Imran Khan Caught and Bowled by the Googly of Democracy, But may Return to Play Second Innings

Imran’s victory cannot be ruled out in the election due to be held later in 2023. He may play the sympathy card, opines Soroor Ahmed, advising his opponents to be cautious of him.

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Imran’s victory cannot be ruled out in the election due to be held later in 2023. He may play the sympathy card, opines Soroor Ahmed, advising his opponents to be cautious of him.

Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others,” said the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. He may be right as more than 50 years after his death democracy is facing the biggest challenge, not only in embattled Ukraine or in Pakistan, but in the United States where on January 6, 2021 an unruly mob of ruling Republican Party supporters stormed into the Capitol Building, the power-centre of the country, following the refusal of the then President (Donald Trump) to accept the people’s verdict. More than 15 months later the case is still pending in the court though half a dozen people lost their lives in the attack on this hallowed temple of democracy.

When compared to this incident in the capital city of the oldest democracy of the world, the April 3 action of the Deputy Speaker of the Pakistan National Assembly, Qasim Suri, and the subsequent dissolution of the House are a less serious offence. This action was overturned by the Supreme Court of that country within five days.

Yet instead of asking as to why till now no judicial action has been taken against Trump by the court the champions of democracy in the West are bothered about Pakistan or any other country.

They call Russian President Vladmir Putin an autocrat – he may be so – but seldom highlight the fact that the roots of the present war in Ukraine lie in the removal of the duly elected President of that country Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. This is simply because he was pro-Russia and refused to accept the demand of many civil society groups that Ukraine should join European Union. It was only after Yanukovych’s ouster by a Western-backed uprising that Russia annexed Crimea that year.

And it was the first free and fair election in December 1970 which led to the dismemberment of Pakistan. That election was won by Mujib-ur-Rahman’s Awami League, but it was none else but ‘democrat’ and shrewd Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who conspired with a pleasure-loving and dim-witted dictator, General Yahya Khan, to deny Mujib the right to rule the country. So somewhat like Ukraine in 2014, it was the first free and fair election which pushed Pakistan into the bloody mess.

Once again it was ‘democratic’ America which sided with Pakistan to stall the taking over of power by Mujib. It is another thing that Imran is now flaying America, a great friend of Yahya , who in July 1971 helped the US to establish relationship with China.

The irony is that the outgoing Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, last month tried to equate himself with ‘Shaheed’ Bhutto. No, this is not so because Imran is a great lover of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He said so because he wanted to convey the message that the army is after him in the same way and that he too may meet the same fate.

Besides, by siding with Senior Bhutto, he wanted to woo a section of People’s Party of Pakistan. But the strategy did not work as his statement was self-contradictory. Apart from this, the PPP today has limited support base confined to Sind and some pockets of Punjab.

Notwithstanding the absurd remarks and wrong decisions taken in the last few weeks in his office, Imran Khan still appears to be a more credible leader than three generations of the Bhuttos and Sharifs, who along with Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam (of Fazlur Rahman) and others could muster support of only 174 MNAs in the House of 342.

So in spite of tall claims of having the support of first 177, then 197 and subsequently 210 MNAs what they can gather was just two more members than half way marks. Thus, this government is inherently weak and those who have joined hands have their own vested interests. So the confidence motion exposed the fragility of both Imran and the hotch-potch conglomeration of parties opposed to him.

As developments in Pakistan are often seen in the light of India, it needs to be mentioned that the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost the confidence vote by just one vote in April 1999. When the elections were held six months later, the National Democratic Alliance led by Vajpayee returned to power with the bigger margin.

Similarly, Imran’s victory cannot be ruled out in the election due to be held later in 2023. He may play the sympathy card.

In Pakistan there is a sizeable number of people who buy the foreign (read American) conspiracy theory behind the ouster of Imran Khan because the West have played such nefarious games in many countries – the latest example is of Ukraine in 2014. His diehard supporters defend him by saying that Imran may have lacked experience and might have gone overboard in criticising his opponents, yet his intention was not wrong. Not only that the Coronavirus pandemic too is responsible for his failure to revive the economy, which was already in doldrum before he took over power in August 2018.

It is true no Pakistani Prime Minister has completed his or her full five-year term. But it is also a fact that the Parliament has completed its full term, for example from 2008 to 2013 and again from 2013 to 2018.

Not only that it was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who called for early election on March 7, 1977. This is a common practice in democracy – the BJP also called for early election in 2004. It is another thing that the NDA then lost.

The problem with the parliamentary democracy is not confined to Pakistan. France, said to be the nursery of democracy, had 21 governments in the 12 years after World War-II. In fact, the Fourth Republic turned out to be short-lived – just between 1946 and 1958.

In the same way, Naftali Bennett’s eight-party alliance government which took over in August 2021 is the 36th one in 73 years of Israel’s existence. Incidentally, only Benjamin Netanyahu has the longest term between 2009 and 2021. Developed countries like Japan and Italy have innumerable governments in the last 75 years – the average life span is one year.

Coming to Pakistan one must remember that the 1977 parliamentary election was the first after its dismemberment. It was marred by allegation of massive rigging. The international observers confirmed this fact.

The opposition nine-party combination, the Pakistan National Alliance – which could win only 36 seats against 155 by PPP in the House of 200 – launched a big movement against the largescale poll malpractice. Many people were killed in this four-month long agitation. Bhutto, though a civilian ruler, imposed Martial Law. It is an undeniable fact that in this period of upsurge several PNA leaders openly called upon the army to intervene. Today the same lot may try to project themselves as a great democrat.

It was only then that the Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq, took over on July 5, 1977. General Zia, who till then was considered the most trusted officer of Bhutto, announced election within 90 days.

As per promise General Zia released all the political prisoners. Bhutto was also out of jail on July 29, that is just after 24 days of arrest. The process of election too started.

The relationship between Zia and the ousted PM deteriorated after Bhutto, in his rallies, started threatening the General that he would teach the latter a lesson after voted back to power. Zia retaliated by arresting Bhutto once again after 35 days, and cancelled the election. What happened later on is well-known.

The military regime got opened the 1974 case of the murder of a political opponent in which Bhutto was named as the main accused. This led to his hanging.

Independent Pakistan-watchers are of the view that Bhutto made a big miscalculation by attacking Zia which prompted the latter to call off the poll. Bhutto till then would consider Zia his man, whom he made the army chief after superseding about a dozen Generals.

When Imran cited the example of Bhutto, he forgot the fact that he does not actually fit in the latter’s shoes. In his country’s history Bhutto and Yahya are always remembered as those who broke Pakistan. Will Imran like to be remembered in the same way?

Imran could have defended his pre-planned visit to Russia in a much better way. He could have said that he had landed in Moscow on February 23 when the fact is that the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on February 24 morning.

There were still many people in Pakistan to believe his version on the US angle. He rather unnecessarily overplayed this issue and thus indulged in constitutional wrongdoing.

After all , there are umpteenth examples of world leaders visiting the invading country. Israeli PM Naftali Bennett too rushed to Moscow on March 5 on the plea that he is brokering peace between Russia and Ukraine. All this is a part of international diplomacy as Indian PM Narendra Modi met visiting Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on April 1.

The curious aspect of the farce in Pakistan is that it provided many part-time commentators not only in that country, but elsewhere too, to become expert of cricket too. What they overlook is that Imran was not just a bowler, but an all-rounder. He had played many Tests and One Day Internationals purely as a batsman as he was unable to bowl because of back injury. Even in the 1992 World Cup, which his country won under his leadership, he played only as a batsman. So his

opponents should be cautious of him as he can play in all the pitch and in all forms of game.