To Be ‘Indicted’

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Fortune tables tend to turn fast in Pakistan, where former prime minister Imran Khan has once again found himself on the wrong side of the barrel. Just last week, Islamabad High Court had deemed it appropriate to grant him another opportunity to furnish a well-thought-out response to contempt proceedings against him. On Thursday, the honourable five-member bench concluded that he had once again resorted to “justifications,” instead of showing any “remorse or regret” and therefore, deserved to be treated as per law. Since he is being accused of criminal contempt, called the most “serious in nature” of charges, the sword might dangle a little closer to his head. If history is to be taken at its face value, however, the cricket hero has nearly always managed to find relief in such prickly predicaments. He might appear to be running out of his so-called stroke of luck this time, but nothing is certain in a court of law, until and unless the silence gets broken by the final pounding of the gavel on the perch.
More consequential than the intensity of punishment (the likes given to PML(N)’s Talal Chaudhry, Daniyal Aziz and Nehal Hashmi in the recent past) would be the bearing of indictment stamp for someone with considerable weight on the political chessboard. It remains to be seen what his advisers’ next line of action would be because their word of caution is said to have put the breaks on an unconditional apology. Largely decried as an automatic admission of guilt, Mr Khan was warned against not throwing himself at the mercy of the higher judiciary, which the court, too, has taken notice of. Justice Athar Minallah has repeatedly shown his resolve as a “defender of freedom of expression,” claiming that the honour of the courts should stand on “surer footings.” No qualms about our judiciary’s broad enough shoulders to take on vicious criticism, indeed. But no matter the extraordinary nature of the circumstances, putting one of Pakistan’s most popular leaders with an unprecedented cult-like following into the dog house would not only be a punishment to an individual but no less than a death’s kiss to the future of electoral exercise in Pakistan. The victim would once again be democracy as millions upon millions would not sit still at the sight of their champion in chains. A lot is riding on what transpires in the coming days because while Mr Khan might have lost his wiggle room before Lady Justice, his iron-clad grip on his supporters continues unabated.