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EDITORIAL: If Imran Khan finds himself at the centre of a storm right now, it’s because he very clearly wanted it so. Indeed, a lot of people are taking his threat of the country “breaking into three parts if institutions did not do the right thing” as a desperate attempt to build momentum; especially since the much-trumpeted march on the capital fizzled out rather quickly.

Yet there are also a lot of other Pakistanis that are taking what he’s saying a lot more seriously. They seem to have good reason to believe that some sort of conspiracy was behind his fall after all.

The sole superpower literally wrote the book on regime change, after all, and Imran Khan didn’t exactly do his chances of receiving that elusive phone call from Joe Biden any good by shaking hands with Vladimir Putin, in Moscow, on the day that Russia invaded Ukraine.

The kaptaan also remains completely unfazed by statements of the Foreign Office as well as the military spokesperson that while the Americans might have talked a little extraordinarily tough this time, there was still definitely no conspiracy of any sort; definitely not one where the US bankrolled the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan.

But the main point is that his followers still buy it. And now awkward questions about the US poking its nose into the affairs of other countries, and our own such extensive experience, have been raised and must be answered.

That’s why it’s very interesting that Imran Khan’s appeal to the establishment seemingly aimed more at the rank and file than the high command. It’s not as if he’s made any secret of it at any point. He has, rather, been calling for the military to bring their families to his rallies, rather claimed that they’re already doing it.

However, now he’s risking going a step too far. By calling out the judiciary and military time and again and openly inviting them to make the correct decision (read take his side) and not remain neutral, he seems to believe that the real test of their allegiance to the state lies in their loyalty to the righteous (him) and not the evil (the present government). This is a very slippery slope because even when he invites outside forces to intervene in his favour, he leaves the interpretation of exactly how to do it open to conjecture.

Yet now that the matter of US intervention has reached a fever pitch, it must be investigated properly and openly. Therefore, it would have been wise of the government to give Imran Khan the judicial inquiry he asked for, to put this matter to rest more than anything else. Democracies like ours struggle even in the best of times. And almost all of them have suffered, at times, in some way or the other, from America’s undiplomatic outreach or diplomatic overreach.

It would, of course, be much better if it can be done in a way that does not increase the toxicity of the political environment at home. And that is where Imran Khan leaves much to be desired. For, he’s not just appeared as a leader that’s unable to work with this dominating attitude of the US, but also one that has no appetite whatsoever for indulging other local political leaders.

And it does seem that his frustration at being shunted out of office so unceremoniously by the same people that he vowed to push out of politics forever has got the better of him. In his rage he has already pointed fingers at everybody that’s not stood by him, even at the risk of violating the constitution. Now he’s calling the very survival and future of the country into question unless his demand for an immediate election is heeded.

Surely, there are better ways of finding out if all this is really America’s fault. If so, which of our political elite is in on the plot. And if not, this sort of poisonous posturing should stop.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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