Why does Imran Khan put fuel on the fiery debate on minus-1 vs minus-all
A STEAMY debate on pushing PM Imran Khan out of politics, or out of office, has gained mainstream media attention after the PM stood up in the Parliament and cautioned that if he was ousted, the accountability process will continue with equal or even greater speed.
But Khan was not at all saying that he was being removed. In a dinner speech on the eve of the budget he speculated that options for decision makers of all forms and shapes were very limited, if at all any decision maker was thinking in those terms.
The Minus-1 debate has continued for some time on some talk shows, and especially on social media, but it was just wild speculation or wishful thinking. When the word was mentioned in Parliament by the PM, it gained currency and everybody started talking about it.
The Opposition, desperately short of political talking points except rising prices or mishandling of some issues, jumped on the bandwagon and started demanding why PM Khan had raised the subject, was there a serious threat? Who was trying to remove him and so on? Some Opposition leaders including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi tried to distance themselves from the debate by saying only a political party could remove its leader and if Khan was feeling the threat he should explain who was pushing the idea. Most of the discussion on this subject has been useless trash. Imran Khan apparently talked about it in the context that today Pakistan cannot afford a fresh election, given its economic fragility and the Corona situation. The decision makers, whoever they may be, cannot go back to the corrupt regimes of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari because by pushing an in-house change using these very corrupt pawns would require a nasty and stinking overt effort that may damage their image and morale.
And pushing an alternative within the PTI would just be counter-productive and meaningless as PTI, minus Khan, would be a headless chicken with no one in charge.
But PM Khan’s point that accountability will not slow down or stop, even if there was an unexpected regime change, was rooted in deep information and sound judgment of people who usually play the key role in any such change.
That Khan and the Establishment are on the same page on most of the issues does not need frequent mention. If there are any differences on tactical or operational points of view, they meet so very often that such matters are quickly resolved. In a larger context, however, one broader perception has to be understood about the present thinking of the Establishment, which fortunately synchronizes smoothly with that of PM Khan. In a recent write-up I recalled a discussion I had about 5 years back with some of the then top military generals when they were in Washington DC, accompanying the then army chief General Raheel Sharif on an official visit. I had an appointment with the then ISPR chief General Asim Bajwa who was also accompanying the chief, and when we sat down in the hotel lobby, many of his colleagues joined the discussion as they had just returned from Pentagon meetings. We discussed everything openly and since the rules of engagement were defined, nothing was to be quoted or reported, all felt easy and expressed their views or heard the different points of view and either agreed or disagreed. The discussion went on for more than two hours.
(To be Continued on page-3)
In fact it started becoming a sort of curious and an odd situation for others, mostly Americans in the lobby, when they saw so many army generals in uniform crowding a person in civvies and having lengthy exchanges.
All ended with warm handshakes and best wishes notes and the message I got from that episode was that the relatively young and upcoming leadership of the army was clear and unequivocal on one issue — corruption.
Now some years down the line, the officers who at that time were in the chief’s entourage and two-star generals are occupying top most and central positions in the army, present in almost every strategic or professional decision-making forum.
The officers were bright and very clear in their thoughts and also seemed to disagree with some of the past decisions of their institution. So I don’t believe they would have changed their views about corruption and how the national leadership should think about Pakistan and its destiny instead of filling their foreign accounts.
With that kind of mindset now predominantly setting the narrative in the Establishment, and with an outspoken and unwavering popular leader like Imran Khan joining hands, it is clear that the war on corruption has to score victories and move on with intense fire and fury.
So when Khan says that even if he was somehow sidelined, the war on corruption will go on, he definitely has in the back of his mind the knowledge and understanding of what others feel and what they might do, if they were to get a chance of deciding matters on their own.
No one is saying that Khan is going or the entire system is being wrapped up, as it cannot be under the circumstances, but the more people criticize Imran Khan for his handling the corrupt and the more power shifts to the invisible decision-makers, the screws against the corrupt will only get tighter and unbearable. Khan is still a buffer.
There is no doubt in any section of the society that Imran Khan is not corrupt, that he means well for the country, but people he has selected to run his administration sometimes betray him and at other times decisions are taken which Khan does not like but has to go along in the larger interest.
Yet Khan has shown that he can take action not only against the people who were corrupt and had no shame in saying so, but also against his own colleagues sitting in his cabinet and his party.
So the best option for those who have been caught in the net is to prove their innocence in courts and other forums, while staying within the democratic and civilian set up that we have now and wait for their chance.
It may prove to be a much sweeter pill than the bitter options waiting in the wings.