Imran sows confusion, struggles to find way

Almost a year ago, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was the hot ticket in a country which still finds itself hopelessly addicted to cricketing fairytales.

A new generation of voters swaying to the beat of 'Naya Pakistan' (New Pakistan) were testing the pundits, who fretted over how potentially, a turbo-charged party could leave them with an egg on their faces.

As Imran chased the dream of change, trotting across Pakistan like a man possessed, it created a tremulous effect on the country's politics not seen since the days of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto's return from exile in 1986.

But the poll results showed, notwithstanding claims of rigging that there had been no definitive change in the old ways of voting. The set patterns were all too obvious in the electorate pandering to immediate vested interest in following clan politics than risking adventure over the mantra of change.

The PTI however, managed to woo the disgruntled electorate in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the north-western province bordering Afghanistan. But it can be argued that in electing the PTI, the province was only doing business as usual: disenchanted voters in this province have long dispensed every sitting government in the hope of finding the right mix!

After the Centre-ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chose not to agree with Jamiat Ulema Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman's proposal to cobble a mishmash of smaller parties and independents to override the PTI's mandate, the 'party for change' has been able to do little in changing the fate of the terrorism-plagued province.

That goal remains elusive because of the lack of peace and stability in the province thanks to unceasing terrorist attacks by Tehrik-e-Taleban Pakistan (TTP).

But here's the irony. The Taleban killed three lawmakers of Imran's PTI in unprovoked attacks in the aftermath of the elections. It did not spare even the party, whose leader has been passionately advocating dialogue with it for years now!

Despite this profound "backstabbing", Imran typically blamed American drone strikes for killing off the prospects of peace talks after one such hit eliminated TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud, leading to the abrupt cancellation of the dialogue.

When the PTI chairman went to condole with the families of his killed lawmakers, he surprised the onlookers by pushing more fervently for early talks and subsequently, putting the federal government on the back foot by ordering his party to block the Nato supplies, which pass through his restive province.

With the latest attempt for a dialogue now apparently taking shape after months of dithering from the PML-N government at the Centre, Imran suddenly found himself in an embarrassing situation when Taleban chose him to be the first one to represent them in talks with the government!

Imran had, in fact, welcomed the belated initiative from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give peace a chance and one of his aides, former ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand, who is also an advisor to the PTI chairman, is part of the government committee! Even though Imran declined the Taleban offer, it provided enough mirth to his arch political foe, Sharif's PML-N, which suggested it would be fine if he were to join the Taleban team!

In an interview with Bloomberg on Friday, the former cricket legend claimed he was proposed as the first choice by the Taleban because they felt he was the "only leader who stood up to America" but in the same breath he said he did not back the Taleban brand of Shariah.

Imran is also on record having said he believed any dialogue must be conducted under the Pakistani constitution, which the militia does not even recognize. Such obvious contradictions — and a confused approach — have left his largely youth-supporter base a bit dazed.

The trouble with Imran is that while he wants peace with obscurantist forces which have amply demonstrated their capability of holding the country ransom .

How this sets him up provides even further contradictions: he appears to agree that child rights activist Malala Yousafzai is brave and, even expressed disappointment when she was looked over for the Nobel Peace prize, but he didn't condemn Taleban by name for almost killing her and then merely criticized his provincial government for not allowing Malala's book to be launched recently!

Hopefully, how treacherous the Taleban talks terrain is may be finally, wizening up Imran for the inevitable.  

The writer is a freelance contributor 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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Reader Comments

Well said. The "youth-ias" will screw this country more than.anyone else because the whole party and they themselves are too self-absorbed to even consider any fallacy in their reasonings.