Lockdown is neither democratic nor constitutional

by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

imran hassan

Today Supreme Court started hearing of the petitions filed by many parties including Imran Khan. As a first step, Supreme Court ordered Nawaz Sharif and other defendants to appear before the court in two weeks time. Constitution of Pakistan does not provide any immunity to the office of Prime Minister so it is not an unusual request. But as usual friends and investors of IK were exchanging high fives as if it was a big success. This is the prevalent attitude that they celebrate minor battles while losing the war. They should withhold their celebrations until the final decision of disqualification and punishment of corruption is achieved. They celebrate judiciary when decisions are in their favor but cry foul when it is the other way around. Recently courts issued a verdict in favor of close friend of IK, Jahangir Tareen. For the sake of judiciary, I would request lawyers of IK to make public the petition they have filed with the Supreme Court so that people are aware of the basis on which they are seeking disqualifications.

Imran Khan proudly calls himself a non-politician and his attitude reflect that. He does not believe in participating in the parliament nor has the temperament for boring proceedings of policy debate. He likes street agitation as it matches his macho man persona and a fast bowler past career success. He likes to intimidate opponents  both inside the party as well as in other parties. It is this macho man attitude that drew him towards admiration of militants and recommended talking to our angry brothers. It is this macho man tendency that made him accept the formation of Insaf Tiger Force (ITF) which in my view is the seed for militancy in PTI and I have opposed it from the day it was created. The fear I have is that this militant tendency will keep radicalizing the politics of both PTI and Pakistan and eventually if other anarchist forces join him it could escalate into a civil war type unrest. Hamid Mir revealed that right-wing anarchist might come to PTI November 2nd lockdown. This tendency of solely relying on agitation is reducing PTI’s political posture and making it subservient to other undemocratic interests. Middle Class of Pakistan that provided the lift to PTI has now fully departed from it and does not approve of an increasingly militant position of the party.

Imran Khan never allowed proper tanzeem of the party to be built in last 20 years. He demands complete submission to his will and recently publicly announced, not once but twice, that anyone that disagree with him should leave the party. He dominates the narrative of the party while all others around him including Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Jahangir Tareen, Chaudhry Sarwar, Dr. Arif Alvi and Ejaz Chaudhry are reduced to yes man. They don’t have the courage or the vision to engage IK in a policy debate. Or they would argue that they agree with IK politics. In both cases, it confirms that they are incapable of providing leadership to the party and taking it forward.

Imran Khan is telling people that lockdown is his democratic and constitutional right. Lockdown by its very nature is a violence prone idea. Lockdown could mean many things. First, it could mean that IK will block access to the airport, railway stations or main arteries to the city. This means forcing people to adhere to IK desire that they should not pursue their normal lives. So it is forced application not voluntary acceptance. Second, lockdown could mean closing down all businesses and offices of the capital city. No democratic country in the world would allow a crowd to close down the capital as it is a symbol of the state.   Whichever the case it will impinge on the basic rights of the citizens.   Democracies of Germany, USA, UK, Ukraine, Brazil, and many other countries called military to deal with such kind of agitation. These forces keep an eye on the crowd and do not allow them to cross a line. If a line is crossed then arrests and disbursement of the crowd are achieved even if application of force is require. In extreme case, as we recall from Tienanmen or Tehrir Square, the response could be quite brutal. But in Pakistan, this is not possible. Why? I still can’t forget the images from 2014 dharna when policemen were beaten by the crowd while soldiers remain standing and smiling not doing anything to protect civilian law enforcement. So they did not act to protect the institution of a state. They would argue that if military acts then people cry about martial law being imposed. It is true but whose fault is it. The military should act but in aid of the republic rather than to take over the government.

When I send this message once again those around IK will remind him that I am a traitor to the party and an agent of PML N. I am pretty clear about where my loyalties are. My first loyalty is to the country, second to PTI and third to IK. So if IK makes a decision that in my view is not good for the nation or the party then I will oppose it. IK today spoke to the media after SC hearing and invoked a reference to Magna Carta. So It is clear that Ik believes in the Western form of democracy. In that form parties or voices are diverse and not monolithic. When Donald Trump made derogatory remarks about women, Mexicans, and Muslims the whole Republican party rose up against him. Now when Donald Trump talks about pre-poll rigging his own party has come forward to disown those comments. In other words, loyalty is not to the party candidate but to the ideology that the party represents. In Pakistan majority of the parties are lead by Donald Trumps and these Trumps demand that those under them also behave like Trumps. It is this multi-tier presence of Trumps that is preventing the evolution into a united, progressive and prosperous Pakistan. It is because of this suffocating political culture ambitious people form new factions and parties because they don’t see a fair opportunity to rise through the ranks to the top of a party ladder. But in the end burn out without achieving anything resulting in wasted energies. This has to change and if we fail to achieve this change then our past, present, and future will be the same which is intolerant, extremist, chaotic, divided, inefficient, unproductive and oppressive.    We will continue our struggle inside the party to convert it into an institution. Imran Khan is a hurdle in that objective and now our core constituency middle class has decided to become silent and passive. But we have to keep trying to mobilize the middle class and challenge unconstitutional decisions of Imran Khan.