Uncouth attack on parliament

IMRAN Khan may be unapologetic and defiant, but it was a thoroughly distasteful and shameful remark made by him in Lahore.

Parliament has rightly censured Mr Khan and a political sidekick for their remarks during the opposition protest on Wednesday, and it is hoped that allies of Mr Khan and friends of the PTI will urge him to reconsider his tone and rhetoric ahead of what is expected to be a fierce campaign season.

Certainly, ugly sentiments and verbal attacks are not new in the political arena, and Mr Khan is not the only transgressor when it comes to the use of unparliamentary language.

But what is dismaying about Mr Khan and some of the PTI’s politics is the disdain for parliament in general.

It is one thing to excoriate political opponents and denounce them as corrupt, it is quite another to dismiss the very institution of parliament because the people have chosen elected representatives other than yourself and your party.

Indeed, contempt for parliament and the people’s will has been an uncomfortable underlying theme of PTI politics. Having preached an anti-status quo politics for many years, Mr Khan has in recent years vigorously embraced status quo politicians in a bid to finally win power at the federal level.

That, of course, is Mr Khan and the PTI’s choice and they are entitled to make it. But it does suggest an undemocratic mindset. What is now intolerable because another party has a majority in parliament would become tolerable if the same faces lined up behind Mr Khan.

The PTI supremo appears to believe in a ‘democracy’ that best suits him and that hands him the prime ministership. Anything less, and parliament, parliamentarians and all other political leaders are seen as evidence of a rotten system that has failed to recognise and reward Mr Khan for his political greatness.

It is a sad reflection on a politician who has built up a genuine and credible political base in over two decades of tireless effort.

Mr Khan’s latest outburst has also raised the question of what kind of political and governance structure he would like to see in Pakistan.

If the PTI goes on to lose the next general election, will Mr Khan be willing to accept the results?

Or will he launch another campaign to dislodge a legitimately elected government, the next time perhaps bringing the democratic edifice itself crashing down?

It costs Mr Khan nothing to be respectful of democratic institutions and distinguish between the temporary members of those institutions and the institutions themselves.

But it could cost the country a great deal if a contender for political power does not believe in the legitimacy and sanctity of democratic institutions. Yesterday, Mr Khan pointedly refused to apologise for his remarks. Perhaps some more time may help him realise his error.

Source : Dawn, January 19th, 2018

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