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EDITORIAL: PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) Chairman Imran Khan seems pretty certain that his call to march on the capital, which seems imminent, will be answered by hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis demanding real freedom (haqiqi azadi).

That will lead to a quick capitulation of the PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) government and then he will appoint the next army chief and things will gradually get better for the country and its people. Yet in reality it’s not very likely to be this simple.

And while it is everybody’s inalienable right to protest in a constitutional democracy, surely political leaders, especially very prominent ones, realise that this right comes with very serious responsibility; that this right must not in any way hurt the interests of the state.

The government, for its part, has made it amply clear through the interior minister that it will not simply stand by and let PTI’s agitation rock its boat. No surprises there.

Therefore, while the credibility of either side’s claims remains to be seen, the only thing that can be said with a degree of certainty is that the country, particularly Islamabad, may witness a lot of turbulence just when the floods have forced the government to go out on a limb and literally beg for aid money; wherever it might come from.

And it doesn’t seem proper, given the extraordinary circumstances that the prime minister and foreign minister are going from forum to forum and capital to capital asking for urgent relief as well as foreign investment while the country’s political elite is obsessed with a self-serving, zero-sum power play.

Let’s not forget that this is not exactly the best time to go looking for spare cash in the international market. Much of the advanced world is already beginning to price in a very uncomfortable global recession, the US and mainland Europe have their hands full, and pockets empty, because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and rich nations are suffering from typical donor fatigue ever since the world reopened after the Covid lockdowns.

Therefore, asking others for desperately needed money while leading political parties at home cannot see beyond their own self-interests might not make us the best candidates for what little is still up for grabs. It’s true that the UN and its leading ambassadors like Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie have made promises to argue Pakistan’s case far and wide, but it would not be surprising to see their pleas diluted because they, too, share the sense of overall disappointment with the country’s leading politicians.

There’s no denying that Imran Khan currently leads Pakistan’s most popular political party. The way he has leveraged his personal charm and charisma, through repeated telethons, to get commitments of hundreds of thousands of dollars in pledged donations is also very welcome.

But for him to refuse to cooperate with the government in any way, even to meet the challenges of the climate catastrophe, just because he considers the people currently in power as political pariahs, is clearly going a step too far.

For him to believe, and have his followers believe, that paralysing the current administration through threats and chaos – which will definitely hurt the country’s political and economic stability – is the best path is, in fact, very naïve and self-serving. Especially since there is very little, if anything at all, to suggest that inflationary pressures or natural disasters will disappear simply because there’s a change of guard in Islamabad.

And to paralyse Islamabad he will have to mobilise PTI’s provincial governments in Punjab and KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), fuelling rumours about possible governor’s rule on those provinces when everybody knows very well that all of the above is a sure recipe for chaos.

Ideally, all principal stakeholders should take a step back and let things calm down before pursuing their personal agendas. But it doesn’t seem likely that sanity will prevail as a showdown looms in Islamabad.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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