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The devastation from the floods has taken the shine off the resumption of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) bailout programme. There will be all sorts of problems when the next tranche, no doubt, because tax collection will be severely affected, reconstruction will put pressure on critically low reserves and subsidies will become a thorny topic all over again. But at least there’s the assurance that the country will not drown in default on top of all the floodwater; at least for now.

Now imagine what would have happened if PTI’s (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s) plans of torpedoing the EFF (Extended Fund Facility) had succeeded. This is just one more symptom of a snowballing national problem, but it’s very instructive because in the time from when Shaukat Tarin’s conversations with KP and Punjab finance ministers were leaked to the resumption of the facility, PTI’s social media universe spun it from a shamefully clear attempt to sabotage the programme, just to make the government more helpless, into an integral component of the jihad that will deliver its haqiqi azadi.

And it’s OK for the “state” (read the people) to “suffer”, according to the former federal finance minister’s own leaked admission, because the government had the gall to file cases against their chairman.

And that’s the clarion call. In the PTI universe it no longer mattered if two provincial governments pulling out of the facility threatened to pull the plug on it, rule out all other forms of bi- and multi-lateral aid and effectively push the country towards default. It didn’t even matter that it was the people that were going to pay for all the additional taxes in the mini-budget that Tarin mentioned, through their nose. In fact, it had to be done and the fact that they got caught only proved to them, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that anybody doubting them were only lifafa journalists and sellout, traitorous citizens who can only find shelter under the loot and plunder of all other political parties. QED!

But it’s not just the government that has found some elements of the chairman’s behaviour and bravado unacceptable, of course, and the courts have also taken notice. And, again, from the threat to the woman judge to the show-cause notice by the Islamabad High Court (IHC), their universe duly stripped her of all credibility and effectively left her to the mercy of its hordes that have made quite a reputation of hounding people they don’t like online and in public.

That explains why an impression is being created that Imran is just too popular for contempt of court proceedings. His own former information minister admitted, on national TV no less, that finding against his chairman would invoke the wrath of the people. This is not just a veiled threat. It betrays a peculiar hubris pumped by overwhelming public support; to the point that people volunteered away their own ability to think critically once it convinced them that they wanted Imran back and would settle for nothing less.

But, surely, that sentiment stemmed from very strong disillusionment with the system – from the usual political parties to crucial institutions – that was growing for decades. And they chose to lean so heavily towards Imran because his boasts — “Oye Nawaz Sharif”, “Death before more IMF”, etc. — gave them hope that he might be the man to take all the bulls by the horns after all. They don’t explain, however, how the hope of a better Pakistan is kindled by cutting off the country’s financial lifeline and plunging institutions in a clash with the people as the country is being devastated by the worst natural disaster in its history; one that will require a lot of help from a lot more than the IMF to survive.

Just as Imran’s boasts turned to outright threats — “Zeba Chaudhary, I’m coming for you” — PTI’s universe has become more fanatic. Now it’s more or less locked horns with the judiciary; he clearly crossed a line yet his top aides laughed away the prospect of an apology out of him. That was just after enlightening everybody, especially the honourable courts, that a sea of people considered the chairman’s ego more sacrosanct than the black and white of the law.

And since neither the excuse that he didn’t know he was talking about a judicial officer nor the offer to retract the statement washed with IHC, he will have to either eat his words and issue an unqualified apology, minus the theatrics, or put his muscle where is (spokesman’s) mouth is and unleash his legions upon the courts in one week.

There’s an elephant in the courtroom that can no longer be ignored.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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Babar Malik Sep 01, 2022 06:14am
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Abdullah Sep 01, 2022 09:45am
PTI have completely lost the plot. They keep digging a deeper and deeper hole and when it finally caves in, ordinary Pakistanis will be buried at the bottom of it while Khan himself will be sitting abroad. I think it's very clear that Imran Khan is far more dangerous than the status quo.
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