When the US, after having invaded Iraq, failed to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the hawks in the Republican party and their blinded followers justified the invasion by arguing that “just because there is no evidence, doesn’t mean that WMDs don’t exist”, an idea later popularised by Donald Rumsfield as “The Unknown Known”. In a saner world, it was rightly rejected as a preposterous concept.
The PTI, given its narrative, practices and ideological underpinnings has, unfortunately, transformed into the Republican party of Pakistan — little in substance, loudest on claims and presence in the media, and more importantly, followers blinded by some abstract ‘ideology’ inspired by a right-wing narrative, living in constant denial. A denial, that something as impartial as the report of the judicial commission isn’t able to penetrate. To say that the judicial commission’s report is historic, may be an understatement for those whose lives have been directly involved in the mess of constant allegations, abuses, victimisation and threats of de-legitimisation — all without evidence or proof. However, it was not expected that the PML-N government would be vindicated in such entirety. But then again, given how the PTI struggled to provide serious evidence in the court of law (not from the container top), it became obvious that the decision would be in favour of the PML- N.
Should Imran Khan apologise? No, if he’s a politician. Yes, if he is a true leader — especially to those people whom he and his party maligned to the point of no return, beyond any political and human decorum. Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and Najam Sethi should be at the top of the list, if ever the great Khan would want to indulge in humility. But who Imran Khan really needs to apologise to are his own followers, who suffered day and night for months, being misled and blatantly lied to at the dharna. Working at the Pakistan Secretariat when PTI and PAT followers were encamped outside it, I witnessed the suffering and misery of the poor, old and clueless people brought to the dharna from the far-flung districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The enthusiastic PTI followers who would arrive in their cars and jeeps from Islamabad and Rawalpindi in the evening after a good night’s sleep wouldn’t have noticed such suffering, concealed by the bright lights of the daily ‘musical’.
Many in the PTI now think that going to the judicial commission was a bad idea. In terms of politics, yes it was! The first rule of politics, or for that matter, life, is not to play black and white — stay in the grey. Pushing for a judicial commission based on very little evidence was always meant to end in failure. Imran Khan’s strength would have been to remain in the grey. However, driven by whispers from the men ‘close’ to the ‘third umpire’ and blinded by his own accusations of systematic rigging, setting up a judicial commission to overthrow the government was neither in the interest of the third umpire, nor the general public. One really hopes that such a disastrous setback for the PTI will give the party and its leadership time to introspect and reconfigure its political strategy — and take the PML-N government to task at issues that actually matter: water, energy and governance reforms.
As for the PML-N, the report is a third triumph in two years following the landslide victory in the 2013 elections, and Imran Khan’s failed attempt to overthrow Nawaz Sharif. However, for the PML-N to take this victory as a testament to public approval of its performance and evidence of its strong standing for the next elections would be disastrous. I have long argued that voting behaviour in Punjab has radically changed. If people can vote out centuries old gaddi-nasheens and feudals in the 2013 elections, the PML-N will get no special treatment in 2018 unless it performs. If anything, the issue of electoral rigging had for over two years protected and concealed some deeply embedded weaknesses of the government. With allegations of rigging out of the way, all eyes are on the PML-N to deliver — and never have I seen more urgency and alarm within the political party to get its act right. As such, it might lose by winning, if it doesn’t address key reforms. The show, in my opinion, is about to start!
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2015.
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