RAWALPINDI: Imran Khan has always drawn criticism from the so-called liberal intelligentsia in Pakistan. His stance on the infamous Lal Masjid operation is also out in the open and hasn’t gone down too well with the leftists. However, his critics have particularly vociferously condemned him after the historical political gathering he staged in Lahore on October 30 last year, perhaps because that was clear proof of his genuine popularity among the masses.
Often mocked as ‘Taliban Khan’, Imran has drawn harsh criticism for a number of policies which he and his party have consistently followed. We know that he is against military operations in Fata, he is against US drone strikes and wishes for Pakistan to disengage from the US-led war on terror. His consistent opposition to military operations, including the Lal Masjid operation, is not the result of sympathy for the intended targets but of the consequences of such operations. He says that widespread military operations lead to indiscriminate killings in the areas that are targeted by security forces and this, in turn, allows the Taliban to recruit more people to their cause. Mr Khan believes that local tribals who do not particularly believe in hardcore Taliban ideology outnumber the militants and that their support is key to putting an end to the seemingly endless war on terror.
While the merits of this policy adopted by Imran Khan can be debated, what is mind-boggling, to me at least, is how does this make him a tacit supporter of the militants or the TTP? As for drone strikes, he thinks they are immoral, illegal and counterproductive.
Drone strikes are immoral because they take out suspected militants without any evidence or a fair trial. They are illegal because the US violates Pakistan’s territorial sanctity and are counterproductive since a high ratio of civilian casualties brews up further anti-American sentiment in the country. Hence, to call Imran Khan a hypocrite or a supporter of militants on the basis of his stance on drone strikes makes little sense as his contention is that drones mostly kill civilians and fuel radicalisation.
The recent unfortunate and deplorable attack against Malala Yousufzai by the TTP (there you go, I named them) has been widely condemned by every segment of society, including Imran Khan. However, it was interesting that the day this terrible news came out, most Pakistanis on social media platforms such as Twitter were busy condemning Imran Khan and the PTI. There was little mention of how the Pakistani federal and provincial governments failed to protect Malala.
The ratio of civilian causalities may not be 98 per cent in drone strikes as stated by the Stanford report, but I personally feel ashamed that it is acceptable to Pakistani policymakers sitting in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and opinion-makers residing in Lahore and Karachi, even if this ratio were lower. I would be very upset over this if I were living in Waziristan and one can only imagine what heinous acts I would agree to commit if my family members were killed in a drone attack.
Also, if Imran Khan is dubbed pro-TTP for advocating negotiations in Fata, what would one call the dozens of political and religious parties that recently endorsed that idea at an All-Parties Conference held in Islamabad? Surely, ‘Taliban Khan’ was not holding a gun to their head. The failure of the present government to improve the law and order situation and reduce radicalisation in society is deplorable and should be vociferously highlighted in print and electronic media.
If Imran Khan’s critics started asking leading political parties even half of the questions that they ask him, we would not be in the mess that we are.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2012.