Pointless to say that everyone gets it, but unfortunately, the underlying theme of politics is to get power. Plain and simple. And the basic rule of power is to sell your own interest to the public, packaged as their interest.

“Rules of power”, a small pocket-size book spells it out neatly and un-apologetically. Basically, if you say “I want power”, it sounds immoral and selfish. But if you say, “I want power but only for you,” this makes it blockbuster. Many people sell different products to get power for their selves. And there is no exception to this rule. These products come in variety of shades and flavors. The most popular and time tested products are ethnicity, religion, language, patriotism, nationalism, and few others. However, a new product was launched some 20+ years ago when the PPP couldn’t be defeated in any popularity contest: it was the homemade, neatly packaged product called “Corruption”.

The kind of power to assassinate character that this product empowers you with is second to none. And the best part is that, when you doubt someone of its possession, you don’t have to prove it. Just label someone with it and then advertise the idea on the national media with some vigour, and it sticks like none other.

The franchise of Corruption-based politics was first awarded to Mian Nawaz Sharif, but he was too imprudent to use it effectively. Then it went dormant for a few years during the early part of the Musharraf era, when all was ‘well’ in Pakistan. Then the charismatic celebrity and ‘honest’ cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan bought the entire supply-chain of this product.

IK never bothered to inform the public of his vision for Pakistan and how he would address the enormous and arduous issues of poverty, sectarianism, weak economy, and relationship with neighbors. His keyword remained ‘Corruption’. And, day after day, he vigorously propelled the allegations of corruption to taint his competitors, insisting on how corrupt the former were, and how chaste and clean he was.

When Panama Leaks surfaced and the names of PM Nawaz Sharif’s family were found amongst those holding dubious offshore accounts, it was a gift made and packaged in heaven for Imran Khan. For the first time, he found something in semblance of concrete facts that could back his allegations. Although it wasn’t sufficient to directly implicate NS, but a move was launched to obtain the resignation from the PM on ‘moral’ grounds.

A country where martial laws are imposed and the constitution is termed as a few-pages-long book, expecting someone to throw away the highest office of the land on moral grounds, is simply too much to ask for. But Khan, as his supporters term him, a go-getter, no matter what the cost, went berserk.

He got so consumed into this issue that he rendered every sensible Pakistani awestruck when he termed last week’s unfortunate and merciless killing of 70 police cadets in Quetta as a conspiracy against his planned agitation of Nov. 2. And this is not even the first time that he has said something this bizarre. Previously, he even said that the Indian PM Modi is covertly supporting Nawaz Sharif by creating mayhem on the borders. Because, as per him, tensions on the border divert the public’s attention towards India, making them focus on his Nawaz-obsessed activities.

However, the reality remains that despite his erratic behaviour, he still has massive appeal amongst the public. People do come out of their homes on his call. For them, he is a messiah whose only virtue is his corruption-less past. They don’t even question him about his close, mega-rich comrades who are always found on his flanks on important events. Interestingly, some of these comrades had their own names taken in the offshore accounts saga. But Khan’s supporters exonerate them by insisting that they never held public office.

This is a very poor argument. A mistake is a mistake whether it is committed in private life or in public. Furthermore, one of Imran Khan’s major financial contributors has actually been a minister in the Musharraf era. Khan often quotes the example of Westminsteresque democracies, but he completely fails to address the fact that if a person of position takes gratuities in the form of jet-rides etc., how does he plan to repay those? After all, there is no free lunch in this world dominated by capitalism. Certainly, corruption has many facets!

Another peculiar spectacle observed each time Imran Khan plans his dharnas (protest sit-ins) is the sagacity offered by certain third parties, especially one cleric from Canada. The cleric, Tahirul Qadri, joined his 2014 dharna apparently for his own reason and then mysteriously wrapped it up after providing much-needed buoyancy to IK’s dharna for no less than 3 months. This time, again, Qadri had announced to offer a constructive interference by joining this new round of dharna. The critics of the agitation do question the perfect synchrony between these two. However, the Difa-e-Pakistan council, a conglomerate of various banned religious outfits, have also announced to join IK this time. Now certain quarters term Qadri and others as the ‘King’s men’ and their eternal benevolence to Imran always give rise to some uneasy questions.

The net result of this whole exercise probably makes the PM weaker. But it seems that Imran needs it to replenish his faltering support base, which was manifested in the results of the recent local bodies’ elections, by-elections, and Kashmir. His party’s performance has remained dismal. By grabbing the media’s attention, Khan is trying to offset some of his political losses. Nobody is going to buy that all of this is being done for a greater, national cause to bring about accountability in the political cadres. It is a simple power play with no result and no clear winner – certainly not IK. Rather, the only loser in all this is democracy, and its only achievement is the thinning of public confidence on elected people.

Pakistan is a different country, it has a history of military rule and it would be naive to expect that the establishment has never been a power contender at any given time. So the weakening of political class directly affects the institutions that are built on top of a sustained democracy.

It is high time for both Imran Khan and the federal government to sit together and come up with a mutually acceptable solution. Otherwise, neither of these two could win this endless tug-of-war, which only prolongs the misery of the general public who had practically been locked up in their houses because of the ‘pre-emptive’ measures taken by the government to keep the Imran Khan challenge from inflating.