By Ali Aftab Saeed –
Imran’s latest statements leave a bad taste
Hate him or love him, it seems you just can’t stop Imran from saying something so unusual that the statement becomes a frog that an entire army of politico-doctors has to dissect. From the campaigning days to date, his line has not just been anathema to the liberal class but has been, on many occasions, beyond the approval of the conservative right.
Nadeem F. Paracha diagnosed it as induced naivety. Cyril Almeida observed that it is the demagogue in Khan. Haroon Rasheed believes this is due to Khan’s poor choice of advisers. While it could be anything, I’m warning all of you out there that Immy is neither a stuntman nor a clown.
There have been numerous statements by Imran that have made everybody hold their heads or thumb their noses but many people consider his plea to open Taliban office a statement that takes the cake in dumbness. No matter how ludicrous this demand sounds, I still believe there is a method to the Khan’s madness.
It all started when Imran demanded of the COAS and the Prime Minister to meet in person as a precondition to participate in the All Parties Conference. The apparent reason for an individual briefing by the two pillars of State was as if Khan wanted a clear picture of where the State actually stood, prior to him giving his recommendations in the APC. He also wanted to figure out what both of them were willing to compromise on individually, and what were redlines. Since then, with the unfolding of events, he is making it more and more difficult for the reigning Prime minister and COAS to make him happy.
Critics of Imran tend to forget that there are now three instead of two major parties in Pakistan and Immy leaves no opportunity to rub that in. Regardless of what goes on in APC (a politician can never go against the idea of talks), the PPP, for the present, has shown its preference for a military operation. They did it because of two reasons. One, on the face of it, they gave the go ahead to the army for the operation in Swat. Second, they had calculated that keeping the past in mind that would be, for Sharif, the last and most distasteful option. PPP’s stance thus served two purposes for them: It goes against something Mian Sahib wouldn’t want to do and this reluctance on his part could help PPP to repair its tarnished image. PPP after all is a progressive political party when in opposition.
Imran, on the other hand, seems to be carving an entirely different image for himself. That he is poles apart from PPP, he has made it very obvious. He also wants to make himself look different from not only the moderate PML-N but also a bunch of parties tethered by the beard (not just by being incorruptible in money matters but those of policy making too). A lot of people believe he will never be able to manage a half decent government in KPK and his political career is heading towards a dead end. Similarly, there is also talk that the federal government is very unlikely to complete its tenure. This gives a lot of hope to Imran. What fortifies this hope is that he knows the Mian would rather wait than act and even if, at any point, he decides to do something, it will precipitate his down fall for lack of success.
Imran’s demand to let Taliban open an office isn’t just to avoid the inconvenience of going through the number of their factions and figuring out how many are against the dialogue and who would be their representative. The main reason behind this is that he knows that no State or its people would cheerfully allow that to happen. Therefore, it is fine as long as NS is procrastinating by conducting APC’s or even if he goes through the hugely ambiguous process of talks with TTP. It suits Imran because it would a testimony to his sagacity for having foretold the reason for its failure.
Nawaz has no options to weigh against other. He is praying to God to fast forward these months taking him directly to the actual US evacuation and then make him take a decision for what it is worth. The State is confused over the post US scenario. As much as they want to do something about the TTP, who knows how helpful they may be in the days to come following the withdrawal of US. There’s always a small little light at the end of the tunnel, telling us that a liability can always become an asset again. On top of it, Nawaz doesn’t trust the military. Every military minded Pakistani is glued to the idea of our God given role in Afghanistan. But even if Nawaz could embolden himself to take them down, the operation would have be exactly how Hameed Gul has proposed. Gul believes there are a total of five Taliban outfits that are against Pakistan and should be eliminated by force at the earliest.
The rest are our assets and should be recognized and nurtured. Nawaz is rightly suspicious that one policy shift is all it takes to make militant groups, even the best of friends to go for or against you. Hence, an operation for him is no option at all. As for talks, nobody knows who to have them with, how long would that take and which way the camel of law and order settles down. The idea here is to hope that a minimum number of people die of terrorist activities with the passage of time as the picture gets clearer for Nawaz to take any palpable steps.
Getting back to the issue at hand, Imran recognizes he doesn’t have too much time. There’s again rift in the party after making Jehangir Tareen the Secretary General. Lahore is also falling apart as Aleem Khan and Mehmood- ur- Rasheed fight it out over the local government election territory. Imran’s only chance is if the federal government falls as quickly as possible. Otherwise, things might get easier for Nawaz with the passage of time, the true healer.
Imran is keen on creating an impression that it’s just a façade that the army is ready to jump off, all guns blazing or that Nawaz is ready for the talks….and if they are, nought will work since it is Khan only who has the real workable recipe that can possibly work. Also that Imran’s recipe is so complex that only Immy the Chef can cook it. The first requirement, of course, is to have a Taliban house in the middle of parliament lodges and the Diplomatic Enclave.
The writer is a producer with a leading television network but more famous as the lead vocalist for Beyghairat Brigade. He has an uncanny ability to invite trouble. He tweets @aliaftabsaeed