Imran’s assault – part deux


Checking the balance sheet


The Supreme Court of Pakistan whistled in midst of brewing a more explosive clash between people’s power and state power on 1 Nov 2016. Its efforts worked magically. The “flag bearer” of the people’s power (Imran Khan), gleefully hastened to show his agreement and the superintendent of state power (Nawaz Sharif) grudgingly bowed to follow the command. Unsurprisingly, it generated a public debate that the beleaguered Imran khan had jumped on the opportunity to cut his losses and that it was a God sent opportunity of face saving which he did not miss to grab with both hands. This is not only the view of his noisy detractors, but also of his aggressive and impatient supporters. They call it a “somersault” in adversity. Alternatively, it’s a master stroke which took his opponents by surprise, leaving them perplexed and unnerved. Both views prompted me to write this article because what matters is what both rivals have in their balance sheet. It could only indicate what they aim to harvest next; pain or pleasure.

The aim of Imran Khan behind his assault on Nawaz Sharif was either to get his resignation or a Nawaz Sharif lying flat on a stretcher of open accountability. The PTI pursued a two pronged strategy of street power and legal recourse. The decisions of Supreme Court left Nawaz Sharif in exactly the condition Imran Khan had dreamed: for SC to hear PTI’s petitions without unnecessary pause till justice is dispensed, Opposition formulated or neutral TORs, and for Nawaz Sharif to answer what is required in trial of his family in connection to Panama leaks. The court added something else as well: stern warnings to the Sharif family regarding legal consequences if a reply wasn’t submitted by the given date. It is a 180 degree swing to what Nawaz Sharif contemplated and was a serious jolt. He now has to stand in front of a Supreme Court which at first place, was not inclined to listen to the case despite the hullaballoo.

If proceedings of the Supreme Court so far are any guide, it is no overstatement that Nawaz Sharif is fighting a lost battle. For instance: the case is being heard to address the welfare of the people (considered the supreme law), accountability of the head that wears the crown (the Chief Executive of the nation, Nawaz Sharif), that the Court can utilise the Qanun e Shahdat, Court orders to all involved order regarding the submission of all evidence by November 15, and the Court’s observation that the necessity of a Judicial Commission has not yet been finalised. Apparently, the case has two dimensions: one is prima facie evidence, and the other is technical evidence. The legal posture of Nawaz Sharif and his family is angular and awkward under the weight of their contradictions – fatal even to the legally untutored. The situation for Nawaz Sharif has never been so precariously placed.This time it may not be a simple ouster but a judicial order to leave in disgrace with a fatal tag of disqualification.

It would be a resounding turnaround from the black hole in which we’ve fallen after our inception. In all fairness, its major share goes to Imran Khan who did not allow the issue to go off screen. He should not be censured if he can achieve his end with soft means of more acceptability instead of hard tactics. Pakistan has a disturbing legal past, true, but in the presence of a new, refreshing atmosphere, perhaps maintaining a sanguine view is a better, more positive approach.

Of course, Khan’s decision is not politically cost free. It dented the confidence of his aggressive and ideological cadre, estranging a large number. Possibly the main reason was the failure of Imran Khan to do what he he’d said regarding ensuring PTI workers would flock to the capital unhindered and converge to lock it down. However, when government obstructed this move, none but the KPK chapter had any contingency plans. The top leadership’s convergence at Bani Gala was also beyond the comprehension and largely exposed the superficiality of their oft-claimed street power. It is needless to say that these inadequacies have given enough locomotion Nawaz Sharif’s mills to grind Imran Khan for political naivety and lack of ability to confront his political power and influence. Nevertheless, lockdown politics accrued two eminent advantages to Imran Khan. One: by solo flight, he pushed all forces of status quo in one distinct corner. Now it is all between him and them. Two, it generated immense heat to create a greater sense of urgency for resolution of the conflict.

Imran Khan wanted a Nawaz Sharif lying flat on stretcher of open accountability. To his good luck, he has found Nawaz Sharif on a legal ventilator in state of clinically dead. If Supreme Court makes him a legal causality, Imran Khan would regain the lost grounds sooner than later because success is an instant healer and magnet. If Nawaz Sharif emerges from Supreme Court unscathed, he would pass through his present tenure of government with sufficient wind in sails and would be a force to be reckoned with in general elections 2018.