Imran Khan was a stranger to the Parliament: the very prestigious House which he had been struggling to be a representative in since 1996. Finally, in 2002 when he became a member of the National Assembly, he reportedly squandered his governmental allowance and budget on unproductive visits. Soon after his induction in the Parliament, he realized, he was not very useful as a simple MNA. So, he decided to run for Prime Minister.
It is a tragedy that his long decades of parliamentary politics and statesmanship resulted in no major contribution to the legislative and constitutional process of this country.
In 2013, the ANP was one of the main targets of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Multiple terrorist activities sabotaged the ANP’s political campaign. As that party reeled from blow after savage blow from the terrorists, Imran Khan, the hearth-throb of the cricketing world, was successful in forming the provincial government. The political vacuum created by the political absence of ANP resulted in a conversion of cricket followers into political followers/voters. Some have even remarked on a mysterious hype that arose in senior lawmakers – of joining the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI).
The fact is that Imran Khan’s stance on the Taliban is not new.
We have been listening to it for a long time now. Talk of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban made news until the APS Peshawar massacre of school-children by the terrorists. In all of Imran Khan’s opposition to military operations Rah-e-Haq, Rah-e-Rast, and Rah-e-Nijat, a demand to segregate good Taliban from bad Taliban was the main reason for his opposition. Just like most of his speeches and initiatives; there was no framework and detailed explanation for his fanciful view of the Taliban. Since that time Imran Khan’s soft side for armed religious militants was on full display for the public.
Let me remind you; in 2009, the very same TTP violated its peace deal with the state of Pakistan when Sufi Muhammad declared the parliamentary democracy and judicial system of Pakistan un-Islamic, in the very same gathering which was supposed to promote peace as a part of the deal. In April 2009, TTP gave the KP provincial government an ultimatum to leave the area and let the Taliban control it as per “Islamic ideology”. The mind goes back to the famous fatwa of 1998 in which Osama bin Ladin declared all Americans as the enemy. The fatwa mentioned that it was God who ordered his organization to kill all Americans, not Osama Bin Ladin. Such discourse was also used by the Taliban again and again, to justify their war against Pakistani civilians and soldiers alike.
Yet, our Prime Minister does not appear to understand this – based on his renewed statement of admiration for Osama.
The fact is that with votes or without, with the Establishment or without it, Imran Khan is the leader of the state until 2023. Everyone has to live with it. After months, Imran Khan returned to the National Assembly of Pakistan as the Leader of the House to make a speech during the budget session. His absence from the National Assembly has not generated as much of a debate as his recent address where he declared Osama bin Ladin a martyr. Meanwhile, as Akhtar Mengal left the collation government to protect the freedom of expression and lives of Baloch people, Imran Khan could hardly pay any heed over it.
“The moment the election ended, we approached India. No response. But then we discovered they were trying to push us in the FAFT blacklist to bankrupt us. That’s when we realized there was an agenda.” Khan had earlier stated in his address at the United Nations General Assembly.
And yet, while Pakistan struggles to get out of FATF’s grey list; Imran Khan is declaring a global terrorist as a martyr (a very high rank for a dead person in the Islamic narrative). Perhaps the PM does not understand what he is toying with. Being on the FATF’s black-list means Pakistan’s access to foreign currency and investment becomes highly difficult.
The current fiscal year’s proposed budget has shown us the economic condition of Pakistan and its dependency on foreign loans. An international blockade of trade would result in high inflation and recession in the country. In the uncertain times of Covid-19, can we expect such sanctions?
Not only FATF but all the international accusations (from various quarters) of Pakistan harbouring terrorists will begin to seem justified after this stance of Pakistan’s Prime Minister. While the military establishment is working hard on Afghan peace talks and countering Indian claims about Pakistan’s role in Kashmir, the Prime Minister’s statement is likely to reverse the diplomatic achievements made till now.
How can a terrorist be a martyr for a country which has lost 70,000 people to terrorism and a cumulative $126 billion loss to the economy? Let us not forget there cannot be martyrs on both sides. In every conflict, at least one side of the dispute will be at fault; which by any precedent doesn’t earn them the title of martyr.
So, it is either those 70,000 individuals – civilians and armed forces personnel alike – who are martyrs, or the terrorists exploding bombs in the cities. If the PM truly means what he said about Osama, he would have to either declare all the suicide bombers martyrs or take away all the honour from all the people who have sacrificed their lives for this nation.
On a more practical level, it also raises the question for domestic and international opinion alike: is the PM’s view of Osama actual state policy or does it simply stem from Imran Khan’s soft side for armed religious militants?
While the government has knelt in front of the IMF, the Sugar Mafia, the Gas Mafia, the Wheat Mafia, and of course, the Petrol Mafia; the question before us now is: will Imran Khan kneel in front of militant non-state actors?