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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Has Rana broken the myth of Imran Khan?

Coming for an evening event with music and fanfare with their leader’s scorching speech is one thing, going out in blistering heat to face Punjab police is a different ballgame. Imran Khan became hostage to the crowds at his public gathering - writes Ihsan Ghani, former National Coordinator of NACTA.

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“Myth is a widely held but false belief or idea”.

On 18th August 2018, Imran Khan took oath as the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan and on 8th March 2022, opposition parties filed a Vote of No Confidence motion against him in the National Assembly that was passed on 10th April 2022. Imran thus became the first Pakistani Prime Minister to lose a No Confidence vote. On 11th April, Shahbaz Sharif was elected the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan

While Imran went on a whirlwind tour of Pakistan, unmatched anywhere for a 70 years old (13th April Peshawar, 16th April Karachi), the 37-member cabinet took the oath with Rana Sana Ullah, PML-N hawk as Minister for Interior on 19th April.

Imran’s juggernaut continued to Lahore (21st April), Islamabad (27th April), Mianwali (6th May), Abbottabad (8th May), Rawalpindi (9th May), and Jhelum 10th May. On 11th May, he addresses the Lahore lawyers’ convention at Lahore. Like a man obsessed (metaphorically speaking, of course), he held seven gatherings in seven cities; 12th May Attock, 13th May Marden, 14th May Sialkot, 15th May Faisalabad, 16th May, 17th May Kohat, 18th May, and 20th May at Multan.

Read more: Imran Khan vows to hold Sialkot rally no matter what

On 22nd May, he held a Core Committee meeting at Peshawar and announced kick off of the much-hyped long march (Haqeeqi) against the “imported government” to the federal capital on May 25th.

Imran was a Man on Fire, reminding me of a 1985 John Parr song, “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)”,

Growin’ up, you don’t see the writing on the wall
Passin’ by, movin’ straight ahead, you knew it all
But maybe sometime if you feel the pain
You’ll find you’re all alone, everything has changed

Play the game, you know you can’t quit until it’s won
Soldier on, only you can do what must be done

To Stop or Not to Stop

“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end”,
Prince Hamlet

Frenzy in Pakistan

Once announced, the ball squarely landed in the court of the “Court” via Rana. From Lahore to Attock, containers ruled, moved, and re-moved. The electronic media went into their customary overdrive and social Media was in a state of frenzy. Always in wait for the shar (evil) from which they can benefit and their ratings can go up, where they try to and succeed in influencing courts’ and government decisions.

Twitter was foul, in thirst for “Followers”, everyone frothing at their mouth. Without the slightest concern for the citizen (while the Citizen-Centric) National Security Policy was in place, instability and disruptions reigned the country. Threatened during the run up to the March and blocked during the initial phases, people were apprehensive and the expected crowd failed to come out, specially from Punjab. Party’s leadership mostly stayed in Peshawar to enjoy the traditional hospitality of Charsi- the Tikka shop, of course.

As the March began, so did the teargassing. The immortalized Gabbar Singh’s question, “Kitnay aadmi thhay?” (how many men were there?) was on everyone’s mind and lips. From a little under 2 million to a little over 15,000 were the numbers, depending on the angle that you were looking from.

Till early afternoon, Rana ruled until the Supreme Court ruled that the “Freedom of assembly” as enshrined in Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan (Every citizen shall have the right to assemble peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order) is an inviolable right of the citizens and protesters should be allowed to enter Islamabad, hold their public meeting at a specified place and not to enter the “Red Zone” (areas where important government buildings and foreign missions are situated).

Read more: Pakistan police fire teargas at the supporters of ousted PM Khan

With the numbers lower than what Rana expected and dwindling, he was happy to oblige and removed the barriers. Lady Luck smiled on him when Imran (by ordering his activists to enter Red Zone) and the mob by doing so violated the SC orders. Rioting and arson ensued as they entered the Forbidden City as police pushed them back. The general public was aghast with rioting by the mob and the use of “disproportionate” force by police egged on by the moustached Rana.

Imran himself didn’t arrive at D-Chowk where his charged, beaten and frustrated workers waited but somewhere on the road leading to it. Demanding that a fresh election date should be announced within 6 days or else, “I’ll back”. Remember the 1984 science fiction movie, The Terminator, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as a cyborg assassin? While looking for Sara O’Conner at the Police station, he tells the Station Clerk named, say Rana, “I’ll be back.” Moments later, he drives a car into the station, destroying everything.

What should Imran Khan’s next move be?

So, who won what, how, and why? As generally are the consequences of such actions, Pakistan and its people lost. Rana won but not with too large a margin, Supreme Court lost “again”. In my very wrong (according to 200 million Pakistanis) opinion, Imran lost, he lost his pride and his most precious item, myth of invincibility, crowd-pulling power.

He played a gamble, (and admitted that he) jumped the gun; coming for an evening event with music and fanfare with their leader’s scorching speech is one thing, going out in blistering heat to face Punjab police is a different ballgame. He became hostage to the crowds at his public gathering.

Read more: Pakistani politicians and their nemesis

There may still be time to salvage his pride, vote bank, his workers, admirers, his fans, his youthful members and his party and use them in the next elections. Invading Islamabad has never worked and wouldn’t be a pleasant one with Rana waiting. He should agree to the backdoor parlays, show flexibility and prepare for the next elections.

“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” – Jeff Bezos

Ihsan Ghani is the Former Director General, Intelligence Bureau, and National Coordinator of NACTA. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space (GVS News).