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Never Mind #NawazLeaving, Imran Khan Is Here To Stay

Miranda Husain
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Miranda Husain writes that a man who has gone from Taliban Khan to being twice-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize remains the Army’s best bet and he is not going anywhere.

The plot thickens. Especially now that the Punjabi lion has landed. Though not in a galaxy far, far away. But, rather, just a short hop, skip and air ambulance jump to London Town. Suddenly up on his feet and at ‘em. Meeting and greeting the usual hangers-on. A more provocative fingering of Immy he could not have conjured.

Naturally, the elder Sharif believes he has forced Kaptaan on to the stickiest of wickets. Reluctantly flying overseas for urgent medical treatment at maternal behest; while the heir to his political legacy languishes in a local jail. The Diet Coke conundrum suggesting that Maryam has more expensive tastes than that most unlovable Raymond. 

That Nawaz has the upper hand is understood. For now. Not least because the price tag for this compassionate leave was set at a whopping Rs 7-7.5 billion. All to ensure that the thrice-elected premier return to face the music sooner rather than later. Before being gifted by the courts. The same ones that the PMLN had long accused of waging war on the party; on the orders of hands that prefer to remain hidden in velvet gloves. Except, of course, that the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) has forcefully credited the Centre alone with securing this particular exit strategy.

All of which plays into the hands of a hullaballoo-ing Opposition that is up in arms but not fully loaded. As they point to yet another U-turn. While ridiculing Imran Khan the greenhorn over his lack of political acumen. Had it been otherwise, the Prime Minister would surely have done the needful straightaway. Thereby securing the Noon League’s eternal indebtedness. And while not exactly enough to stem the haemorrhaging economy the latter bequeathed the PTI — a handsome non-cash injection of parliamentary compliance might well sell above market price. Chest-thumping for the cheap seats notwithstanding.

But Khan Sb has other ideas. After all, everyone and their cat was poised to declare an end of innings. But having bent his back when banging it in, he is still standing. Thus the show, it seems, will go on. With Kaptaan staying put; tickled pink. Apart from those two days where he retreated to Banigala. When a certain veteran speed-reading page-tuner may or may not have given him time off for good behaviour. Even if it did take some five years to see #NawazGo.

To be sure, the cat not hobnobbing with the pigeons is the best outcome to maintain the status quo. Regardless of whether this upholds the national interest.

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Thus it is no coincidence that when dharna disciple Maulana Fazlur Rehman set up camp in the federal capital — the boys in khaki washed their hands of the entire matter. Dismissing it as an irritant to be dealt with by the civvies. Despite the JUIF chief calling for Immy’s head on a stick combined with the demand for fresh elections. Yet the PM need not fear being fed to the proverbial — or provincial — lions. For this was intended as a message to that brazen Maulana: his coquettish overtures would not be reciprocated. Even while one of the government’s own partners-in-numbers cooed that the Azadi March had crowned a new and true and heartfelt leader of the Opposition. Ouch. 

Fast-forward to the present and the now familiar disco club classic tub-thumps louder than ever. The one about the civil-military leadership being on the same page. Without any mention of which side wrote the book. The subtext being that those suited-and-booted officers and gentlemen are relieved that their erstwhile protégé is out of the dock. No matter what promises the CJP might make on behalf of an independent judiciary. The double-whammy being that the PMLN will be rendered impotent; with no hope of a second coming. At least, until the younger Sharif asserts his grip on the party. Unencumbered. But above and beyond this, the reinvigorated show of affection for the Centre is more than likely fuelled by news of the country’s first current account surplus ($99 million) in four years. Music to the ears of a military that begrudgingly took a hit to the defence budget; albeit amid much orchestrated fanfare.

The bottom line: Immy will not be forsaken anytime soon. Not when he remains the Army’s most valuable ‘reformed asset’. A man, who in opposition, earned himself the rather catchy moniker: Taliban Khan. One that spilled over into his tenure as he continued to pour millions into an infamous madrassa that counts Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani among its alumni.

Yet today it is Kaptaan who has been well and truly ‘mainstreamed’. 

Nowhere more so than on the international stage. From his restraint during the Indo-Pak skirmish back in February; prompting the Pakistan Army’s break with tradition to ask that peace be given a chance. To the momentous move of opening up the Kartarpur Corridor and welcoming Sikh pilgrims from India. Both of which earned Khan Sb Nobel Peace Prize nominations; two in nine months. Thus when a head of government — unable to shake off selection rumours — plays the elder statesman with such aplomb, then everyone looks good. Including those who are in the engineering business.  

Which is why when it comes to the broader picture, the Nawaz question will not risk seeing the ruling PTI come undone. There is far too much at stake. And bill is, after all, the lion’s khala.

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