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Imran Khan takes a U-turn in the right direction

Often mocked as  ‘Taliban Khan’, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, Imran Khan has drawn harsh criticism from some circles while political support from others over his views about war against terrorism.  

It is common knowledge that Imran Khan has been a vocal supporter of dialogue and has condemned all military operations against terrorists. He has consistently blamed United States of America for dragging Pakistan in ‘his war’ and has termed Ret General President Musharraf’s policy of becoming an American ally in war against terrorism as ‘disastrous for Pakistan.’

Even after he signed the resolution supporting army operation during the ‘All parties’ conference’ chaired by then Prime Minister ‘Yousaf Raza Gilani’, he publicly spoke against the operation.

In his article “Where I stand-By Imran Khan.” published on May, 23, 2009, he stated: “The unfolding tragedy that is taking place in Swat is mind boggling. To flush out a few thousand militant Taliban, more than two million people have been forced to live in misery in camps not fit for animals in civilized societies”.

He further states in later part of his article:

“An Army action which has already led to almost 2.5 million displaced countrymen cannot simply be accepted without questions. And, as if we do not already have a crisis, Zardari has declared that the war in Swat is merely the beginning of a wider war, which is likely to engulf other parts of the country. It is time to take stock and stop ourselves from committing collective suicide.”

Pakistan People’s Party claims till date that such comments by Imran Khan and religious parties broke the consensus that they had developed and they therefore couldn’t ‘effectively’ continue with wide-scale military operations against terrorists.

Imran Khan’s stance, no matter how delusional, was not completely illogical. It is indeed true that when the Pakistan Army was sent into Waziristan, there were no militant Taliban in Pakistan. As a result of the Army operation, the tribal social and political structure was destroyed throughout Fata and Malakand, and the vacuum has been filled by Taliban groups. It is also true that an army action results in collateral damage, internally displaced people but can still never guarantee an end to terrorism.

Until few days back, Imran Khan was seen on different television channels defending his stance and his party workers were quoting the reasons I have mentioned to argue against the use of military in Waziristan.

Now, Imran Khan has suddenly lent his support to army and supported strikes by Pakistan air force (although some PTI leaders, mainly from K.P, still seemed quite confused when asked in different TV programs about viability of operation.)

So what forced Imran Khan to suddenly change his stance?

In my view, the following were the major reasons that forced Imran Khan had to change the line he had been taking for more than 10 years.

1. Public Pressure:

Not only Imran Khan’s twitter and facebook pages were full of comments from angry PTI workers, many of PTI’s parliamentarians conveyed to Imran Khan in person that PTI was quickly losing popularity because of this line against terrorism. It is important to mention that the line, which was fairly popular in last 10 years, became quickly unpopular after recent Taliban attacks during peace talks.  

2. Pressure from Media:

Most analysts were analyzing that it is time for military action; most anchors were asking: “when is the time for military action?”, most political and civilian society guests were saying “now is the time for military action” and PTI and JI were the only parties taking an opposite stance. Since PTI is a much more popular party (in terms of votes and coverage given by media) than JI, they had to bear most of the criticism. So much so that in the last few days of the life of this PTI’s stance, most of PTI’s Punjab leadership was seen avoiding media when the discussion topic was about war against terrorism.

3. Internal pressure from party:

It is an open secret that most of PTI’s Punjab and Sindh leadership was against IK’s stance of “No fighting, only negotiations”. Javed Hashmi categorically stated in an interview that ‘army must hit back on the terrorists who killed 23 FC soldiers.’ Workers of PTI Punjab wing took out a rally to support Pak army in its operations even before Imran Khan had made his statement supporting the army operations.

As a political leader, it was impossible for Imran Khan to ignore these factors and therefore a U turn was made. Imran Khan now supports federal government’s policy of “Talk-Fight-Talk-Fight”.

The fact that he stands behind the Pakistan army in its operations is of utmost importance and will definitely further encourage the army and boost its morale.

In light of all the facts that I have stated above, I conclude that Imran Khan has indeed taken ‘a U-turn in the right direction’.

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