The arrest of PTI chief Imran Khan was not a bolt from the blue, and there was an air of inevitability about the trial which led to his conviction. He has joined a distinguished list, comprising so far Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif, whose ouster involved either corruption charges or a conviction on such a charge. It is time for politicians to look carefully at the disqualification clauses of the Constitution, and work out why they can be used against them. The fact that the result in Imran’s trial was a foregone conclusion does not so much reflect the strength of the evidence against him, as the need to obtain his ouster, with the purpose not being to punish his corruption, so much as to neutralize him.
Imran cannot be written off, for there are a series of appellate forums awaiting him. The day before his conviction, the Indian Supreme Court stayed the operation of Rahul Gandhi’s conviction, allowing him to return to Parliament. However, even if he is released on bail, his party has been in bad shape since the reaction to his May 9 arrest, which led to what can only be described as an implosion. If he is kept in jail, and the election is held, his party will find itself at a huge disadvantage, especially if he is unable to contest or campaign effectively.
This does provide Mr Khan with the opportunity to rethink his own policies of confrontation, in which he seemed to consider political opponents mortal enemies, whom he had to hound at all costs and by any means. One of the takeaways he should have is that politics is both up and down. He might not see the path ahead for a return, but he has the example of Mian Nawaz Sharif, whose ouster took place on his petition, though not on his charge. Now Mr Sharif is heading for a return, having spent multiple years in exile, similar to when he had to leave Pakistan in the 90s for more than a decade after Gen Musharraf seized power. However, the problem is not for Mr Khan to solve alone. All politicians and political parties must come together, agree to stop calling one another names, and work out a way in which Prime Ministers as are not turfed out of office, and then politically eliminated.