Angry old man | Najam Sethi


Imran Khan is an angry old man, and a self-centered, self-righteous, arrogant racist. The hallmark of his politics is now a petulant mischief making, which wants to bring the whole house down if he can’t have his way. Worse, from his own political point of view, he doesn’t even have a hand on the pulse of the people. His latest anti-cricket, anti-people remarks are a testament to this.

Imran Khan proudly claims he hasn’t seen a single cricket match in the recently concluded PSL cricket series (or is it PCL, he asked?) that broke all records of popularity and passion among Pakistanis at home and abroad. He believes the Final match should not have been played in Lahore even though this was the most consistently arduous and fervent demand of the masses despite a terrorist bombing in the city earlier. On the eve of the Final, Khan made a statement about the “bad security” situation in Lahore that scared away international cricketing stars and deprived tens of millions Pakistanis of the joy of seeing them in action. Then he humiliated some of the top international players in the world who came to Lahore by calling them “phhateechar” and “relu kattay” from Africa, adding insult to injury. He insists that the PSL will not encourage international cricket to return to Pakistan. But, following reports by international security experts who witnessed the Final match and security arrangements in Lahore and declared it to be a “safe city” for sport, it has been announced that an ICC International Eleven is now set to visit Lahore and play a few matches in September.

Cricketing fans, enthusiasts and experts across the globe, including in India, have praised the PSL and the decision to successfully play the Final in Lahore. They recognize this as a historic development that will pave the way for international cricket to return to Pakistan after eight long years of isolation, which had taken a toll on the development of cricketing talent in the country and adversely impacted the Pakistan cricket team’s ratings. But despite being roundly condemned, Imran Khan still hasn’t demonstrated the courage or humility to apologise for his outrageous, anti-cricket, anti-people comments.

The irony is that Khan’s politics is entirely based on populism even as his repeated attempts to exploit populism to capture power have floundered on the rocks of misplaced concreteness. Consider the trajectory of his political career.

He jumped into politics in the mid 1990s on the basis of his popularity as a cricketing hero but wandered like a lost soul in the political wilderness until the “establishment” laundered him and presented him as its own candidate in the 2013 elections. When he didn’t quite deliver on the agenda, the “establishment” retooled him for a series of dharnas and long marches from 2014-16 to overthrow the Nawaz Sharif government. But a change of high command in the “establishment”, which has disowned the policies of its predecessors, has left Khan forlorn and frustrated. Now he is pressurizing the judiciary and Election Commission so that they will bend to his dictation.

The Supreme Court has been pressurized on two counts. Imran Khan has alleged that the new Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, has “connections” and “sympathy” with the Sharifs and PMLN even though the government has had no hand in the appointment of his Lordship or his peers. This may have led the CJP to excuse himself from hearing the Panama case. Then he has warned the Panama case bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa that he will boycott proceedings if it dares to appoint a time-consuming commission of inquiry and investigation into the charges instead of directly and quickly disqualifying Nawaz Sharif. This is as unprecedented as it is outrageous. The good judges have chosen to ignore the threat instead of holding Khan in contempt, which suggests the pressure tactics may be working. Under the circumstances, it would be an unprecedented travesty of justice if the SC were to sacrifice the law and constitution at the altar of populism.

Khan is also targeting the Election Commission of Pakistan. Except for the PTI, the government and opposition parties have all cooperated to fashion a reform agenda for the next elections as advised by the Judicial Commission chaired by CJP Nasirul Mulk over a year ago. Nearly 100 meetings have been held under the chairmanship of Ishaq Dar and Zahid Hamid with 33 party representatives from both houses of parliament and EC officials in attendance to hammer out a good constitutional amendment. But the PTI has tabled 100 objections to the consensus draft and also insulted EC officials in the bargain, provoking a deadlock and walk out. Now Imran Khan is threatening to launch a street movement against the ECP. This is pressure tactics at its worst, with more to follow.

Imran Khan is an angry old man. His politics is petulant mischief making which wants to bring the whole house down if he can’t have his way.