Face-to-Face with Khan - 3
By Shaheen Sehbai
ISLAMABAD: IMRAN KHAN realises that he cannot trust the other Opposition parties on the Panama issue but he is stuck, between the deep red sea and the hard political rock.
The deep sea is his compulsion to go against the Nawaz government in another solo flight on the streets on the Panama issue immediately after Ramazan, the hard rock is a section of his party which insists Khan should not repeat the 2014 dharna sequence but should take all, or as many parties as are willing, to come along.
Not many do and PPP is the most dicey.
Khan gets bitter talking about the way the issue has been handled by the Nawaz camp but he is also not too happy about his newly found colleagues in the opposition, especially the PPP. He repeatedly asserts that the PPP cannot betray him, as if he is trying more to convince himself than others.
Khan's says the PPP has no other option but this probably reflects his inexperience in dealing with Asif Zardari, the master of deception and deceit. Khan is putting more eggs in the Bilawal-Aitzaz basket but both are struggling within the PPP to cut free from Zardari's hold but have not been successful so far.
Asif is no push over, even if in the callous and ruthless politics of power sons have often overthrown or even killed their dads, brothers have incarcerated their siblings and vice versa.
Khan realises that Bilawal may be a better commodity to deal with but he is yet not in a position to cut loose from his dad, uncles and aunts. One sign of this success would be any movement in the right direction on Bilawal's desire to bring in the power game his long forgotten real aunt, Sanam Bhutto and his much deprived and punished first cousins Fatima and Zulfikar.
Fatima has got highly convincing and internationally recognized credentials as a lady of deep knowledge, intellectual depth and scintillating speaking power but Zardari would never let that happen as these Murtaza Bhutto kids are the real heirs of the Bhutto clan and could soon overshadow Bilawal given his handicaps and an artificial induction of Bhutto between his first and last name.
If Imran really wants to test the PPP, it would be a brilliant move on his part to start some communication and contact with the real Bhuttos, Fatima and Zulfikar. Though their mother Ghinwa may be a distracting factor, if PTI contacts, explores the real Bhutto heirs and assures them that he would help them provide protection from Zardari, he could convince Fatima to start taking interest in Pakistani politics.
Right now, as in the last many years of Zardari rule, the real Bhuttos are a scared lot, not confident that they would survive the goons and killers associated with the Zardari style of hard core power politics. These kids have been lying low for years.
It is the uncertainty and mistrust of the PPP brand of politics that Imran Khan has been led into the failed experiment of the TORs parliamentary committee on Panama leaks.
Imran knows that ultimately he will have to press the issue on the streets and he would be alone. The PTI honeymoon with Bilawal-Aitzaz duo is of no use and would not long last, complicated and disfigured by the highly suspect Opposition leader Syed Khurshid Shah.
The key is that once Nawaz and family are in the Panama dock, Zardari, Khurshid Shah, Rehman Malik and others would not be far behind.
Imran is also not very happy and enthusiastic about Allama Tahirul Qadri as well. Between the lines, when he speaks about the Allama, his bitterness is difficult to conceal. Abruptly he once blurted out that Qadri interjected himself in the last dharna without being invited and when things went bad, he somehow abandoned Imran and made a deal, although Imran does not use these words.
This time he makes it clear that the Qadri dharna in Lahore on June 15 and a longer sit-in after the Razaman would not be in coordination with the PTI. Practically Dr Qadri is on his own but there is a clear understanding that he would stay and "look after" the Lahore side of the pincer movement that may build up to squeeze the Sharif brothers after Eid. Any help and assistance would be strictly on a local or need-to-do basis but media managers of the two sides will definitely coordinate to make the best use of live TV so that events in Lahore, Islamabad and other places are properly covered in a manageable manner.
When I am finishing this piece, it is clear that much of what I say is already known and friends in the media and other political parties hear these views from Khan more often. But the impressions I got after a long gap was that Khan was more pragmatic, having learnt some lessons from the experience of governing the KPK.
When we discuss KPK, he charges up and shows excitement but says in so many words that the material that he is dealing with, in his own party and government, is after all the same old political stuff of the yesteryears and a revolution from these old guards may not be a fair expectation.
But his own involvement in KPK, specially after the 2014 dharna, may have improved some aspects of governance in KPK, brought some realisation that PTI has to prove it is different from other corrupt traditional parties and that PTI has to keep its hold on the province, in elections, whenever held.
Khan does not admit but in our discussions he was told that his ideas about intra-party elections, an elected heirarchy and the confusion caused by almost unending groupings and differences, leading to public forays and outbursts against each other, have hurt the party more than it has helped.
Pakistani political landscape, he was told, is not ready for Westminster type grass root practices. He must re- establish a firm and strong grip on his party cadres and leaders. If he has to be dictatorial on some issues, so be it but he has to put his party together before he goes into another general election, snap or at its actual time. But it has to be realised that he has to clean-up the air, establish a definite chain of command and line of leadership as just about 18 months are left for the next general election, if nothing out of the ordinary happens.
For his own education, many media friends insist, Khan has to attend parliament regularly, understand the inner working and manipulative ways and means of how to run a government, how to deal with the largely biased corrupt and partisan bureaucracy, appointed by the Nawaz and Zardari government over many years.
He has to identify the officers who could be trusted and given key positions, though they may be in service right now or may have retired or sidelined, just because they did not fall in line with the Nawaz/Zardari style of loot and plunder. He has to appoint known honest people at the top of key institutions so that corruption can be tackled from top down, as he always argues.
To repeat what I said earlier, to become Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi, the former cricketer turned celebrity turned politician has to start training, learning and understanding what it takes to handle security establishments, international
diplomatic mafias, reading between the lines critical messages that are conveyed in formal talks and bilateral, some times one on one summit meetings, and much more.
Khan should visit some world capitals and talk to former prime ministers for hours to learn some tips and inside tricks of running a country. Still he has time but if pushed unprepared into a big office, he has to avoid being a bigger disaster.