Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the nation on Tuesday night conceded Imran Khan’s demand for a three member Judicial Commission comprising Supreme Court Judges for an independent probe into the allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections in an earnest effort to resolve the political impasse. Imran Khan, who has been agitating this demand till yesterday immediately took a somersault and rejected the offer saying that an independent inquiry was not possible in the presence of Nawaz Sharif. The refusal by Imran to accept the offer of the government which provides the best opportunity to defuse an escalating political confrontation, reflects his political immaturity, and the arrogance he was known for on the cricket field.

What his refusal implies is that Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister would influence the probe by the Supreme Court judges, which is a negation of his own trust reposed in the courts. The Prime Minister’s response though late in coming, has been widely hailed by the analysts, intellectuals and political forces represented in Parliament. Unfortunately, Imran has failed to understand that he was not the only stakeholder in the arena. There were other political parties who had a bigger stake in the continuity of the democratic set-up and who have vowed to defend any assault on democracy and the parliament as reflected in the unanimous resolution adopted by the National Assembly.

The demand for the resignation of the Prime Minister is absolutely unfair in view of the fact that Imran Khan, despite his best efforts, has not been able to provide any credible and concrete evidence of mass rigging to challenge the legitimacy of the mandate of the PML(N). The independent monitoring agencies like Fafen and UNDP in their reports, except for pointing out some procedural and administrative irregularities and making recommendations for improvement in those areas did not point out any rigging in the elections. Fafen has even contradicted Imran’s claim of ‘thirty five punctures’. The EU observers group and other international organizations who monitored the elections 2013 in Pakistan, never raised any objections to the overall fairness of the elections. Similarly the data available with the election commission and organizations connected with elections also failed to provide corroborative evidence. It is only Imran who has been crying hoarse about rigging from every convenient roof top in the country. The government has shown utmost flexibility and foresight in providing him the necessary space to wriggle out of the tight corner and he must act in a responsible manner. The government is not only agreeable on forming the commission but also willing to bring constitutional amendments to reform the electoral system in light of the recommendations of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms. Those changes could only be brought through the parliament and not through the street agitations, as the Prime Minister rightly remarked.

Imran Khan is better advised to respond positively to government overtures and let the truth be unearthed by the Judicial Commission as he has been demanding so vigorously. It was in the interests of the country to postpone his ‘Azadi March’ and have the issues resolved in a peaceful manner. By remaining adamant on his demand for the resignation of the Prime Minister without any reasonable justification, he is eroding his own credibility and creating doubts about his motives for the ‘Azadi March’ which is another nomenclature for the long march. If history is any guide, long marches in this country invariably have had sinister motives. The praetorian powers used agent provocateurs to create anarchy and disorder for them to make their move either to remove the elected governments through direct intervention or pressurizing them from behind the scenes to abdicate power.

There are already some suggestions that tend to reinforce a similar impression about the ‘Azadi’ and ‘Revolution’ marches. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently hinted that conspiracies were being hatched to topple his government. A few days ago, according to media reports, the former DG ISI visited the residence of Shafqat Mahmood, a PTI leader, in Lahore and remained with him for two hours. A former COAS General (Retd) Aslam Baig in an article published in the newspapers on Tuesday observed that, “In Pakistan, the phenomenon of long march politics has been witnessed during the regimes of elected governments since 1990. These have basically been exercised to bring about regime change, with the help of the army. The present hulla-baloo by Imran Khan and Tahir Ul Qadri is one such exercise to achieve political ends. I have a feeling that there may be a hidden politico-ideological agenda behind the movement.” Chairman PML(N) Raja Zafrul Haq has claimed that the present political turmoil in the country has been orchestrated to pressurize the government to let Musharraf go. The New York Times reporting on the political events in Pakistan observed, “It is an open secret that General Raheel Sharif is unhappy with Nawaz Sharif for his refusal to allow the former military leader currently facing trial for treason to leave Pakistan.” Even our own media has been persistent in claiming a tiff between the Army top brass and the PM on this issue.

These observations and statements cannot be dismissed lightly. Imran’s alliance with Qadri is another factor that lends currency to such impressions. What Qadri is up to is now amply clear from his exhortations to his followers to kill members of the Sharif family and those who return before the success of his so-called revolution. That explodes the myth of his rhetoric of being democratic and peace loving. What he is preaching is a fascist ideology. By becoming part of the movement to remove the government in connivance with a fascist organization, Imran may have irretrievably damaged his political career. And if their march turns violent and results in bloodshed on the streets of Islamabad and other cities, the only beneficiaries from the likely mayhem would be the forces behind the scenes and not them. In the process, the PTI will be finished politically and it will become difficult for Imran to wipe off the stigma of being a henchman of the establishment and a destroyer of democracy.

   The writer is a freelance columnist.