pakistan had the eyes and ears of the global media.

However, his party failed to garner enough votes to form a government at the Centre by a long shot, leading to claims of a massive electoral fraud and an avowed campaign to prove the allegations.

But in the rough and tumble of Pakistani politics, never has any party been able to decisively prove the allegations of a copout and then have the results reversed. The recourse to filing an appeal with election tribunals is historically, spiked with "no result".  
Therefore, even though there is evidence of wrongdoing thanks to mobile footage wired by voters across Pakistan, it's pretty much a cinch that it is all passé and the PTI will have to look beyond the pale now.

However, that is where the party is falling short repeatedly. Serious questions have been raised about the PTI's ability to change the fate of the volatile province where thanks to the absence of a clearly defined policy to fight terror is turning it into an open field for extremists of all hues.

Imran's repeated calls for a closed-door meeting with the prime minister and the army chief to draw on the actual situation in the hotbed of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has fallen on deaf ears.  The Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) government at the Centre is only keen on an All Parties Conference on the issue, which has historically, been little more than a rendezvous for slick declarations and photo-ops.

The PTI has inherited a province whose administration is severely handicapped in terms of a reliable security apparatus; a recent disclosure by the PTI chairman about there being no intelligence-gathering unit to aid the administration shocked many.

Even so the party has been set back by its own professed mantra of engaging the militants in a dialogue. This much apparent policy of appeasement has led to confusion and chaos with the administration and law enforcement agencies unable to deal with perpetrators whom the chief minister is on record having called hamare bhai (our brothers) with whom
"we have no issues".

The ambiguity has led the perpetrators to take full advantage of the situation and repeatedly cause mayhem with suicide and gun attacks, no more telling than the July 29 brazen assault on the 150-year-old Dera Ismail Khan jail, from where the Taliban easily freed up high value convicts, two of them serving sentences of 1500 and 1600 years, respectively!

The PTI-led coalition has barely been in office two months but has also already lost two ruling party MPs to the bloodhounds of the Taliban. With "good governance" still awaited, a certain disenchantment with the PTI's avowal of a "Naya Pakistan" (new Pakistan) has already set in. Not that there has been any respite thanks to both in-house fissures and "inconsistent" coalition  partners.

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, who joined the PTI less than two years ago and has switched parties at least twice in the past as well as filling his household with reserved National Assembly seats and PTI tickets for relatives, has refused to give up the party office. Khattak is matched in his intransigence by Asad Qaiser, the speaker of the provincial assembly, who, too, refuses to secede party office and has also got his brother a ticket for the bye-elections.

Both Khattak and Qaiser have no love lost after an intense struggle to win the chief minister's slot had to be managed by Imran from his hospital bed!
When he is not busy separating party stalwarts from going at each other's throats, Imran is learning to grin and bear at the hands of the demanding coalition partners. Both the Qaumi Watan Party (QWP) and Jamaat-e-Islami  hoodwinked the PTI to vote for rival Nawaz Sharif in his election as the prime minister last June.

Last month, QWP defied the PTI again by voting for the presidential candidate of Sharif's PML-N instead of PTI's candidate. Imran himself has had little respite since returning from Britain for medical consultations. His strong criticism of the judiciary's alleged role in "overlooking" what he calls massive poll rigging unexpectedly drew a contempt summons from the Supreme Court early this month.

The court's move stunned Pakistan, in general, and Imran, in particular, who was also left red faced after long having personally supported the current superior judiciary and, in particular, the "jurisprudence" of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, a point of which he made in the court as well. It can be safely assumed, on account of the plethora of in-house and out issues, that Imran has a fight for political survival on his hands.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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