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Imran Khan is experiencing a political autumn in this hot summer

Hamid Mir

Khan, is losing his battle against the army

His party is over but his politics isn’t over yet, he is the Pakistani version of Donald Trump

His party is over. Imran Khan is now sending secret messages to his political opponents to unite against the army, but they are not ready to trust him. Imran Khan is experiencing a political autumn in this hot summer. The leaves from his party are falling fast and falling as though falling in love with power. Every other day, his former governors, former chief ministers and former federal ministers are leaving him and his party shamelessly, with an “I condemn the events of May 9 and I am leaving PTI” statements. May 9 turned into a 9/11 for Imran Khan due to a direct confrontation between Khan and the army. He failed to mobilise public support against the army. A huge number of his loyalists turned into proverbial rats fleeing a sinking ship after May 9. But a new entrant to the party refused to join the mischief despite being old and sick; he was also arrested and jailed. Who is this man? Chaudhry Pervez Elahi is a former Chief Minister of Punjab and former Deputy Prime Minister of Pakistan. At one point, Imran Khan had declared him the biggest dacoit of Punjab. Then, Khan embraced him as the Chief Minister of Punjab to save his government in the biggest province of Punjab. Elahi was appointed as the President of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) a few months ago, and he is one among the few loyalists of Khan left in Punjab. He is 77. He ditched Nawaz Sharif in 1999 and established a new political party under the umbrella of General Pervez Musharraf. The old man is now standing strong with Imran Khan who is confronting the Pakistan Army these days. Enemies of Khan want Elahi to join a new political party – which was launched a few days ago – with all those who deserted PTI. Maybe, Elahi thinks that Khan will be disqualified from politics for a long time, and he can lead the party in his absence because he was made President of PTI a few months ago.
In fact, Imran Khan is losing his battle against the Pakistan Army. His party is over, but his politics isn’t over yet. He is the Pakistani version of Donald Trump. He committed several blunders in politics but was still popular among his supporters. Both Trump and Khan are facing very serious charges, including mutiny. Imran Khan claims that he will be tried in a military court soon. He is mentally prepared to spend some time in jail. Before going to jail, he is trying to bridge the gap with his staunch political opponents. He sent feelers to some politicians in the ruling coalition, with the message ‘let us try to minimise the role of the Army in politics’. All his major opponents have been criticising the interference of the army in politics but none of them is ready to trust him. They are wary of his U-turns. His public stance is different from his private stance. On several occasions in the past, he has alleged that all his political opponents were a bunch of thieves, but now he is ready to engage these very ‘thieves’ in secret talks.
On the one hand, Khan is trying to open channels with Army Chief General Asim Munir. He ruled out talks with the political government and is eager to engage with the army, but on the other, he is trying to blackmail the military leadership. His opponents think that he is trying to make a strong bargaining position by engaging “thieves” in talks. His carrot-and-stick policy is not working with General Asim Munir or with his political opponents. Home Minister Rana Sanaullah clearly said that Khan will be tried in a military court for planning and executing the attacks on May 9, but his government is not just fighting Imran Khan. They have launched an aggressive attack on media freedom. Islamabad Police filed a case against the owner of BOL TV, Shoaib Sheikh, and one of its anchors, Sami Ibrahim, under sedition charges on June 15. According to the First Information Report, both were involved in inciting people to attack military installations on May 9. Interestingly, this case was registered a month after May 9, and the FIR said that the suspects were involved in hatching an organised conspiracy of insurgency and civil war in Pakistan on the directions of anti-Pakistani forces.
A similar case was filed by Islamabad Police against two US-based journalists, Shaheen Sehbai and Wajahat Saeed Khan, along with two retired Army officers, Haider Raza Mehdi and Adil Raja. They were booked under mutiny and anti-terrorism acts. Adil Raja was detained by London police a few days ago but released after a few hours. Three more journalists, Moeed Pirzada, Sabir Shakir and Akbar Hussain, were booked under sedition charges in a separate case by Islamabad police. Pirzada and Sabir Shakir left Pakistan many months ago to avoid arrest.
Another Lahore-based journalist and YouTuber, Imran Riaz, has been missing for over a month. He was arrested twice in the past but he got bail orders from different courts. In the third instance, he was taken into custody from Sialkot Airport when he was trying to flee to Oman. There is video evidence on his arrest, but police claimed in Lahore High Court that they didn’t know about his whereabouts. All these journalists were close to the military establishment until April last year. Most of them supported a ban on me in 2021. Two of them declared me a traitor on their TV shows since I always criticised the use of colonial black laws against political workers and journalists. I also opposed the kidnapping of journalists and unannounced censorship in Pakistan when Imran Khan was in power. Sabir Shakir and Imran Riaz were not only close to the military establishment, but they were also supporting Imran Khan. They violently supported the wrong policies of Khan. A few days before his mysterious disappearance, Imran Riaz accepted his past mistakes. If he did anything wrong, he should be produced in a court of law. His detention in some undeclared jail is not only a violation of law but also a war against the constitution of Pakistan. I condemn the attacks on Army installations on May 9, but culprits involved in those attacks should be treated according to the law.
The use of brutal force against political opponents is counterproductive. Forcing newspapers and TV channels to not carry pictures of Imran Khan is illegal. His media blackout has resulted in rising public sympathy. People are not coming out on the roads to support him, but they may use votes to extract revenge in the next election. That’s why the future of elections is also uncertain. Many people think that Khan is innocent until proven guilty. Khan imposed censorship on Nawaz Sharif in 2020. I opposed it. How can I support censorship against Imran Khan in 2023? I criticised the Supreme Court of Pakistan when Nawaz Sharif was disqualified in 2017. How can I endorse the disqualification of Imran Khan by any court?
Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan hate each other. Both tried to destroy each other with the help of the security establishment. They are prisoners of their revenge politics. I don’t believe in revenge. I am an idealist. I am not a politician. I want genuine democracy and the rule of law in my country. I don’t support any political party. I only support the constitution of Pakistan. Today, 13 political parties in the ruling alliance are winning their battle against Imran Khan. They are also trying to delay the general election due in October this year. They want to defeat Imran Khan by delaying elections. A delay in elections will not be a defeat of Khan. It will be a defeat of the constitution.

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