ISLAMABAD: He may have secured sufficient support in the National Assembly to get elected as prime minister but it appears that Imran Khan is in no mood to give up his ‘hostile antics’ in politics —that make typical traits of an all aggressive opposition leader.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman’s speech after the PM’s election in NA on Friday raised eyebrows. Contrary to the expectations, Imran resorted to his traditionally firebrand style to target the opposition and ridicule his political opponents at a time when he was expected to deliver a ‘balanced’ speech— coated with the tone of inclusiveness, reconciliation and openness— towards opposition in running the affairs of the government.
Instead, Imran challenged his staunch opponents in all bitterness—them names.
“I challenge Shehbaz, Fazl to stage even a month-long dharna at D-chowk”, said the PM-elect while offering to “provide containers” for the same. An apparently furious-looking Khan did not stop here and reiterated no mercy for ‘dacoits.’ “There would be no NRO for dacoits who plundered this country’s wealth”, claimed Imran making it known he won’t be ‘blackmailed’ into any decision.
Khan has since been under fire from political and public circles, for venting a threat-like outburst, which many say, is unbecoming of a prime minister, instead of delivering a ‘cool and calm’ speech, the new premiers usually do, or are expected to do, at least.
“He needs to mend his ways,” says former secretary Election Commission of Pakistan Kanwar Dilshad, “The sooner the better”. Khan needs to get adjusted to new political realities—that he is at the helm and has to sit on government benches in the NA, Dilshad tells The Express Tribune.
“A PM-elect is not supposed to act like an opposition leader. He has to face criticism and play his role in diffusing tension between treasury and opposition benches.” According to Dilshad, the ‘tantrum’ thrown by opposition during the PM’s election surprised Imran and he lost his cool.
“He probably did not see it coming—PPP’s announcement to abstain from voting in Friday’s election clearly aimed at favouring him, who was expecting that opposition’s reaction after his election as premier would be ceremonial. Opposition creating a furor after voting of leader of the house—this hardly happens. Faced with this unexpected situation, it appeared as if the newly-elected prime minister lost his temper and became aggressive. But he has to learn to stay cool.”
The ex-secretary ECP advised Imran to take a leaf from the ‘impressive’ speeches of Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Muttahid Quami Movement-Pakistan’s Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Balochistan National Party-Mengal’s Sardar Akhtar Mengal delivered in the same session.
Following the much chaotic NA session, comparisons are being drawn between Imran’s Friday speech to that of his ‘victory speech’ delivered on July 26, a day after PTI secured majority in the NA— to assert that he played like a ‘true’ leader who earned applause at home and abroad for delivering a ‘thoroughly statesman-like’ speech. In the same speech, the PTI supremo resorted to reconciliatory tone and announced to “forgive those who tried to defame me.”
Regardless of their official obligations, PTI leaders privately admit the party chairman’s aggressive posturing after his election as PM was unwarranted. Still, some of the stalwarts of the new ruling party defended their top leader.
The PTI chairman was very much set to make a balanced and moderate speech—pretty much like his victory speech after his election as PM, says one of the PTI’s newly elected lawmakers requesting to be kept unnamed. Not only Khan rehearsed the speech but its talking points were prepared in a top-level meeting held at Banigala, the source says.
“But things did not go as planned. After opposition kept getting more and more unruly, he got irked and acted in a manner he shouldn’t have. But he’ll learn—for sure.”
Another PTI leader says the purpose of Imran getting tough with opposition is to relay the message—that he should not be expected to be subdued and ‘blackmailed’ by agitation. “No one should be mistaken—he means business and can’t be stopped from achieving whatever he is up to—was the message that needs to conveyed to opposition circles,” the insider says.
The PML-N and PPP are, however, unforgiving.
“Vandalism will not work. You are the PM now—unfortunately,” says PML-N senior leader Rana Sanaullah. “Don’t belittle stature of the PM. You will have to learn to behave. Your stay in power would be short-lived, anyway. But as long as you are there, learn to respect others,” he tells The Express Tribune.
PPP’s Khurshid Shah also took on Khan. “Politics is not merely about preaching principles. It’s about listening to others, redressing their reservations and taking them onboard even if they disagree with you. The kind of attitude Imran Khan has demonstrated today is uncalled for. Agitation is a tool of opposition, not the government. If you keep sticking to hostility when you are in government, things don’t work.”