ISLAMABAD: Ousted Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan on Monday appeared to find his second wind in early signs of the public buying into his narrative of a “foreign conspiracy” behind the no-trust vote that he lost, ostensibly because he always had an “independent approach” to governance.
Criticised often by his opponents for an alleged lack of interest in attending parliamentary proceedings, Imran was among the first Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers to reach the National Assembly ahead of voting to pick the country’s next PM.
He arrived to cheers and slogans from the PTI lawmakers already assembled there and proceeded to chair a meeting that set the stage for what was to follow. Barring Imran, the group next went inside the assembly hall, where former foreign minister and PTI’s nominee for the PM’s chair, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, made a lengthy speech on how the opposition brought down an elected government at the bidding of a foreign power. The PTI lawmakers then walked out.
Imran, who had focused on mobilising public opinion in the weeks leading to the no-trust motion being moved in the National Assembly, has appeared increasingly confident that his strategy is working.
For a PM whose popularity had been in free fall because of perceived poor governance amid an economic crisis, Imran now appears politically more sinned against than sinning. He has also been tactfully taking credit for things like the approval of a resolution by the UN General Assembly to observe March 15 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
In an almost daily live telecast featuring him in the run-up to last Saturday’s post-midnight unravelling of the opposition’s campaign to oust him, Imran sought to convince the people of Pakistan that his entire struggle was “for freedom” in the face of foreign meddling.
“It’s for the nation to choose whether to go on the path of freedom or slavery of the opposition,” he would say.
Like some of his predecessors did, Imran’s final days in office were spent playing the religious card, usually a failsafe strategy in Pakistan, to sway public opinion in his favour even as the opposition and his estranged allies ganged up against him. In one speech, he warned people that they would be answerable to God if they failed to differentiate between good and evil. He frequently quoted Quranic verses in most of his recent rallies.
As hordes of PTI supporters responded to Imran’s call and took to the streets across Pakistan on Sunday to protest his removal from office, the construct of his fightback seemed to be coming together.
“Izzat dene wala Allah hai (It is God who gives someone respect),” Imran declared, referring to the protests.
The mass resignation of PTI lawmakers from parliament suggests Imran and his party are making a fresh bid for the general elections that weren’t to be, thanks to the Supreme Court‘s intervention.