Is Imran Khan the biggest threat to democracy in Pakistan?

On the website of the leading Pakistani daily Dawn, two (of the four) articles in the section dedicated to editorials are as follows: ‘PTI’s bizarre proposals‘ and ‘The mask of anarchy‘.

The first, presumably written by the edit page staff of the paper, underlines the absurdity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s demands placed before the Nawaz Sharif government. Last week, the protest march, led by Imran Khan had stormed Islamabad’s red zone, proceeded towards the country’s parliament with next to no resistance from the government.

While, it was read as a victory for the protesters demanding Nawaz Sharif resign immediately the events that followed revealed that Sharif had played well. Because in the course of the next few days, the events unfolded in a way to make Imran Khan look increasingly vacuous, while Sharif held fort, quietly. From threatening to storming Sharif’s house, Imran Khan came down to demanding a temporary resignation, where he asked Sharif to step aside for a month so that the judicial commission’s enquiry into the alleged rigging in the country’s polls concluded without government pressure.

Naturally, national and international media reacted with ridicule. Almost in the way India’s media reacted when AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal first organised a dharna against his city’s police force, then quit the government and then decided to run for the general elections this year by challenging Narendra Modi. Like Kejriwal’s recent political trajectory in India, Imran Khan’s gimmicky ‘protest’ has not been received well by the media in Pakistan and abroad.

Understandably, therefore, the editorial in Dawn punches several holes in PTI’s stand on the Nawaz Sharif government by observing, “Consider that the very elections that the PTI is disputing were held under a caretaker government. Clearly then, even within the PTI’s scheme of things, if the PML-N was allegedly able to rig an election when not in office, could it not affect the outcome of a judicial inquiry when the party has governments at both the centre and in the principally electorally disputed province of Punjab?”

Almost as a nod to Dawn’s stand, an editorial on another Pakistan daily Express Tribune describes Imran Khan’s situation as ‘Lose Lose’. Talking about Khan’s grand announcements, the writer Saroop Ijaz says about PTI’s stir, “Everybody wants it to stop, except maybe Mr Imran Khan. One can only speculate on how those who truly care for him will be pained to see all this happening to him. It is all heading towards ending with a whimper; any banging sound will only be made by heads.”

The second editorial in Dawn spells it out without mincing words: “What is the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s great revolutionary idea that will fix our broken homeland? Replacement of Nawaz Sharif with Imran Khan? Is the PTI fighting for a goal larger than the political aggrandisement of Imran Khan?”

Writer Babar Sattar observes, “If its sole purpose is to fix a perceived unproven wrong inflicted on the PTI voter in 2013, this movement by definition is a narrow partisan struggle not aimed at empowering ordinary citizens but a means to snatch power from the PML-N and hand it to the PTI.”

And it’s not just Pakistanis who seem to be discomfited by Imran Khan’s flashy political rhetoric and confusing political message. New York Times’ Declan Walsh observes in a piece on the protest that the mood at the protests is mostly carnival-esque. He writes, “On the streets, Mr. Khan’s movement has the boisterous feel of a midsummer music festival. Pop stars introduce his speeches, which are punctuated by songs during which his supporters, many of them women, burst into dance. A disc jockey known as DJ Butt is part of his entourage.”

It’s almost impossible to ignore the glaring similarities with the anti-corruption movement started by Anna Hazare, steeped in rousing youth support. Like that movement was almost a performed, with all its pop culture ramifications, Imran Khan’s ‘protest’ seems theatrical, almost an elaborate attempt to confer heroism on Imran Khan, anew.

It’s equally hard to ignore, how, like the anti-corruption movement that AAP’s grandiose anti-establishment politicking ran out of fizz. And the latter got branded as ‘anarchists’ – a brand they anyway decided to flaunt with impudence. However, the petulance had its effect on the voters, reflected in the shoddy performance of the party in the general elections.

Imran Khan, might, well be headed in the direction. The Wall Street Journal notes that despite all the sound and fury, despite Khan promising at least a million protesters, the officials numbers could be anything between just 20,000 and 50,000. Definitely not more than 60,000.

Like we had noted in our live blog in the past, Khan’s call to stop paying taxes and utility bills was met were severe criticism from the business communities and intellectuals of the country who pointed out that he is encouraging the citizens to serve a death blow to their own country’s economy.

Also, PTI’s voters in Peshawar were reportedly wary of Khan’s theatrics and said that none of the promises made to them have even been taken up by Khan in the past few months. The region continues to suffer from the same old ills.

Walsh notes in The New York Times article, “Mr. Khan’s call for supporters to stop paying taxes and utility bills met with widespread derision because few Pakistanis pay income taxes, and the country is already crippled with power shortages.” Much like Kejriwal’s call to Delhi to stop paying bills was met with a fair amount of concern.

If the alarm bells ringing about Khan manage to shake his voters up, this protest movement might be just his undoing.

Courtesy: First Post
http://m.firstpost.com/world/is-imran-khan-the-biggest-threat-to-democracy-in-pakistan-1680387.html

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On army chief’s advice, govt to pursue talks with PTI, PAT again

By Kamran Yousaf

The government on Thursday approached both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) after Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give talks one more chance.

Prime minister and army chief met for the second time in three days against the backdrop of government’s lingering deadlock with PTI and PAT.

Insiders told The Express Tribune that Nawaz briefed the army chief about talks with Qadri and Imran.

According to sources, the premier told General Raheel that government had agreed to accept first two demands of PAT in return for Qadri calling off the sit-in outside the Parliament.

But an agreement could not be reached after Qadri refused to accept the government’s condition, sources said.

Sources further said the army chief advised the prime minister to give talks one more chance and after which the government decided to approach both PTI and PAT.

A senior government official claimed that the army chief conveyed a clear message to both Qadri and Imran to resolve the impasse through dialogue.

“It was agreed to take necessary measures for resumption of stalled process of negotiations for an expeditious resolution in the best national interest,” the spokesperson for the PM House added.

The crucial meeting was held hours after talks between government and Qadri broke down on Wednesday evening over the registration of First Information Report (FIR) of Model Town incident.

Following the meeting between the COAS and premier, the government agreed to accept Qadri’s demand of FIR.

The official while requesting anonymity also said the next 24 hours would be very crucial.

He also insisted that the army chief extended his support to the government in the face off of brewing political tensions.

However, army officials could not be reached for their reaction on the meeting between General Raheel and Nawaz Sharif.

Later, both PAT and PTI accepted army chief’s role as mediator and guarantor to end the crisis.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune
http://tribune.com.pk/story/754978/coas-asked-to-help-resolve-political-impasse/#.U_-DM1r3lvQ.facebook

Govt should voluntarily step down to avoid bloodshed, says Altaf Hussain

By Dawn.com

LONDON: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain terming all demands of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri as ‘valid’, has said that it would be in the country’s interest if the government voluntarily stepped down to avoid any bloodshed, DawnNews reported.

Talking about the anti-government sit-ins being held in the federal capital city and a possible government reaction, Hussain said that the government should consider the safety of women and children, participating in the sit-ins.

He further cited that the ‘third force’ would have to intervene, if Tahirul Qardi did not step back voluntarily.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1128264/govt-should-voluntarily-step-down-to-avoid-bloodshed-says-altaf-hussain

Pakistan: To Coup or not to Coup

By Ayesha Siddiqa

Excerpt;

Someone watching Pakistan from afar would really wonder if the state has not begun to resemble some of the countries in Africa. There is a deep power struggle amongst the ruling elite that totally ignores the fact that the country and its people cannot afford this kind of life style. Anarchy, in fact, has become Pakistan’s trademark. The battle for and obsession with power is to a degree that while challenging opponents leaders do not consider longer interest of the state and its people. Asking people not to pay taxes or sending money through official channels is not just about starving the government. It is about establishing a very bad habit that the country can ill-afford. What if Imran Khan makes the government tomorrow which does not meet an ideal standard that he seems to have set for his followers? This is not protest but a criminalisation of politics which is as bad as some of what he seems to object to.

We hear little about the negative impact of the current state of politics. People are actually losing opportunities and the economy is bleeding money faster than usual. The small and medium entrepreneurs that I talked to recently in various cities of Punjab complained about how business has almost dried up since the marches were announced. The reason people are not crying out loud and surviving is probably due to a parallel economy. The pro-government rallies are not likely to help improve conditions but increase the threat of a real conflict. Many believe that the clash between mobs is what might open doors for a hard coup.

Perhaps, the powers that be should take a plunge. It will be interesting to see what they then feel about a world they created themselves. The establishment and its many intellectual clients often refer to the Bangladesh model. What they often forget is that Dhaka’s political system or people’s choices did not change even with intervention. The challenges are far bigger than what some of the foreign qualified Chicago trained economists, commercial bankers or development gurus could manage to even understand. The US has some of the best universities but it has also produced experts that have often messed up with developing states rather than put things right. The question is can Pakistan afford such experimentation?

This is a not a moment for personal egos but for compromises which aim at benefiting the country and not just the individual. Instead of aiming at resignation of the prime minister it would help if Imran and Qadri could extract commitment for transparent institutional changes which will take this country a long way. If not then we have terribly lost our way into an endless abyss.

Courtesy: Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2014.
http://tribune.com.pk/story/754389/to-coup-or-not-to-coup/