The political fortune of Imran Khan started to change during the late years of General Musharraf’s rule. At that time, he had been in politics for a decade but wasn’t taken seriously. His first serious and what would rather be an unpopular endeavor in ‘any civilized country’ was siding with the Taliban in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas. This was the time of confusion in Pakistan. The distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban had not set in. Good Taliban are those who do Pakistan’s bidding and bad are those who may turn around and bite their masters. Simply saying, those who attack Pakistan’s neighbor are good and those who attack Pakistan are bad. During the early years, the Pakistan army sent to fight the Pakistan Taliban – bad Taliban now, used to surrender without a fight believing it to be America’s war. A reason for Musharraf’s decline was this confusion. Publicly, his tussle with the judiciary and the media made him unpopular, but within the army establishment, his operations in tribal areas and against Lal Masjid in Islamabad were the reason which drifted his core commanders away.
Imran Khan voiced his opposition to the operations raising the humanitarian cost of the war and its legitimacy. The cost of the war on people although is good for rhetoric. It was questioning the legitimacy of war on terror which made him appealing to the conservative sections of Pakistani society and to its army. He had earlier supported Musharraf but now was seen as someone who can carry the conservative appeal and legitimize it. Pakistani Taliban were seen as disgruntled elements who can be soothed and used against Afghanistan and India. For this military action needed to be halted and American drone attacks stopped. He later maintained his position against American drone attacks but brushed aside the role of the Pakistan army against the people of tribal areas. It was all blamed on the illegitimate war, which Pakistan was forced into.
Pakistan’s army grudgingly restored the democracy but assassinating Benazir first – one of the two rivals, it saw. The era of military rule was coming to an end. The rule of Zardari- Benazir’s widower, was a period of global isolation of Pakistan which increased with Mumbai attacks. The same Taliban now under new leader Hakimullah, who was discredited as an Indian agent by many so-called analysts was cheered for offering 10,000 suicide bombers against India if war happens. Pakistan’s army had found a new arsenal in a conservative media, which believed in the prophecies of holy war and blasted radical ideas 24/7. If democracy cannot be derailed, it should be made unpopular. Someone who believed in radical views and will function under army control was needed. With this came the time to raise the dummy to the pedestal. With media and military support, Imran was propped as the new messiah, a ‘Prime Minister in waiting’ but Nawaz Sharif won the election in 2013. The Army knew it would be difficult to control Nawaz, who was earlier ousted by the army in a coup. Any peace with India will make the army lose its overreach in Pakistan.
Imran took to the streets alleging poll rigging, he was supported by another protest movement led by a religious cleric- Tahir-ul-Qadri. Pakistan’s army had brokered a deal between them. The idea was to make Nawaz leave Islamabad and flee. But, he stood the grounds, he knew that the Pakistani army cannot afford another coup. A compromise was worked out. The elected leadership abdicated all control over the defense and foreign relations. The army even took the role of the judiciary or started meddling with the judiciary as per its wishes. Pakistan army had a free hand to crush any regional strife. The army undertook operations in tribal areas, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi, and Balochistan. Using the proxy Jaish-e-Mohammad, India was attacked at Gurdaspur and at Pathankot air base. Meanwhile, the media continued its blitzkrieg against Nawaz, calling him corrupt and Modi’s Yaar (Modi’s friend). The Panama Paper leaks provided the army what it needed, a death blow to Nawaz’s popularity as an elected leader. His views on the army published in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper were now raised as ‘blasphemous’. After all, admitting the truth in a country where everyone lies is a sin.
Imran Khan’s character during these years took a complete 180-degree turn. Which he acknowledges as wisdom, in his own words, “If Hitler would have taken a U-turn and refrained from attacking Russia, he would have been successful.” His position on Pakistan army changed completely from what he held during his early years in politics. He realized finding electoral success criticizing the army will be tough, but with its blessings easy. In 2018, he became the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He has been married thrice now. His latest marriage with Bushra Maneka, a ‘Pirni’ – loose translation can range from a female saint to a witch, proves his complete succumbing to religion. It was claimed by his supporters that Bushra had a vision in which Prophet asked her to leave her husband and marry Imran. She was married with three children to a corrupt official who readily agreed to divorce since it was in the interest of Islam and Pakistan. In any normal country, such marriage would have raised eyebrows, in Islamic countries reaction would have been even worse. But, with the army’s control over the media, the narrative was easily digested. Perhaps, people mistook a playboy for progressive. Even a playboy can be a bigot, more than a conservative bearded man because he may try to repent for the sinful ways of the past but remain conflicted. In his case, his return to faith has been weirder than expected for a playboy. He is like Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones, who murdered his own brother and child at the counsel of Red Woman. Here, he has murdered any genuineness that he may have offered, the expectation of a reformer he promised.
Post Pulwama attack, when Imran Khan addressed Pakistan and warned India of consequences in case of Indian attack, he started with gaslighting. Hinting a conspiracy, saying only an idiot will attack India in present circumstances. The same could be said when idiots attacked the Indian parliament, bringing the countries to the brink of war and only idiots will give refuge to Osama Bin Laden. Clearly, Pakistan is full of idiots, one is their Prime Minister now. His appeal for peace was the repeat of the ‘nuclear blackmail’ in the guise of humanity which Pakistan has been using to avoid the punishments of its conduct. He had a ‘Freudian’ slip when he said, if things escalate then it would not be under his control, accepting it’s not him, it is the Pakistani army which calls the shot; he is a mere puppet. His supporters want a Nobel Peace Prize for him, some want Nobel to be given to him so that Pakistan can be obliged into being good, not realizing Imran Khan is a powerless man who has sold his spirit to Pakistan Army.
Read somewhere: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.