What do Rahul Gandhi and Imran Khan have in common?

Hamid Mir

What do Imran Khan and Rahul Gandhi have in common? Some people in Pakistan and India started comparing them last year when both opposition leaders measured flour in litres.
While comparing the prices of atta during his tenure and Shehbaz Sharif’s tenure, former premier Khan said, “The public is currently facing difficulties with flour because it has doubled in price. One kilogram of flour, at our time, was at PKR (Rs) 50 and today, it has gone over Rs100 per litre.”
Rahul addressed the public in Delhi where he compared the prices in 2014 to what they were in 2022. He had said, “Flour was (INR) Rs 22 per litre and now it is Rs 40 per litre.” Somebody commented that both leaders read from the same book. “Atta in Litres.”
They have many other things in common. Khan can speak perfect Urdu but cannot read it properly. According to some reports in Indian media, Rahul uses Roman script to read Hindi in Parliament. Khan is Oxford-educated and Rahul is educated from Cambridge University. Khan was disqualified from the membership of Parliament by the Election Commission of Pakistan last year. Rahul has also recently been disqualified from Parliament after his conviction by a Gujarat court. Khan was disqualified for one term and Pakistani courts later allowed him to contest by-elections. Will Rahul also get a relief from the courts like Khan?

We can compare the politics of Imran Khan with Rahul Gandhi, but we cannot compare the democracy of Pakistan with India? India saw only one Emergency imposed by the grandmother of Rahul Gandhi and Indian media tasted naked censorship for a very short period. The Pakistanis faced four Martial Laws with a total period of 33 years.
Pakistani courts have always bowed down to the dictates of military dictators. There was only one brave Judge, Justice Waqar Seth, who wrote a historical judgment against the last military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, in 2019. There was a golden chance to stop the interference of the military in politics forever by implementing the verdict against Musharraf.

Unfortunately, Imran Khan was in power and his government rejected the court’s verdict. The government of Imran Khan announced to approach the Supreme Judicial Council for removing the judge who wanted to hang a dictator for abrogating the Constitution of Pakistan. Khan saved Musharraf with the help of then Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and gave an extension to his service the same year.
Now, Khan blames General Bajwa every day for conspiring against him. Khan failed to make a ‘Naya Pakistan’ when he was given power by the military establishment. He is now trying to make ‘Naya Pakistan’ again by blackmailing new Army Chief General Asim Munir.
Khan doesn’t want to stop the interference of the military in politics. He wants the military to stop supporting Shehbaz Sharif and facilitate him again to become Prime Minister. He wanted to meet the new Army Chief through President Arif Alvi, but the Army chief regretted with an excuse that “I want to stay away from politics’.
What is the big difference between Imran Khan and Rahul Gandhi? Khan still believes that he can come back to power with the help of the military. Rahul cannot think of coming into power with the help of the military. Here, I must admit that, actually, there is no comparison between Imran Khan and Rahul Gandhi. We can only compare Khan with the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified for a lifetime in 2017.
Nawaz Sharif came into power with the help of the military establishment. He was disqualified by judges who were puppets of some Generals. Imran Khan also came to power through the dirtiest election in the history of Pakistan. Khan was ‘selected’ and not elected through the 2018 sham election rigged by intelligence agencies. He was ousted through a no-confidence in Parliament because the military leadership turned against him. Both were nurtured by the military establishment and both faced the wrath of their creators.
Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, is the Prime Minister of a 13-party coalition. He is trying his best to disqualify Imran Khan forever in the name of “level-playing field”. Home Minister Rana Sanaullah recently said that “Imran Khan has brought the nation’s politics to a point where only one of us can exist”. He wants to take revenge for a narcotics smuggling case he faced when Imran Khan was in power.
The fact is that the 13-party ruling alliance is not in a position to defeat Imran Khan through a fair and free election and that’s why Khan is trying to come back through an early election. He dissolved the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to pave the way for a general election on April 30, but the Election Commission of Pakistan delayed the polls till October this year. Now, Imran Khan is trying to get help from the superior judiciary for holding an early election.
He enjoys support of many High Court and Supreme Court judges. Some of these judges have been declared as the facilitators of Khan by Maryam Nawaz Sharif because they played a role in 2017 to disqualify Nawaz Sharif. There is a clear divide. Military establishment is standing behind Shehbaz Sharif, but many judges are openly supporting Khan not because they believe in the supremacy of the constitution. They are supporting Khan because current Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Atta Bandial will be retiring in September 2023 and then Qazi Faez Issa will take over as the new CJP who survived a disqualification reference when Khan was in power. All pro-Khan judges are anti-Qazi Faez Issa. This infighting has nothing to do with principles.
Imran Khan is playing his cards very cleverly. He used the anti-Americanism card last year to attract public sympathy and is now using some American lobbyists to mobilise support from US media and politicians. His biggest support came from a former US diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad, who opposed the disqualification of Imran Khan.
This unexpected support actually backfired because Khalilzad always criticised Pakistan and Taliban when he was serving as a US Ambassador in Afghanistan. He urged his government to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. The Pakistani government showed displeasure with his statements many times when Imran Khan was in power. Khalilzad was declared arrogant and hostile by the senior Cabinet ministers of Imran Khan. Khalilzad was also part of the Doha talks between Afghan Taliban and the US. Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021 in violation of Doha agreement and Khalilzad faced huge embarrassment. Imran Khan always supported the Afghan Taliban and his critics called him ‘Taliban Khan’. Recent statements from Khalilzad in support of ‘Taliban Khan’ dispelled the impression that the government of Khan was toppled by an American conspiracy. Khalilzad is very well-known as a spokesperson of the US security establishment. He himself explained his relationship with the CIA in his book ‘The Envoy’ published in 2016.
Imran Khan is disappointed with the Pakistan Army. Now, he is testing his luck with Americans. His lobbyists are trying to arrange his meetings with US Senators and manipulate US media from New York to Washington. First, he used an anti-American card to pressurise the Pakistan Army. Now, he is trying to use some American lobbyists to pressure his old masters. He himself doesn’t see much chance of returning to power. He is mentally prepared for another disqualification and for an arrest too. Even if he manages to come back to power, how will he give economic and political stability to Pakistan without the support of the Army Chief? Will he first remove the current Army Chief and bring his own Army Chief? He is in Pakistan not in India.
The only way out left for him is to start a dialogue with his political opponents for holding elections and resolve all disputes with the military establishment. He cannot defeat the military establishment with the help of some judges and US lobbying firms. His opponents should also realise that disqualification or arrest of Imran Khan is not the solution to any problem.
I have seen many disqualifications in Pakistan through courts. I must say that these disqualifications were manipulated out of revenge politics and created more complications. Imran Khan was part of those manipulations and conspiracies in the past but it’s time to learn lessons from past mistakes. Disqualification of Imran Khan cannot resolve any problem in Pakistan. Let us move forward with a positive approach.

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