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On a collision course

In his first TV appearance since the gun attack in Wazirabad during his long march towards Islamabad, Imran Khan accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a senior intelligence officer for plotting the attack on him. Khan has since demanded their resignations.

Imran Khan has also claimed that he had already learnt about the looming danger and had received information that there was a plan in place to kill him “somewhere between Wazirabad and Gujrat…after they saw that the number of people in my long march was exponentially increasing.”

He has also instructed his party workers and supporters to continue country wide protests till the resignations of the three aforementioned individuals. He is insisting that the arrested attacker is not the main culprit, and is not ready to buy the argument that the attack on his container was an individual’s act.

Calling off the long march for now, Khan has vowed to give another call after fully recovering from the injury. This means that in the next few weeks, the PTI will once again be on GT Road to press its demands.

Imran Khan has leveled serious allegations against the prime minister, interior minister and a military officer on the basis of ‘inside information’. This raises even more – alarming – questions.

Both the government and the ISPR have strongly reacted to his accusations and declared the allegations as baseless. Government ministers are also accusing the PTI of using this attack to achieve its political objectives. Meanwhile, the ISPR issued a press release on Friday night and rejected Imran Khan’s allegations.

The statement said that no one would be allowed to defame the institution or its soldiers with impunity: “baseless and irresponsible allegations by chairman PTI against the institution and particularly a senior army officer are absolutely unacceptable and uncalled-for”. It added that the “baseless allegations hurled at the institution/ officials today [by Imran Khan] are highly regrettable and strongly condemned. No one will be allowed to defame the institution or its soldiers with impunity.”

Imran Khan’s allegations and the strong reaction to them clearly indicate that we are headed for a collision course. Without a proper dialogue and political engagement between the stakeholders, we are certainly heading towards a more chaotic and volatile situation.

We are already a highly polarized and divided society. At this moment, what we need is a healing touch to normalize this highly tense situation. After the attack on Imran Khan, a level of anger among PTI workers and supporters is understandable but they need to understand that their violent reaction will not help their cause. Instead of pacifying the tense situation; unfortunately PTI leaders are trying to instigate violence, making fiery and threatening speeches about ‘taking revenge’.

It seems that without any credible evidence and proper investigation, Imran Khan has drawn the conclusion that the Shehbaz Sharif led government and others have colluded to plan the attack on the PTI’s long march. On the other hand, government ministers are stressing that the attack on Imran Khan is religiously motivated and the main attacker is in police custody.

To ascertain the facts and to end all these speculations, we need an independent, credible and transparent investigation. An independent and powerful commission must be formed to investigate this attack. The attack oncand the PTI long march was a cowardly act and must indeed be investigated so that the culprit is brought to justice.

There is no doubt that Imran Khan is a popular leader and enjoys support among different sections of society and especially among the young middle class. But the important question is whether the PTI as a party is prepared organizationally to fight this political battle. One would think not.

The protests of the last few days clearly show that the PTI failed to mobilize its supporters in big numbers. The party enjoys a free hand in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but still finds it hard to bring a large enough number of people onto the streets.

It is unfortunate that we are heading towards anarchy. Political polarization and temperatures will only rise further. Imran Khan will use the demand of three resignations to force the government and other stakeholders to accept his main demand of fresh elections.

Politics of hate and violence is not going to bring stability and peace in the country and political instability is likely to increase. The stakes are very high. Our democracy is at stake. It is high time the country’s politicians solved their issues peacefully.

Khalid Bhatti, "On a collision course," The News. 2022-11-07.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political battle , Political instability , Democracy , Elections , Imran Khan , PM Shehbaz Sharif , Pakistan , PTI , ISPR