Is there a strong possibility that Imran Khan will be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan to lead a coalition government with the support of the army and even the Taliban, now that Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Mariam, are out of the way? Even Shahbaz Sharif is being accused of wrongdoing and a dozen odd police cases have been brought against him.
Nawaz Sharif, already convicted in cases of corruption and unexplained assets, having been mentioned in the Panama Papers, might manage to get bailed out by the High Court, but it appears that he would be unable to enter the electoral process, with a great deal going against him and the legal hassles tying him down. The general elections in Pakistan are due on July 25 and the Sharifs are not even candidates.
Imran Khan, the feisty cricketer of yesteryears, tall, slim and handsome, popular on the pitch and the world outside with uncounted conquests of the heart, is coming to the fore in a country where traditional values are forced down on the people. He may appear to be making a go at public life without much of a challenge to his persona because he remains very smooth. Would he, if he gets to the top, make waves in the world outside?
How is it that the armed forces have reconciled themselves to a man who normally thinks and talks independently? But having been the Chief Minister of Khyber Pukhtunwa province for a few years, he is politically settled and has learnt to make compromises? Are the Pakistani generals confident that they would be able to “manage” Imran Khan and do business with him and let him tackle the parliamentary process in Islamabad? The armed forces are all powerful; they call the shots and democracy for them is a facade that serves the image of the country in world capitals.
A journalist points out that Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaaf Party may not win a landslide victory, but a sufficient number of seats to lead a coalition because the might of the establishment, the military, judiciary and the bureaucracy appears to be behind him. Even the Taliban and other terror groups appear to have given their “silent approval to him as they have stayed away from bombing his rallies”.
Given his reported “soft corner for the militants, some people already call him Taliban Khan. Thus Imran Khan would appear to in tune with the times in his country where militancy prevails and the Taliban proposed his name as a guarantor when the group wanted to start peace talks.
Several electable candidates of different parties were forced to join Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaaf Party by the intelligence set-up. Several politicians allege that those who did not switch sides were disqualified by the election machinery. The former Chairman of the Senate, Mr. Raza Rabbani, says that it is clear that Imran Khan is being given a “walk-over. But I am curious to learn how long this honeymoon will last”.
In Punjab government officials reportedly helped Imran’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf Party or PTI put up party banners. One hundred and fifty people were killed and 200 injured in one of the earlier rallies of another party. Left of the centre Awami and People’s Party have stopped their rallies.
Lalit Sethi is a Journalist of long standing and a commentator on Political and Social Issues.>