Testing times ahead for Imran Khan?

Rafiq Jan (Qatar-based aviation expert and blogger)

A murky campaign led by Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, engineered by unseen powers, seems to have been rolled out to restrain a rising Pakistan after decades of abjectness. The countrywide agitations by religious groups showcase the joint opposition’s desperate attempts of fighting for their survival. By the time my blog is published, there will be fresh developments in Pakistan’s already explosive political arena, with Nawaz Sharif flying out of the country).

The recent anti-government political uprising in Pakistan exceedingly seems to be the harbinger of the looming dangers and turbulent times ahead for PM Imran khan. The smearing of PM Khan by an array of political elites, whose motives are well obvious to everyone by now, seems like an anticipated plan.

Maulana Fazal ur Rehman (MFR) is a religious zealot and a staunch power player who loves relishing unopposed and unrestricted control in his realm of religious madrassas. He seems to be playing a significant and leading role in spreading the dissent and inciting sedition against the government which is headed by PM Imran Khan. He is aptly used by PM’s adversaries to spearhead this cohort of dissident politicians to pave the way for his ouster.

PM Khan knows he is on a daunting mission of cleansing the country from corruption and lawlessness, and he is aware of the risks and backlash that such endeavors entail. He knows he cannot promote a principled anti-corruption drive without irking the corrupt elite. But tumultuous times of one year in the office has undoubtedly tested his nerves while admonishing him to mend fences with his adversaries if he wants to turn around the governance of the country. He must, by now, heed to the sane voices around him that he has achieved the dreams of his lifetime and he is now the chief executive of the country having huge responsibilities upon his bare shoulders.

The PM has no choice other than reviewing his decisions and results of his government’s policies so far. He needs to shed the extra payload to continue his flight of delivering his promises to his devoted voters who rallied behind him during the last five years of intense struggle. He needs to learn the delicacies of playing power politics instead of presenting himself as an untouchable and immortal autocrat.

PM Khan knew very well that his alliance for a coalition set up with PMLQ, MQM, BNP and GDA were nothing more than a marriage of convenience.

Under his hotchpotch cabinet of lawmakers and senators, his pre-election narratives have been badly overshadowed and camouflaged. Their personal interests of his cabinet members have thrown the nation rebuilding and development policies into disarray and a serious national crisis. They constantly seem to be harboring the fear that his policies will backfire if he remains adamant to his antagonistic approach towards adversaries.

Other than attacking him directly, his rivals have now resorted to new tactics of deploying religious far-right groups of previous voting, rallying behind and sucking up to coalition partners to make a dent in the government’s public support.

His heavy weight coalition partners the “Chaudhary brothers” of PML Q do have unarguably long-standing, deep and abiding relationships with people of Punjab, particularly in their hometown of Gujrat. But an upbeat and mostly youth-led PTI played to their strength to carve out few candidates from Choudhary’s territory. There had been many who jumped the bandwagon thus paving the way to an unexpected turnout for the first time in a decade or so.

PM Khan needs to visit the life of great American leader Abraham Lincoln too, who after winning the presidency, put the national interests above his personal ego and chose his campaign rivals for the vital position in forming his cabinet. Writer Doris Kearns Goodwin explains in his praise for Abraham Lincoln in the following words:

“Lincoln purposely chose a group of men who were more experienced and greater in stature than he was. Several of the men he selected such as William Seward, who became secretary of state, Salmon Chase, whom Lincoln made head of the Treasury, and Edward Bates, who became Attorney general, had been rivals for the republican nomination. Even Simon Cameron, whom Lincoln appointed Secretary of War, had sought the position Lincoln now held. That the president-elect created a cabinet including former opponents was a testament to his self-confidence. And it was a credit to his political dexterity that, with rare exception, he held the group together, using their expertise and political connections to help him lead during his presidency”.

Pakistan has significant resources of very accomplished, very serious, highly skilled, very passionate and smart people who have a solid success history of public service in various governments and, above all, have incredibly clean record of fair management in their domains.

For the time being, the public trust in the government is at its record low in 14 months and the ship seems to be in choppy waters once again. But that is politics of power, which never comes without bumps and hurdles in a leader’s life. It is now incumbent on PM Khan to revisit his strategies by believing that he is in power and he needs a big heart for every citizen irrespective of one’s political and religious affiliations. He must learn to embrace the realities of accepting the responsibilities of mistakes by his team. He must now rise above himself to put national interest on top.

He must bravely kill the urge for undemocratic actions like muzzling the press, jailing political enemies, and turning the state into, what he is characterized for, an Autocratic Kingdom. He owes innumerous pre-election promises to his followers and the people of Pakistan which need to be honored and in the pursuit of his legacy of ruling Pakistan for a full term, or even more, he has to assure his followers that he is very much in the game. And it will ultimately be the voters of Imran Khan, if they show up in the game, who will get to call the shots.

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