Thursday 18th of July 2024

Can Imran Khan make a difference in Pakistan politics?

Syed Fattahul Alim »

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While the investigation by the Punjab police into the November 3 incident of firing on Imran Khan during a protest rally of his party in Wazirabad about a hundred kilometres north of Lahore, the former prime minister of Pakistan, the cricket star-turned politician is now trying to bounce back to power. Though still recovering from the gunshot wound in his leg, he has called upon his party workers to continue the protest march into the country’s administrative capital Islamabad to press his demand for unseating the incumbent government of prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and forcing an early election.

There is no question that Mr Khan is hugely popular among the country’s young generation. And that is quite clear from the large crowds of young people swelling the ranks of his so-called ‘long marches’ organised by his party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), since he was ousted in April from power by the opposition in Pakistan parliament through a no-confidence motion against him. But complaining of a foreign plot behind his ouster and blaming the then-opposition and currently the ruling coalition as an accomplice in the plot, he launched a crusade against the ruling elite with a vow to win what he said ‘real freedom’ for his people.
So, does all this have any connection with the gun attack against him? For what the arrested attacker said in his confession about his motive to kill Mr Khan is hardly convincing. And Mr Khan’s blaming the government and people in high position for the assassination attempt has further muddied the issue. The entire incident definitely does not augur well for a country going through an economic crisis comparable to the situation in Sri Lanka before that country went bankrupt. And as if that was not enough, the highly climate-vulnerable nation has been devastated by floods, the worst of its kind within living memory, from heavy downpours which so far claimed more than 1700 lives and caused damage to life and property worth US$40 billion.

Even so, the politicians both in position and opposition of that country have not for a moment shown the willingness to make peace. And the latest incident of armed attack on Mr Khan only evokes the memory of the country’s bloody political past. It may be recalled here the tragedy that struck the nation during a pre-election campaign rally of then-opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, at Liaquat National Bagh in Rawalpindi. For gunshots followed by the explosion of a suicide bomb killed her and 23 other people at that rally. It would be worthwhile to note at this point that late Benazir Bhutto’s party, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is now a coalition partner of the incumbent government in Islamabad. Not unlike other post-colonial nations in South Asia,Pakistan politics is marked bymutual distrust and intolerance. Even India, where parliamentary democracy has taken root since its independence, is not a stranger to such tragedies.

It is said that deep state pulls the strings in Pakistan politics. The elections, it is widely believed, are not free from external influence. The post-election governments, they say, as a result remain beholden to the coteries in the said deep state. And these forces do not allow the elected governments to complete their terms. It is alleged that Mr Khan himself had the blessing of such coteries when he won 2018’s election. But the young generation of Pakistan seems to have placed its trust in Imran Khan. Will he be able to make a difference in Pakistan politics?

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