The Repentant Opinion Makers Have Turned Against Imran Khan & His Govt
Few weeks ago, a retired army lieutenant general expressed his remorse over the fact that he voted for Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and convinced others to do the same in the July 2018 parliamentary elections. The said general is the one who regularly appears on news channels and makes provocative statements some of which are extremely critical of democracy.
He is a part of most visible and vocal group of retired generals, bureaucrats and talking heads, who perform histrionics on TV screens to cast doubts about the viability of electoral democracy and which seems to be breathing its last these days due to the resurgence of authoritarianism.
The retired general and many others seem to be moving with the changed direction of the winds. People are fed up of the PTI government and there is a general sense that it is leading the country towards a major disaster. Rumors are doing the rounds in Islamabad that those who wield power are not satisfied with the performance of Prime Minister, Imran Khan. There’s enough indication in the power-oriented political culture of the country that Prime Minister may be on his way out. In short, the prevailing narrative in Islamabad and elsewhere is that the PTI government has failed the power wielders as well as the masses on many counts.
So, the prevalent culture of opportunism as reflected in TV debates demands that it is time to undermine yet another elected political government. Similar melodrama was played out on the national stage less than three years ago when the Nawaz Sharif government was facing a somewhat similar, though more sinister, situation. During that period, Nawaz Sharif failed to satisfy the power wielders and a group of retired generals, bureaucrats, and a battalion of media persons were out to undermine and destabilize the political government.
However, there are two differences in the two situations. Firstly, Prime Minister Khan is not facing the allegations of working against national interests as Nawaz Sharif did in 2017, around the same time the Supreme court delivered its verdict in Panama Leaks case against him. In other words, one one has so far dared to accuse Imran Khan of working in connivance with the Indian spy agency R&AW. The group of retired generals and talking heads had then spread rumors the Pakistani intelligence had arrested two R&AW agents from the sugars mills belonging to Nawaz Sharif’s family. Also, the battalion of uncouth religious clerics has not been unleashed on Imran Khan as was done during the time PMLN was in power.
Why are the two situations different? First plausible explanation is that so far, no serious plan to get rid of PTI government has been hatched in the power corridors. What we are witnessing in Islamabad is part of routine jolts orchestrated to jolt the occupant of the top slot. Secondly, equally plausible explanation could be that these differences are outcome of a situation where Imran Khan and his cronies show no signs of defiance even after coming face to face with a situation when forces traditionally linked with the systems of destabilization of elected governments have been unleashed on them.
However, the repentant generals, media persons and their associates are creating an impression of instability. Many political observers take this as a starting point of another session of long and sustained campaign to destabilize the civilian government. Many hold that the juggernaut of instability will start moving again with other parts of the machine falling into place within a short period of time.
For democrats, the principle is simple: anyone who reaches the office of chief executive of the country through a constitutional process has a right to complete his/her tenure. Such a tenure is more sacrosanct than the service tenure of any 22 grade servant of the Pakistani state. Undermining the authority of an elected government would mean pushing the political system towards destabilization.
The implications of infighting within the political players and institutions such as the political parties, judiciary and military and civil bureaucracy, are not restricted to the formal state. Such a mess enables the non-state actors that don’t work by the book. They benefit from such situations.
The repentant opinion-makers should realise that such campaigns are harmful for the country. On the one hand, they boast about defeating the Taliban and on the other hand, facilitate anarchy by undermining the central political authority of the country. The retired general and his friends in media re advised to reconsider their latest mission. Let’s allow civilian governments to complete their tenures. The office of prime minister has already turned into an insecure employment that can be terminated at will.
Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.