Imran hit by trouble from all sides

There is shortage of wheat, Pak’s staple. There are problems between Imran’s government and  the judiciary. And then there is the FATF decision 
amit bandre
amit bandre

Never a dull moment’ isn’t just a cliche in Pakistan’s case. Many a pundit with eyes riveted on Pakistan’s chaotic political landscape would vouch for it. And they may also add that in the 18 months under Prime Minister Imran Khan, it has become the new norm. IK, as Imran’s supporters fondly refer to him, had crashed on to Pakistan’s erstwhile turbulent scene as a saviour. His votaries considered him a messiah out to forge a ‘Naya (New) Pakistan’ reminiscent of the ‘State of Medina’ founded by the Prophet of Islam in the seventh century. However, while a new Pakistan, chiseled in his image, remains a distant dream—or a pie in the sky—the old Pakistan bequeathed to IK seems to be hurtling from crisis to crisis on his watch.

An under-performing, plague-ridden economy is becoming his Achilles heel. An average Pakistani, duped by his call of building the Pakistani version of ‘a new city on the shining hill’, can’t be expected to appreciate that the Pakistani prime minister was given a moth-eaten economy by his predecessors. But what matters to the common man, more than anything else, is his bread and butter. Imran’s rule is morphing into a nightmare on that sore point of bread for the common man. Runaway inflation, which has already spiked above 15%, is crushing poor Pakistanis under its merciless assault. IK’s economic magicians and spin doctors keep regularly churning out figures of the economy’s healing touch in balance of payments, etc. But these nuanced statements and number games make no impression on the common man, with his daily grind for bread for his children becoming a back-breaking chore.

Literally rubbing salt into the hard-pressed consumers’ wounds is the pinching shortage of wheat flour—staple diet for the common Pakistani—and sugar. Imran’s damage control to alleviate the suffering of the people is, at best, like treating cancer with pain-relieving pills. The IK-friendly segment of news media may propagate his messianic work in opening more price-controlled ration stores for the people but that kind  of band-aid hardly stems consumers’ bleeding. Imran’s image of an anti-corruption crusader has been particularly hard hit by media disclosures that shortage of staples—flour and sugar—have resulted from hoarding of these commodities. More damning is the allegation that many of those guilty of hoarding and price-hiking are some of the closest ‘friends and advisers’ of the PM. It’s ironic that the common man’s tormentors are sheltered under the messiah’s wings.

As if the commodities crisis wasn’t enough of a blight to tarnish Imran’s public standing, another crisis of a graver and more sinister kind has hit his government like a ton of bricks.This storm engulfing Imran is centred on the reference by the President of Pakistan—an IK crony and confidant—in the Supreme Judicial Council against a sitting judge of the apex court. Justice Qazi Faez Isa is the scion of a noble family from Baluchistan province, long plagued by an uprising of dissidents. His father, Qazi Isa, was a right-hand man of Pakistan’s founder M A Jinnah and his services to the nation have been acknowledged by all and sundry. The Pakistan Bar Council—the highest collective of lawyers—has petitioned the apex court to dismiss the presidential reference against Justice Isa. A full Bench of the apex court is hearing the petition. 

The cloudburst came on February 19, when Attorney General Anwar Mansoor, defending the reference before the apex court Bench, suddenly stepped down. He claimed he had resigned because the Bar Council had asked him to. However, the law ministry insisted he had been fired. A day earlier, he had reportedly made some unsavoury remarks and cast aspersions on the independence of Pakistan’s judiciary, which the apex court found unwarranted. What he said, exactly, may never be known because the apex court has put a gag on it. However, bits and pieces of his impugned presentation gleaned by the media reveal him lamenting that the judiciary’s independence was being checkmated by security agencies prone to keeping judges under regular surveillance and eavesdropping on their phones. Mansoor, incidentally, had cut his teeth in the army as a commissioned officer, before taking up law.

Defending his maverick move in a television talk show, Mansoor insisted that Imran’s law minister and the anti-corruption czar were both on board and privy to whatever he had narrated before the court. That points the finger at Imran too.In his own defence, made public on February 22, Justice Isa has blasted the highly controversial intelligence arm of the army, ISI, for hounding him and his family because of his ruling in the case brought against the 2017 siege of Islamabad by obscurantist mullahs sponsored by ISI. He had come down hard on the army’s blatant meddling in politics. Imran has kept a studied silence on the controversy. But the sordid saga casts a long and dismal shadow on his disarrayed governance. His cricket legacy of a hard-task disciplinarian is in tatters. Worse still for him, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in its recent meeting in Paris, has decided to keep Pakistan on its grey list. And so another sword of Damocles dangles over Imran’s head.

Karamatullah K Ghori
Former Pakistani diplomat Email:

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