By Tirthankar Mitra
Gallows or a prison term seem to be awaiting the men who occupied the seat of power in Pakistan once they are eased or ejected out of it if during their tenure after they have crossed the army’s path. As former Prime Minister Imran Khan marks time behind the bars following conviction on a charge of corruption, he may send up a silent prayer that his troubles end with his incarceration and does not lead him the road where death awaited Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
Khan’s conviction comes in the wake of an announcement that Pakistan’s National Assembly would be dissolved on August 9; fresh elections would be held 90 days thereafter.
The election announcement followed by Khan’s conviction sets the political stage in a country where democracy has often been seen to stutter. And army seems to have cast a long shadow on the election process unlike its eastern neighbour India.
The election announcement and Khan’s conviction seem to be in a tandem of sorts. The former prime minister has been convicted in what is called the “toshakhana” case in which he will be serving a prison term of three years.
The verdict ensures Khan will not be around as a candidate to test the people’s will as he is excluded from the poll process for three years. Unless the higher court intervenes, he will be down and out for this time period which would be curtains for his political career that showed signs of going up on a rising graph if the run-ins between his supporters and the men in uniform following his arrest were anything to go by.
But even a cursory look at Khan’s conviction order reveals that it had nothing to do with the May 9 attacks on army installations which triggered a swathe of violence which gripped Pakistan after his arrest. The man who led his national cricket team to a World Cup victory and reaped in his popularity in elections was charged with retaining gifts he received as Prime Minister.
The former Prime Minister was accused of corruption by the Election Commission of Pakistan. He is alleged to have submitted false details.
Imran Khan is said to have taken away wrist watches worth Pakistan Rs 96.6 million. He did so after paying the exchequer about Rs 21 million.
Khan was accused of corruption by Election commission of Pakistan. The legal process deviated from its usual pace by not dragging on.
Khan’s fans and followers and even those not quite enamoured by his feats in white flannels and in a politician’s garb are left clueless about the verdict. He has been charged with and convicted of a charge which turns out to be a practice institutionalised by his predecessors.
Khan’s deed for which he is no longer a free man pales into insignificance when one recalls former President Asif Ali Zardari who apart from retaining all 182 gifts he received, drove off with a BMW and a Lexus. He cannot be accused of taking these objects of desire gratis having paid a fraction of the value, according to details made pblic early this year.
Expensive watches and a bullet proof vehicle are among the gifts which former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif kept back.
More than six dozen gifts including a car were among the gifts which general Pervez Musharraf and his family walked away .Commonalities arise in the modus operandi followed by these worthy predecessors of Khan in retaining the gifts received in their official capacity. The values of the goodies were under declared and they did not find any place in the state treasury.
Khan has every right to feel indignant for walking down a much travelled path. Clearly he has been singled out.
Yet there is not much Khan can do about it given the disarray his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf is now in. Hope of a backlash lies in tatters even though the populace is burdened with burgeoning inflation as also food and petroleum products shortage.
If the army brass, a stumbling block before restoration of democracy in Pakistan, is enjoying a quiet chuckle at Khan’s expense, there is a message for the populace. If Khan finds himself in the dumps for rubbing the army establishment the wrong way, he stood up to the men in uniform unlike his predecessors who got away scot free for a deed for which he has been convicted.(IPA Service)