Imaran khan has come a long way. His party bagged the second largest number of votes in the 2013 elections. These elections were generally hailed by international observers as fair and as good as any previously held.

Imran however, was willing to accept the overall results provided there was a recount of four constituencies.

To get this done, he knocked on the doors of prescribed tribunals and courts.

Although a number of appeals filed by PTI candidates against the validity of the final count were duly decided by the appellate entities, he stuck to his guns with regard to the four specific constituencies and put the blame on the elected PML-N government though elections were held under the auspices of a caretaker government.

With the passage of time, Imran took to fiercely accusing the incumbent government of involvement in the rigging of election results and did not spare even the former Chief Justice of Pakistan whom he lambasted for influencing returning officers.

The fact of the matter is that elections in developing countries are seldom fully free and fair. Our political leaders mostly from the landed gentry, do use their clout in securing success at the polls. This reality has been highlighted in the verdicts of the courts against successful candidates on the ground that they had submitted fake degrees.

All over the world, it took time before democracy in its various dimensions could take root. Even in England, in the 19th century, constituencies were dubbed “pocket boroughs” and actually sold to the highest bidder. Women had to fight hard for decades to get the right to vote.

Pakistan’s feudalistic traditions and culture militate against rule of law and observance of procedures. India under the enlightened leadership of Nehru for almost two decades, was luckier and brought about land reforms and uninterrupted elections with the result that its powerful electoral institutions do ensure, to a large extent, fair elections. Pakistan has had a chequered political career. It lost its founding father and the first Prime Minister within a few years of attaining independence. Weak political institutions and ambitious civil and military officers filled the vacuum and the army intervened before the first national general election could be held.

The political process thus came to be militarized and over the years, the country was ruled by military commanders for long spells.

There has been a promising change in that for the first time; a smooth transfer of power from one civilian government to another. Part of the credit must go to self-restraint exercised by the army chief General Kayani although in certain crucial areas, authority has remained with the GHQ and the possibility of military intelligence agencies tinkering with the electoral process cannot as yet be ruled out.

Imran, an upright national hero, has come to believe that certain forces got together to manipulate the 2013 elections and deprived him of the office of the Prime Minister. He has developed the conviction that the present elected assemblies (except for the one in KPK) are all fake and even the reformed apex court of the country is not independent.

He ushered in a long march of his party followers to Islamabad, backed up by the fiery demagogue Tahir-ul-Qadri. He has been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for almost three months. Qadri has already called it a day. Imran continues making speeches atop the container. At the Rahim Yar Khan meeting, he surprisingly gave up the demand for Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and instead called for the Supreme Court (aided by ISI and MI) to probe into the 2013 elections; if found that these were rigged, the incumbent government must quit and new elections held under the auspices of a reconstituted independent election commission. The specific reference to ISI and MI by Imran Khan has attracted widespread criticism and evoked a remembrance of Javed Hashmi’s disclosures about the PTI’s connection with a behind-the-scenes “umpire”.

The idea of the Supreme Court undertaking assessment of the 2013 elections had already been conceded by the Prime Minister who had addressed a letter to the Chief Justice to constitute a commission to do the job.

Again, in talks with PTI representatives, the government agreed to the investigation of the election results by Supreme Court judges (only ToRs were to be sorted out).

The shift in Imran’s stand has to be read with his declaration that huge crowds from all over the country would converge on Islamabad on November 30th to force the end of the Nawaz Sharif government. He has warned that for any untoward occurrences, the government would be held responsible. What has turned the coming march ominous however, is Sheikh Rashid’s recent speech at the Nankana meeting in which he called on the marchers to “besiege, burn, kill and be killed,” to get rid of  their rulers. While Rashid was speaking, the camera focused on Imran Khan. No criticism or clarification has so far come from him.

There is little doubt that Imran has a huge following in Pakistan and if he takes to the path proposed by Sheikh Rashid, there is bound to be terrible trouble. If he uses the wild force of a chaotic mob, the boots may not remain away from the seat of power.

Imran must disown Rashid’s mischievous move and part company with him. He has already achieved much by successfully exposing and challenging the status quo and should focus on an authentic investigation of the 2013 elections by the Supreme Court judges; accelerated reform of the election commission on the basis of parliamentary committee recommendations; elections in 2015 if the election probe reveals widespread rigging.

Too much is at stake for Imran and the country. There is little wisdom in frittering away the enormous influence he has come to wield over the imaginations of tens of millions of Pakistanis. A rash and reckless rush into lawlessness and violence must be avoided at all costs.

The writer is an ex-federal secretary and ambassador, and a freelance political and international relations analyst.

pacadepak@gmail.com