Thursday, September 04, 2014
ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan’s PTI is definitely in trouble. Most of its elected members do not want to resign — whatever it takes. But it’s an awkward situation to return to the Parliament that the PTI — along with its “cousin” PAT — had stormed twice and dubbed it as corrupt, rigged and what not.
Yet there sat the PTI-wallas, visibly embarrassed but making extra effort to look bold, absorbing every barb, sneer and jibe that came their way. And why not?
Parliament was never desecrated like this in the country’s history. Its main entrance is still closed and parliamentarians had to take a long detour to enter the august House as, in the words of ANP’s Nabi Baksh Bangash, “thieves” through the back door. Its front premises are still being used for washing dirty laundry, not just metaphorically, by PTI/PAT hordes. Naturally, the PTI had lots of explaining to do.
Trust Shah Mahmood Qureshi for making things worse by throwing fuel on the fire simmering among the parliamentarians for the past fortnight! It was difficult to tell whether it was a narration of his personal political journey or the PTI interpretation of events. He repeated the same old story that people had become sick of hearing again and again for the past 20 days through 24/7 television. Starting from almost World War II, Qureshi stretched his story from how their “peaceful” march was stopped from entering the Red Zone — forget the batons, hammers, cutters and a very well-trained tactical core group that made way through cranes.
The same “peaceful” group was then attacked by “the ruthless Islamabad and Punjab police” when they innocently wished to break into the PM House besides taking over the Secretariat and the Parliament. He beat his distant cousin Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan hands down in describing how benign, innocent folk, women and children were subjected to live ammunition and tear gas. Chaudhry Nisar was noticed squirming in his seat — perhaps thinking why SSP Ismatullah Junejo could not use firearms, if he had any, to save himself from ruthless hammering.
Qureshi went on to give the impression as if the PTV assailants were either government agents, if not linked with Raw, or PAT workers with whom PTI had nothing to do. Say that again — half of parliamentarians almost fell down from their seats. It was a master shot for the PTI to delink itself from cousin PAT after all those hugging, hand-shaking and swearing about being together in sickness and hell.
Perhaps Qureshi and company is beginning to realise that they can’t carry the baggage as they also know that the government had already identified many attackers from PTV cc-camera footage besides recovering evidence of rioters using live ammunition. Sheikh Rashid, who spent two years in jail on a fake case, conveniently stayed away because he knows what could these 12 cases mean. The criminal cases will be the biggest bargaining chip in the ongoing negotiations with the PTI.
All of this had Parliament on fire. It was not just the back-benchers who constantly shouted at Qureshi. Even PML-N ministers, who were supposed to help make peace with the PTI, could not resist exploding every now and then. JUI-F, ANP and Aftab Sherpao particularly breathed fire pushed the House to accept the PTI resignations. It made political logic for them as they would be the largest beneficiaries if the PTI resigned from the assemblies. The ANP is already in the pit as far as electoral numbers are concerned and the only way it can go from here is up. The JUI-F too wants to reap from the by-elections. The mullahs would not mind even re-elections as it is the first time in decades that the JUI-F is out of provincial government in Balochistan and is yet to be given portfolios in Islamabad. Sherpao can hope to aspire to see son Sikandar become the chief minister if the PTI gets out of the way.
But most parties wanted the PTI to return to the Parliament. The PPP did not want the assemblies to pack up early. Besides earning moral high ground, the PPP would like to prepare itself in Punjab. It will work for a scenario where Punjab votes get divided between the PML-N and the PTI. After losing its votes to PTI in the last elections, the PPP bets its hope on PTI’s new pro-establishment image, which is not acceptable to estranged PPP (and PTI) voters. No wonder that much of the substance on rigging was provided by Aitzaz Ahsan to the PTI. Good politics, Chaudhry Sahab the peace-maker.
Obviously, the government would want peace with the PTI so that it could repair its image and performance. But the PTI faces a huge dilemma. If it decides to stay in the assemblies it will be quite climb down for the elephantine ego of Imran Khan who swore “death or PM resignation.” I can also assure my PTI friends that the stigma of defecating state institutions, particularly Parliament, will remain stuck for as long as Imran Khan lives. But the resignation option entails bigger problems. The myth of the PTI unity already stands exposed. Javed Hashmi has already left and there will be many more in the National and KP assemblies who will not resign. So he will leave the assemblies as a broken and battered party that failed in its mission to bring down the government besides facing another stigma of conspiring with the establishment. And Imran has no idea what it means to fight cases of murder, terrorism, incitement that he and his colleagues face. He may be super fit but should check out with buddy Sheikh Rashid what it means to stay a few nights in Punjab jails, which remains a big possibility if push came to shove. The PTI’s burger followers are yet to be tested if they could carry on a political movement that can entail serious hardships. After all, it will not be like the picnic that they had every night at D-Chowk. There will be no DJ Butt in jail. But then he is also charged with a couple of cases. So cheer on Butt Sahab.
Tail piece: Tera kya ho ga Qadri!