By Tirthankar Mitra
Time was when hearts beat faster whenever Imran Khan charged in to bowl or looked the way the red ball moving at him as he raised his bat to send it to the ropes or outside the stadium. One does not recall too many occasions when the outstanding all rounder was stumped.
But stumped the still handsome former Pakistan captain appeared to be when a group of Pakistani Rangers bundled the former Prime Minister away from Islamabad High Court early this week. But he seemed to have regained the crease after Pakistan Supreme Court held his arrest illegal and Islamabad High Court ordered that he be released on bail marking a pause in the battle.
It seemed to be that like a cricket match another game of uncertainty was on. In it the former prime minister’s role was befitting the man in white flannels who navigated Pakistan together with Sussex and Worstershire, the counties he had represented to the shouts of victory from the jaws of impending defeat.
As long as the Supreme Court did not step in, Pakistan appeared to be almost dropping into a bottomless abyss. The violence in the wake of Khan’s arrest had sparked off protests like no other in the past though Pakistan is no stranger to elected leaders being incarcerated and killed. A radio station was set aflame, a police lines were under siege, army bases were under attack. A man of the people had been put behind the bars and the people had taken to the streets for his release.
Ever since his dismissal from the prime minister’s post, Khan had often taken on the army and ISI, the country’s secret service, a duo whose writ never fails to run in his country. The doom sayers had almost written him off showing the precedent of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto.
Khan’s detractors and supporters were chary that he has walked into a blind alley. It seemed his innings as a political leader was nearing its end. But these prophets of doom had failed to take the popularity of the cricketer turned politician into consideration. Even as they are eating their words, Khan is padding up for another innings away from his beloved cricket grounds.
Generals far outrank a captain in the army. Such hierarchy is non-existent in a field of cricket where the captain reigns supreme. But ranks be it of men in uniform or the one heading a sporting squad lose significance in public life. Only the people’s verdict and the performance of the individual for whom it is given matter.
Khan is not yet a free man being named in more than 140 cases including one on profiting on state gifts. His arrest was just a matter of time. The present case is before Islamabad High Court now. Khan took on the army seeing red over its withdrawal of support to his regime and it’s refusal to help him continue in office.
Given law’s delays, the former prime minister is unlikely to emerge a free man in a hurry. But his supporters are rooting for a fresh election. Khan is riding the crest of a sympathy wave. It is a sure shot way of regaining what his supporters feel a post which he reached through democratic elections. The error of judgement Khan made was that he did not remember that the people he railed against still call the shots. He took on too many and too much.
Army chief, general Asim Munir going by the ongoing indications show that the outfit he heads will continue till the bitter end. If things go according to the army’s script then Khan is going to be convicted in one of the many cases against him and disqualified from running for office like his predecessor Nawaz Sharif.
But this script may go awry ranged that it is against a popular movement. For popular movements are unpredictable. Those on the other side of the barbed wire need to watch out instead of rejoice. For chaos in any part of Pakistan is not a good news for India .India needs a Pakistan with some political stability in the interest of the South Asian region. (IPA Service)