CELEBRATING his party’s triumph in unseating the PML-N government in Punjab, former Prime Minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday delivered what sounded unmistakably like a speech delivered on hustings, by a confident man in the ultimate price.
He reiterated his demand for early elections as the only solution to the current crises and pledged to continue the social protection programs launched by his government earlier. More importantly, he expanded on the direction his policies would take in critical areas once he returns to power.
For example, Mr Khan has said he wants good relations with all countries, including the United States, which he accuses of conspiring to oust his government, but urged the nation to choose “death rather than slavery”.
In the same vein, the PTI leader claimed that he would make the country stand on its own and that for financial help he would appeal to overseas Pakistanis.
True to form, Mr. Khan’s statements were very thin on substance and heavy with populist narratives.
Just to point out one fact, it was the PTI government that in 2019 had signed a bailout with the agreement of the IMF and had no qualms about seeking financial support from other countries.
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That said, it is recognized that populism has a tenuous relationship to facts. What cannot easily be ignored, however, or classified as a “rhetorical flourish”, is Mr Khan’s assertion in his Wednesday speech that he can talk to the TTP or the Baloch separatists, but not with “thieves”, as he often describes the rulers. of the main political parties other than the PTI. “Do you want to talk to someone who is breaking into your house?” He asked.
To put bloodthirsty militants who have murdered tens of thousands of innocent Pakistanis on an equal footing with political leaders, however corrupt, is an abhorrent and cavalier exaggeration. This false equivalence ignores the seriousness of the crime of terrorism which in many countries, including Pakistan, carries the death penalty; even countries that have abolished the death penalty reserve the harshest penalties for those convicted of terrorism.
This raises another point, that of reprehensible evidence: politicians found guilty of corruption must of course be punished. But despite having a compromised – and therefore docile – NAB chairman leading his “anti-corruption campaign”, why has the PTI during its nearly four years at the center been unable to follow through with success most of the political figures he denounces as thieves?
Finally, Mr. Khan’s position depressingly shows that personal animosity, reinforced by stubbornness, remains the driving force behind his policies. Even when the country is in the throes of a severe financial crisis and polarization has reached dangerous levels, the former prime minister – possibly a future one too – insists on demonizing his opponents when the only rational way is to chill the political temperature and talk to those across the aisle.
Posted in Dawn, July 29, 2022