While on all fronts we see pragmatic political compromises, there is only one element of discourse that has stood the test of time: he is unwavering in his support for the Taliban
Neither Mr Bean, the show, nor any Bollywood comedy can be as hilarious as a talk show with Zaid Hamid or Orya Maqbool as participants. Increasingly, I have started finding Imran Khan also very entertaining.
Young voters, women and social media users were enamoured by the cricketer-turned-politician before the last elections as his massive advertisement campaign projected the image of a messiah who was destined to rescue a wayward nation. A leader is, however, not someone who merely capitalises on the negative public image of mainstream politicians. A true leader is one who produces a new discourse after correctly identifying the threats faced by the country. What we expected from Imran Khan was for him to spearhead progressive law making. As I find many educated women idolising him for his looks, he should have led the way for passing an anti-domestic violence law in parliament. He should have championed the cause of minorities. As he promises a new Pakistan, he should have introduced a modern school syllabus. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort has been witnessed. All his discourse boils down to is ‘Amreeka ki jang’ (the US’s war). What a criminal waste of talent Imran has proved to be.
The bee in Mr Khan’s bonnet keeps buzzing in his public statements. He is often heard claiming that the Taliban neither wanted sharia nor were against the constitution but had only taken up arms because of Pakistan’s pro-US foreign policy. This is an extremely irresponsible and dangerous viewpoint coming from a leader who promises us a new era of bliss and development. If someone believes in the constitution then he has to know that, as per the constitution, it is the discretion of a constitutionally elected government to formulate its foreign policy. If any group has a problem with the government’s foreign policy it can campaign for a change in the policy by approaching the electorate and winning an election. It cannot dictate by militant means what our foreign policy should be. Supporting such a cause should be considered for a trial under Article six of the constitution as it amounts to subverting the constitution.
Politicians need to be pragmatic and flexible. This allowance can be given to Khan sahib as well even though he himself projected the image of an iconoclast. While on all fronts we see pragmatic political compromises, there is only one element of discourse that has stood the test of time: he is unwavering in his support for the Taliban. At times one finds him to be a better spokesperson for the TTP than Shahidullah Shahid himself. In the recent past he was painfully trying to exonerate the Taliban of any involvement in terrorist incidents. More recently, he bombastically declared in a press conference that the Taliban believed in the constitution and hence all liberal commentators, he charged, had been telling lies as they were all US agents. With friends like these, who needs enemies? Within days, the Taliban announced that they did not consider even a single word of the constitution to be worth respecting. Now if political honesty had any value in Imran’s scheme of things, he should have at least retracted his earlier statements after duly apologising for his amateurish stance in the past.
Another argument floated by Imran Khan and religiously restated by other PTI leaders is that war is not a solution and peace only comes through negotiations. This was the philosophy followed ardently by British leaders in the 1930s. Returning from Munich in September 1938 after concluding a peace accord with Hitler, the then British prime minister, Mr Chamberlain, declared to a jubilant crowd gathered at Heston airport in west London that the accord signalled “peace for our time”. If appeasement has no red line then it is another name for surrender. When Germany entered Poland, the UK declared war on Germany as the red line had been crossed. An estimated 450,000 British military personnel and civilians died due to the resulting World War II. In Sri Lanka many peace negotiations were held with the Tamil Tigers but the Tamil Tigers’ leader Velupillai Prabhakaran refused to compromise and continued murdering those moderate Tamils who disagreed with him. As the red lines had been crossed, the Sri Lankan state saw to it that the terrorist organisation and its leader were conclusively and crushingly defeated. India is investing heavily in its own war against Maoist rebels known as Naxalites as they crossed the red line and did not take advantage of peace offers.
Another oft-repeated argument is that militants are fellow Pakistanis and we should live in peace with them. It is a well-known fact that animal rights activism is a high priority in the UK. Cruelty to animals is an offence and offenders go to jail. Anti-fox hunting became such a big issue that the Labour government had to ban it to keep its voters happy. The same British government, however, culled thousands of cows once the threat posed by mad cow disease became widely known. In Pakistan’s case, the official spokesperson of the main militant group, the TTP, has publicly claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks on law enforcement personnel while the government was negotiating peace with them. To add insult to injury, the TTP has dismissed the idea of any negotiations within the ambit of the constitution of Pakistan. When humans go mad, with deadly weapons in hand, they pose a far greater threat than mooing cows. I hope Mr Khan can understand that and appreciate the purpose of red lines in negotiations.