Islamabad Diary

Maulana Fazlur Rehman doesn’t realise the debt of gratitude he owes Imran Khan. If it weren’t for Khan would Nawaz Sharif bother about the Maulana and put up with his naaz and nakhras? The Maulana should know what’s good for him: his importance today in the government’s eyes derives only from Imran Khan.

N League MNAs and MPAs collectively should thank their stars that Imran Khan is around. Otherwise as they well know their leaders would treat them no better than their serfs and tenants. They should bow in the direction of Bani Gala and offer him their thanks, even if from a distance. Imran has taken out the ‘sarya’ – the steel rod – from the necks of their leadership. But for this there would be no opposition in the country and Pakistan would be little better than a ‘democratic’ one-party state.

Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry, if they were only to consider the matter coolly, owe their employment opportunities to the same source, Imran Khan. Without him and the need to attack him on a daily basis, who in his right mind would give them the time of day, they who are figures out of political comedy?

Muhammad Zubair, chairman of the Privatisation Commission which makes him a government servant who shouldn’t be speaking on politics but who speaks on politics and nothing else all the time, is the third of this comedy team – I almost said stooge but wasn’t sure of my editors. He opens his mouth and the words that come out are about Imran. Without Imran how would he prove his prove his existence or utility? Come to think of it, an intelligent man reduced to being a loudspeaker and apologist for the messy doings of his political masters…one can only sympathise with his predicament.

And where would Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid be without Imran Khan? He would have nothing to say. There’s also this to consider that with Imran he’s on safe ground. He says the usual things about him and no harm is done. The moment he leaves Imran Khan what does he do? He gets into something like the Dawn story – an amazing defence of the Indian thesis pushed at full throttle by the Modi government that Pakistan army and ISI are sympathisers and abettors of ‘jihadi’ terrorism.

And the Sharifs can’t figure out why the generals are not amused. With a story like this, and the lengths to which the whiz-kids went about planting it, what did they expect? Now they are running in panic mode and smelling conspiracies all around. They should be asking themselves why they got into this soup in the first place.

The liberati, aka democracy-lovers, are worried. My friend Asma Jahangir is worried, admonishing the political class in her last take on the subject not to cut the branch on which they sit. When she is worried you can tell the Sharifs are in trouble. People like her are very clear-eyed. They see everything except the rapacity of the present ruling order. Why couldn’t they have rung the alarm bells a bit sooner and admonished the ruling family to be more forthcoming about their Panama fortunes? It would have saved everyone a great deal of trouble.

Having thrown this challenge of shutting down the capital Imran should have been an anxious and nervous man. But look at him and look at his press encounters every day and unlike the Imran of yore who always wore an angry look he seems very relaxed, almost as if he was enjoying himself. And look at Shahbaz Sharif. He was beside himself, almost hysterical, when he was responding to the charge levelled by Imran earlier in the day that his front-man was someone called Javed Sadiq who represents a Chinese company being investigated for corrupt practices in several countries, among them Nigeria. Shahbaz Shahbaz had really nothing to say but he was wagging his finger, part of his trademark style, and resorting to his characteristic defence line that if any corruption against him was proved he would do this and this. And Imran tweeted that the lady was protesting too much.

Our democracy lovers have a strange interpretation of democracy. Plunder takes place, wealth is secreted abroad, there is daylight robbery going on in what are called mega-projects and everything is fine. Democracy is not in danger. The Panama revelations appear and the ruling family goes completely silent, providing no answers. And democracy lovers also remain quiet. The moment questions are asked about the revelations the wail goes up from the housetops that democracy is in danger and army and ISI are up to their old games.

Is there no accountability in democracy? Did Nixon get away with his Watergate caper? Were no questions asked of Clinton, and didn’t the impeachment process start, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke into the open?

If there is no accountability in Pakistani democracy, if the Sharifs won’t answer questions raised by the Panama leaks, what alternative is Imran Khan or anyone else concerned about these matters left with?

But these are academic questions. We are now faced with a real situation, Imran Khan’s protest in Islamabad to which have been added two other factors: the Supreme Court hearings into the Panama leaks, and the constitutional petitions arising from them, and the concern of the army command arising from the Dawn planted story.

You don’t have to be an astrologer to figure out that things are coming to a head. The PTI is working hard to bring people to Islamabad. My own hunch is that what to talk of anything else coming from any other direction, the procession from Peshawar comprising charged crowds and PTI leaders will be hard to stop. And if God forbid there are any clashes then the situation immediately goes out of the government’s control…and the intervention of the ‘third force’ comes all that nearer.

Whatever they eventually decide, and whichever way their verdict goes, their lordships should move fast. There is no scope for delay in the Panama petitions. Maybe then the resolution of this crisis comes from that quarter.

If not, then matters move to another level. The most popular army commander in Pakistan’s history, popular amongst his own force and the population at large, is no lame-duck and will not be one until the very moment of his relinquishing the army command on Nov 29. If all else fails it may then be time for not a coup d’état but a coup de theatre…something on the lines of what Gen Waheed Kakar did in 1993 when the constitution was not suspended but the crisis gripping the country was resolved. Gen Kakar left when his time was over, refusing an offer of extension coming from Benazir Bhutto.

Provided he puts his mind to it, Gen Raheel can achieve something similar in the month and no more that remains to him. The decision of appointing the next army chief can also be taken during this period, this not to be left to the perpetrators of the Dawn leak. And then on Nov 29 Gen Raheel can pass on his baton to his successor, to the applause and acclaim of the Pakistani nation.