Zafar Aziz Chaudhry
To re-establish his reputation, he will have to fight a long legal battle, which would keep distracting him from his election campaign
Imran Khan’s disqualification came as a result of a decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan made in a reference commonly known as the Toshakhana case. The ECP found him guilty of “deliberately concealing the material facts by not disclosing the details of gifts in statement of his assets and liabilities… nor accounting for the sale proceeds” in respect of gifts he received as Prime Minister and acquired for his personal use, and later sold for profit. This disqualification was made under Article 63(1)(P) of the constitution but the ECP did not specify the period of his disqualification. The ECP ruling has also directed legal proceedings against him in a court of law and follow-up action under section 190(2) of the Election Act 2017. I may respectfully venture to add that if some procedural formalities were left out or ignored without malafide, then their gravity is much reduced. This I say without prejudice to the actual merit of the case.
If, as a result of the trial, the allegations against him are proved, he can be imprisoned up to three years, and can also face disqualification for life because he will no longer be Sadiq and Ameen. Imran, however, has the option of appeal both to the High Court and the Supreme Court. Whatever may be his fate in the superior judicial forums, the trials would keep the sword hanging over his head. Unluckily for him, the ECP has already found his PTI guilty of receiving prohibited funding and diverting and misusing these funds, which will constantly haunt and demoralize him and the PTI which he heads.
In personal attributes, Imran Khan is extremely honest, very resolute and determined to achieve his object against all odds for which he zealously works hard. After founding his political party, he zestfully worked hard for over 20 years and suffered many electoral reverses but did not lose his heart. At last in the aftermath of Elections of 2018, he gained sufficient strength to get majority in the Parliament and formed his government. In August 2018 when he took over, he faced gigantic challenges, including flawed energy policies, spiraling fiscal deficit, all-pervasive corruption and under investment in education and health sectors. Despite the Covid 19 pandemic, which had severely affected the government machinery, he worked really hard and showed better performance than other countries of the region, yet he could not accomplish his ambitious plans he had promised with the nation.
Whereas he is a good sportsman, he is unfortunately not a good politician. For a good politician, one should have a generous heart and mind, should proceed with a spirit of accommodating his political rivals, and give them due weight as long as they do not run counter to his own programme. His continuous rhetoric of corruption against his political rivals has become nauseating. Instead of proving any allegation of corruption or money laundering against his rivals, ironically, he has himself been convicted of malpractices, wrongful manipulation of funds and non-accounting of the sale proceeds in relation to gifts. His supporters have been greatly shocked on seeing his crystal clean image being tarnished by the court’s verdict which has damaged his image as a man of un-impeachable integrity. Unless he is absolved of all the charges proven against him (which would consume most of his valuable time of electioneering, in case elections are immediately announced) his leverage as an honest politician will gravely suffer. To re-establish his reputation, it is likely that he will have to fight a long legal battle which would keep distracting him from his election campaign, and ruin his prospects of winning the election with a thumping majority. The stigma of disqualification will also finally go after he is cleared off(by the superior judicial forum) all charges leading him to indicate that he is not ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ within the meaning of Article 62(f) of the Constitution.
Our economy is presently on the verge of a total meltdown, and cannot survive without the financial and diplomatic assistance from countries like the United States, China, and the Arab states. As ill-luck of Imran Khan would have it, none of these three countries want him return back to power in Pakistan once again. Even our neighbour India who wants to normalize her relations with Pakistan does not want Imran Khan back on the saddle in Pakistan because of his un-flinching stand on Kashmir.
After his overthrow in April, and his bitter public statements in which he has riled up the military establishment by trying to divide them, and even accusing them of conspiring against his government. His feckless record of nearly 4 years of governance also damps his competence as a savior especially when Pakistan is facing an existential crisis. Terrorism is once again rearing its head. The economy is at the lowest ebb. Politically Pakistan is facing an extremely polarized environment which has been further aggravated by Imran’s toxic politics. His massive victories in the bye-election of July and later his victory on six out of 7 seats has bloated his ego to think himself being a superman who has the power to go against the combined might of all other political parties and the military establishment with the overwhelming support of the people of Pakistan.
There is no doubt that his spirited political campaigning and past electoral victories have invested him with considerable public support which can be the envy of any political leader. Now if he thinks wisely and acts circumspectly keeping his toxic tempers under control, he has a fair chance of coming into power again. He still commands absolute love and sympathies of the poor and down-trodden people of this country.
If not Imran Khan, then who else is there to lead this nation?? This question of alternate leadership baffles all civilians and military people alike. People acutely feel that Imran’s political opponents on their turns have been fully tried and tested, with zero-sum result. They suffered from lust and greed; looted the national wealth and made big fortunes leaving the country in rank poverty and indigence. As against them, Imran Khan is uniquely honest and has morally a strong character, which is manifest from his deeds of philanthropy, pristine simplicity, and indifference to pulp and power for wrongful gains. His minor temperamental errors and their affects stand nowhere before his personal virtues and patriotism.
The ECP ruling has impacted Imran Khan in the domain of power politics. Given the present political scenario, there appears to be very slim hope of his losing the legal battle because in addition to the multiple loopholes in cases made out against him out of sheer political rivalry, the legal forum deciding his final fate must be acutely aware of (1) his overwhelming public support and faith in his intrinsic goodness and honesty of purpose in fighting to save the destitute poor masses groaning in utter misery endlessly. (2) Any judicial forum cannot lose sight of the sheer absence of a credible leadership in the country in case the main proponent fails in whose intrinsic goodness and honesty of purpose they had the strongest faith and confidence. Even if it is supposed that he loses the legal battle, he manifestly remains a man of invincible courage and steel determination which he has shown all his life, he will never sit idle. In that case he may choose to remain politically active, and continue his struggle as before, and still fight, and win the battle some other day. Or he can make a desperate attempt to grab power by mounting pressure on the streets to force an early election, which he is sure to sweep. Any attempt to wrest power through street power would be fraught with danger to national security, especially when Pakistan is already facing an existential threat due to its poor economy.