Militants, separatists better than opposition: Imran Khan's remark shows Pakistan's deteriorating democracy

His remarks came days after some media reports indicated that the Pakistan Army could try to facilitate a dialogue or deal between Khan and the ruling coalition to create a consensus on early elections, which remains Khan's primary demand, writes Shraddha Nand Bhatnagar for South Asia Monitor

Shraddha Nand Bhatnagar Jul 29, 2022
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Imran Khan, former prime minister of Pakistan(Photo: Dawn)

In a democracy, there is no place for an enemy; you only have political rivals or opponents. Leaders may be divided by their respective political ideologies. However, a basic sense of belief in democracy is what acts as a cohesive force that keeps any country's political system intact. 

In Pakistan, this cohesion seems to be crumbling fast. 

Earlier this week on Wednesday, former prime minister Imran Khan compared his political opponents with "separatists" and the TTP, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Ironically, the latter ones, he thinks, are better than the former.

Referring to his opponents as "thieves", Khan said, "I can talk to the [Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan], the separatists of Balochistan and Sindh, but not with thieves. Will you speak to someone who robs your home?"

Armed with a renewed confidence after the stunning by-poll victory in Pakistan, Khan made a rousing speech to show express gratitude to the people, where he reduced his political opponents—those with full faith in democracy and elections—worse than armed separatists and the TTP, a terrorist organization responsible for the death of over 10,000 Pakistanis. 

His words, which were aimed at questioning the credibility of his opponents, appear to be damaging the country's democracy in the long term. Not only does it erode people's faith in democracy, but it also puts those who believe in bringing changes through blood and killings at a higher pedestal.  

Khan asked, "Will you speak to someone who robs your home?" So this bags another question: will you speak to someone who kills the members of your house and seeks to destroy your home? 

His remarks came days after some media reports indicated that the Pakistan Army could try to facilitate a dialogue or deal between Khan and the ruling coalition to create a consensus on early elections, which remains Khan's primary demand. 

Furthermore, Khan's false equivalence came when groups like the TTP and Baluch separatists are mounting attacks on Pakistan forces and posing one of its most gravest internal security challenges.

The timing of the remark, when the government are engaged in peace talks with the TTP, could also damage the morale of the security forces that are already finding it tough to ward off security threat posed by militants. 

Even peace talks that began in October last year with the mediation of the Afghan Taliban remain questionable in the country. The process remains unpopular, with civilian leaders and a section of the military questioning its viability. 

Khan may not have realized his words could be exploited by the TTP, which in recent days has upped its propaganda campaign by repeatedly issuing statements on the political crisis brewing in the country. 

The TTP's statements on the country's politics may matter little to those who believe in democracy. Still, they could boost motivation for their cadre by justifying their cause and objectives, showing the current system as a sham. 

 (SAM)

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