Pakistani opposition leaders, Shahbaz Sharif (L), leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, Asif Ali Zardari (C), former President and leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Fazlur Rehman (R), head of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, gesture during a press conference after submitting the no-trust motion against Prime Minister Imran Khan on march 8, 2022. (Photo by Farooq NAEEM / AFP)

STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan


I was looking forward to enjoying Lahore’s blissful spring this March in company of friends and family. It would be a pleasant break while escaping the blistering Canadian cold. It was not meant to be. The political temperatures here are soaring and uncertainty is in the air. When a ship hits turbulent waters, the rats are first to abandon it.

Unfortunately the turbulence is being caused by rough seas and head winds; but also due to inappropriate weight balancing by the Captain.

Knives are out and the countdown has begun. No confidence motion has been tabled that would be taken up by the National Assembly in the coming weeks. Jury is still out on who has the magic number of 172. The combined opposition has had months to prepare for this event. The roll out indicates a finesse not customary to this diverse lot who have conflicting views on everything except Prime Minister Imran Khan. Is this a home-grown strategy or does it have the markings of an imported one? Whatever the origin, it is the most serious challenge faced by PTI Government thus far.

It leaves incurable reformists like me in a quandary. Whether to lament the missteps by PM IK; or close ranks to deflect this onslaught that will take us back to the dark days of PML (N) and PPP “ghuli danda”. As a political activist I closely followed the events in final months of Z.A Bhutto facing the PNA movement. One particular TV speech keeps haunting me. He thumped his Prime Ministerial chair and said “Yeh kursi buhat mazboot hay” which translates to “this chair is very strong”. It proved otherwise. Why? Because the fuel provided by outside powers was high octane for having offended their interests.

It appears that history is attempting to repeat itself. PM IK, despite many follies in managing his PTI brood; has boldly ventured into uncharted waters of a self-reliant, self- respecting, and independent Pakistan. That is unpalatable to powers that have treated us as “haris” or “mushaqatis”; akin to bonded labor. Has he stepped out too far on a tree branch that cannot handle his weight? Does our nation suffer from a captivity syndrome? It is so aptly described in a verse “atne manoos siyad say ho gaye, aab rahaye millige tu mar jain gay” translates “we have gotten so attached to our captors, that if freed we will wither away”.

For over a thousand years we have saluted the invaders and kicked those departing. Can we step out of that mold? Has PM IK bit a bigger morsel than he can swallow? It will come down to the nation looking past their noses to stand shoulder to shoulder with a leader attempting to achieve self-respect. Can a rubbery spine be converted to a steely resolve? Only time will tell. Whether PM IK stays on or gets voted out, he has given this nation a taste of being proud to be a Pakistani. A day of life as a lion is better than years of living like a jackal.

At this point the matchup is between real politics and illusive ideals. Unfortunately a hemorrhaging wound exists in Punjab. It can drain the strength to combat the jackals attempting to draw blood in Islamabad. I have dwelt long and hard, using every faculty that God has bestowed on me, to figure out what endears CM Buzdar to PM IK. Our present day “Mr. Beans” is neither competent nor entertaining. The qualities, visible only to PM IK, remain very well concealed from friends and supporters! He has two invaluable contributions; rampant corruption and a serious rupture amongst PTI ranks that can send Punjab Government scuttling.

It has led to committed stalwarts like Aleem Khan or even Tareen group to come out openly seeking CM Buzdar’s removal. It can be read in multiple ways. A cynical view would be that they have personal ambitions. I would read it differently. It is self- preservation. Mismanagement of Punjab’s governance has disappointed and dissipated PTI’s support base. Politicians see an uphill battle in the next elections. Immediate removal of CM Buzdar may salvage the situation regarding vote of no confidence in Islamabad. Politically he does not add any value. He has survived thus far riding the coattails of PM IK. PM has paid a humungous price. Ego has no role in politics.

I have a direct question for PTI renegades. If the no confidence vote succeeds; where would we be left standing as a nation? PM IK is going nowhere; he will continue to battle it out. Are you ready to facilitate the return of self-serving looters, who are corrupt to the core, back into power? Accountability will be dead. We will return to our traditional role of a subservient Pakistan. Our future will be decided elsewhere. CPEC will be hostage to commission seekers. Whatever progress we have made so far will be destroyed by fraudulent manipulators like Ishaq Dar.

Those who attacked and insulted this nation’s backbone, our armed forces, will control the levers of power and appoint cronies to key positions. It will be rewarding the dacoits for bringing disrepute to nation’s pride. The glitter of 20 crores may blind you for an immediate gain. You will be held responsible by history for throwing away this country’s future. Back your leader, despite his follies, otherwise your choice is between the devil or the deep sea.



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