[SATIRE] Nawab Khan receives a visit from Chinese Viceroy

Imran Khan spanked by Chinese ViceroyNawab Imran Khan’s declared plan to shut down the capital unless his demands are met has been responded with severe displeasure by the Board of the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Company (CPEC). On Tuesday, that displeasure was demonstrated in a rare visit from Chinese Viceroy Sun Weidong at Khan’s Bani Gala palace.

The Chinese Viceroy left no room for misinterpretation as he explained that the Board of CPEC would not allow their investment of tens of billions to be threatened by the antics of a minor provincial chief. With a deeply bowed head, Nawab Khan apologised for the misunderstanding and assured the Chinese official that it was all just a bit of fun and “its planned siege of the city was not meant to derail the present government, the system or create chaos in the country.” While some peasants may be thrashed as part of the drama, the Nawab promised the Viceroy “there would absolutely be no threat to the diplomatic corps.”

Having given his assurance that next month’s protest was never intended to be more than a cheap stage drama, Nawab Kahn stood outside his palace and watched the Viceroy’s caravan drive away. “Sir,” his Secretary Shah Mehmood Qureshi began to say. “Shut up!” responded the Nawab. “Get out! All of you get out!”

“Yes, my Lord,” they whispered and left Khan standing alone on the front steps as a light rain began to fall. As they sat drinking tea in silence, they could hear the Nawab unleash a tirade of obscenities in the distance. Qureshi looked up at his colleague Shireen Mazari who met his eye with a mischievous grin.

PTI’s New Election Strategy Same as Old Election Strategy

Imran KhanPTI has never managed to do well in the polls. In the 15 years since Imran Khan began his one man political show, the only seat his party has ever managed to win was Imran’s. In 2008, PTI didn’t even bother to compete in elections. But the past few months have seen the rise of Imran’s “tsunami”, and hundreds of thousands of supporters turning out to free concerts rallies across the country. But while PTI seems to have figured out a winning marketing strategy, it’s still clinging to the same old failed election strategy of the past.

Sitting on the Sidelines

The first glimpse of the PTI “tsunami” is coming up in by seven upcoming by-polls. According to a report in Dawn, the strategy is the same as in 2008 – sit on the sidelines and complain.

In by-polls for five National and two Punjab assemblies’ seats to be held on Feb 25, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) being a silent spectator is likely to lose the ground once held by its leaders.

Of the seven by-poll seats, four National and one Punjab assemblies’ seats were held by PTI leaders who vacated them to join hands with Imran Khan, chairman of the PTI. Later, as the PTI made a policy not to take part in by-polls, the former parliamentarians are in a fix either to stay away from the process or support their traditional rivals.

Dynasty Denied

One of Imran Khan’s PTI Vice-Chairman Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi wants his son to inherit his old National Assembly seat (NA-148). Imran Khan didn’t think he could cover up for such blatant dynastic politics, though, and rejected the idea. Rather than suggest a ‘clean’ politician for the seat, though, PTI is preparing to run…nobody. According to Dawn, “Mr Qureshi wants his supporters not to vote in by-polls”. I guess SMQ thinks that if his son can’t inherit his old seat, nobody should have it.

All Kings and No Soldiers

The dilemma with NA-148 is an extreme example, but it is also indicative of a larger problem in PTI. With the induction of big wigs from other parties, PTI has been plagued with the problem of having too many ‘Kings’ and not enough soldiers. Take former PML-N leader Javed Hashmi. He jumped on the PTI bandwagon in December after feeling that the Sharifs ignored his desire for advancement.

Of course, Javed Hashmi is not the only political big wig to switch to PTI in hopes of a promotion. This has caused all manner of jealousy and infighting among the PTI ranks, even causing Imran to announce that he’s going to have to dissolve the whole organisation so that he can come up with a new structure that pleases everyone. Oh, and this new party structure, “will not be elected but carefully selected”.

Perhaps no greater example of the impending problem, however, is NA-140 where two PTI big wigs are actually supporting opposing candidates – neither of them representing PTI. Of course, this is just a taste of what’s to come once the general elections are scheduled.

Both Ali and Kasuri recently joined the PTI and were aspiring to contest the next general election from the NA-140 constituency from where they contested the last general election from PPP and PML-Q platforms, respectively

Luckily, PTI already has a strategy for this type of problem – nobody runs and everyone can complain about how unfair elections are.

Bad Omen

Ultimately, whether or not PTI has a losing election strategy is not only something that should concern PTI supporters. As I noted, PTI does is good at marketing and they have managed to attract a lot of new supporters lately – that can’t be ignored. But we should ask ourselves this: If Imran Khan can’t even manage his own party during elections, how is he supposed to manage a government where he doesn’t get to reinvent the entire structure and ‘carefully select’ the players each time things go wrong? Is he going to follow in the footsteps of his political mentor Gen Zia-ul-Haq and persecute opposition members rather than try to find common ground with them?

Mainstream political leaders like Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Fazl-ur-Rehman, and Altaf Hussain are often disparaged by Imran Khan because they make deals and compromises. But that’s how politics works in a democracy. There’s no supreme leader who gets to ‘carefully select’ whoever he wants and ignore or imprison those who disagree with him.

It remains to be seen whether PTI can translate Facebook fans into votes. Imran Khan’s ‘tsunami’ may be more hype than reality, but many sober analysts do believe that PTI has the opportunity steal several seats from PML-N in Punjab during the next elections. Of course, even this possibility requires Imran Khan to get his party in order and to develop a better election strategy than he’s had in the past. So far, it’s not looking promising.

Foreign Ministers and Change

Imran Khan has been making quite a splash in the headlines lately as ‘electables’ pour into PTI. This has caused some smirking as people ask if these ex-officials are so ‘electable’ how come none of them are actually elected to anything? But one of the more interesting traits of this group of recruits is what many of these ex-officials did when they were actually in power.

Immy’s biggest catch of all, of course, was Shah Mehmood Qureshi who served as FM under President Zardari until February of this year. As Foreign Minister from 2008 to February 2011, Shah Mehmood Qureshi was high-ranking members of Zardari’s inner circle.

SMQ with his best friend Hillary ClintonBack in February, I wrote a controversial post criticising SMQ’s tenure. As I’ve written since, I do believe there’s a lot to admire about Qureshi’s record, but we shouldn’t pretend that his record is something other than it was – a mixed bag.

During his tenure as Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi was soft on America and unsuccessful with India. He oversaw the growth of drone strikes and American incursions into Pakistan while also being unable to bring India to the table. America and India are probably the two most important nations to deal with, and his record on both was less than stellar.

Of course, he did a better job than the most recent ex-Foreign Minster to jump on the PTI bandwagon. Imran Khan’s embracing Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri is in some ways even stranger than his embracing SMQ. At least SMQ managed to get elected last time. Khurshid Kasuri, on the other hand, lost to Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali (PPP).

As Foreign Minister during the dictatorship of Gen Musharraf, Khurshid Kasuri was also the man in charge when the Americans really put together their whole “AFPAK” strategy, setting up CIA cells and taking over air bases for drone strikes. Pretty much everything that Imran Khan has built his popularity opposing was carried out under the leadership of people who are now part of his own political party.

Mian Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri with Donald Rumsfeld

Khurshid Kasuri laughing with Donald Rumsfeld

So that’s the ‘untested change’ that PTI is offering. If you liked Pakistan’s foreign policy from 2002–2010, you’ll love PTI. In comparison, take a look at what the current Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, has managed to accomplish since only nine months.

After a decade of hearing the ‘do more’ mantra, it was Hina Rabbani Khar who finally took a firm stand with the Americans and said ‘enough is enough’. Who could watch her speech before the UN General Assembly and not be reminded of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto demanding respect for the country also?

After years of escalating drone strikes, it was Hina Rabbani Khar who finally sent notice to US to vacate Shamsi airbase withing 15 days. And for perhaps the first time, the Americans listened and vacated the airbase within the given time limit – an event that even rightist newspaper The Nation termed as ‘steps towards repairing damages to our sovereignty’.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar addressing the UN

FM Hina Rabbani Khar standing up for Pakistan at the UN

And it’s not just relations with American that are becoming more balanced. With India, too, we are finally seeing a change for the better.

On her first trip to India, the media there reported that she ‘won a flurry of fans’. In an interview with Reuters last month, Foreign Minister Khar noted that relations with India are improving and that expanded trade is helping move towards progress on critical issues including Kashmir.

Additionally, the proposed MFN status for India promises great economic benefits for Pakistan that have been missing for decades. Already we have seen an increase in cross-border visits of businessmen, and the door to greater economic opportunity could be opened even wider as our two nations discuss liberalising visa policy for businessmen which can further help increase two-way trade by billions.

When the government appointed Hina Rabbani Khar as the new Foreign Minister, many people mocked the decision and belittled Khar as too young and too inexperienced. But what they were seeing was the face of a new Pakistan that has dignity without being defiant, and improvement without isolation. As Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar has accomplished in nine months what Khurshid Kasuri and Shah Mehmood Qureshi failed to do for years. Is this not the ‘change’ that we are looking for?

Immy on SMQ

Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi

“These loans, along with US and European aid money, are like bribes to the Pakistani political elite to keep fighting America’s war for them. This was painfully evident when in October 2010 Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the European parliament: ‘If you want to help us fight extremism and terrorism, one way of doing that is making Pakistan economically stable.’ Pakistan’s ruling elite threatens the West with fears about Islamic militancy to extract more money out of them”

– Imran Khan, Pakistan: A Personal History. 2011

“Addressing a rally in Ghotki, Khan said that Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s image remained clear during his service as a foreign minister in the PPP-led coalition government.”

– The News, Imran invites Qureshi to join PTI. 2011