There was once a time when one could escape charges of involvement in the May 9 incidents by holding a press conference in which one condemned the May 9 incidents as dastardly and treacherous, abjured the PTI and all its works, and added that one was leaving politics for good. Or at least taking a break.
How short that break could be, one could see from the example of Fawad Chaudhry, who kept it short and sweet, almost as short as his own, which lasted a matter of days, from the time of his press conference to his joining the Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party.
But now it seems there are other routes opening up, the first being that of founding your own party. Pervez Khattak seems to have gone that route, perhaps after not finding an appropriate space in any of the parties in the ruling coalition. At different times, he was said to have been in talks with the JUI(F), which has done well in the KP local body polls, the PPP, which is his old party, and even the PML(N).
He was a former KP CM, a former Defence Minister, and brought to the table the skill set of having demonstrated Terpsichorean skills and of looking like he suffers from an advanced case of galloping consumption. The dancing skills would be useful if he was ever needed to show them at a dharna, and the impression of consumption would be useful if there was ever a negotiation. All he would have to do would be to cough on you. I mean, nobody likes being coughed on by anybody, let alone someone as thin as Pervez Khattak.
Another method of escape is the one taken by Azam Khan, who recorded a statement before a magistrate under Section 144 that Imran Khan had taken the cipher, and that he had tried to use it to tell the public that the opposition had conspired with the USA to overthrow him. Now it is true that Azam Khan, formerly Secretary to the Prime Minister, was not charged with any involvement in the events of May 9, so one can only blame his betrayal of his former boss on the natural antipathy of bureaucrats for politicians.
Of course, not all bureaucrats are like that Fawad Hassan Fawad served as Principal Secretary to both Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, but did not sell either down the river after being arrested by NAB under the PTI. Ahad Cheema, former Secretary to Shehbaz Sharif when he was Punjab CM, also did not turn approver, even though he was slung in jail.
I wonder what sort of confessional statements are acceptable. What about any confessions of ball-tampering? What about inside stories of helping Imran count money brought to him in old bills in a briefcase? Or of helping him stuff ballot boxes during the by-elections the PTI won last summer?
Everyone thinks that the coalition’s narrative-building is poor. A recent example makes me think that this is right. No, not the fact that Imran remains at large. The way that the death of the DIG Lahore, who was found in his bed was ignored, shows that the coalition doesn’t have its heart in its job. Or maybe they don’t know the needs of modern communication. A perfectly good opportunity to blame Imran was thrown away. The PTI even tried to blame the unfortunate suicide of Jehangir Tareen’s brother on his disappointment that he brother had chosen to set up a party of his own.
The only thing bothering me about the new routes shown by Pervez Khattak and Azam Khan is that both belong to KP. Is this opportunity available to PTI leaders from other provinces? The late DIG Lahore was also from KP, but I’m not sure any PTI leader wants to take that route to leaving the PTI. One person who might take the path shown in Ch Parvez Elahi, who might now be willing to strike out on his own. He had struck out on his own from the PML(Q), but fell into line behind Imran after joining the PTI. He must have realized the potential in himself.
After all, at 79, he is one of the few people in the PTI older than Imran, and if he intends to fight the next election by attracting the youth vote, shouldn’t he do it in a separate party? Jehangir Tareen of the IPP is 72, which is about right, but Aleem Khan is only 50. A good candidate for the PTI would be Qaim Ali Shah, who at 89 is even older than Pervez Khattak, who is 73. People with whom Imran could talk. What could he say to Usman Buzdar, who is a sprighly 54, or Mahmood Khan, who is barely out of babyclothes at 50?