Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's offensive approach against Nawaz Sharif
Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is famous for his aggressive politics against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In 1996, he had formed the PTI and supported General Parvez Musharraf's military coup in 1999, overthrowing the democratically elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Later, Imran Khan claimed that in 2002, Gen Musharraf had offered him prime ministership, which he had refused. Although, Imran Khan was put under house arrest in November 2007 for anti-Musharraf political activates, he is still believed to be close to the Pakistan army. His anti-Nawaz Sharif rhetoric has made him one of most popular leaders of Pakistan.
Since Nawaz Sharif's coming back to power in June 2013, Imran Khan and his party PTI have vigorously been at the forefront attacking Nawaz Sharif and demanding his resignation for allegedly rigging general elections of 2013 as well as running a corrupt and inefficient government. Meanwhile, Imran Khan and leaders of PTI have escalated their anti-Nawaz Sharif campaign after Pakistan Supreme Court's verdict of April 20,2017 on Panama leaks asking Nawaz Sharif and his sons Hasan and Hussain to appear before a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to record their statements.
Even before general elections were held in Pakistan in May 2013, Imran Khan had sent a massage of furious political rivalry to Nawaz Sharif by holding a successful and impressive public rally in Lahore on October 31, 2011 which was attended by more than one lakh people. This public rally of Imran Khan was described as "tsunami" in the country's political arena, as a show of strength in Lahore, which traditionally has been a stronghold of Nawaz Sharif. After the rally, a leading Pakistan English daily held an online readers poll about the popularity of Imran Khan as a politician in which over 90 per cent people favored him as a national leader from Punjab (Pakistan), challenging Nawaz Sharif in his own constituency.
An aggressive and bitter political rivalry between Imran Khan and Nawaz Shairf had begun immediately after the results of general elections in May 2013, in which Imran Khan against his expectations failed to gather more seats than Nawaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League(N)(PML-N). He accused Nawaz Sharif and PML(N) for rigging the elections. Notably, within a year of Nawaz Sharif's coming into power, Imran Khan, along with a cleric-turned-politician Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, Chief of Pakistan Awami Tehreek Party (PAT) jointly held the longest anti-government agitation (14,August 2014 ? 17 December, 2014) in Pakistan's history called "Azadi March" against the alleged rigging of general elections by Nawaz Sharif and PML(N). During the agitation capital city Islamabad was besieged and the government as well as Nawaz Shairf personally, were left shaken.
Imran Khan and his other 34 party members also threatened to resign from the National Assembly and three provincial assemblies over alleged rigging of 2013 general elections by Nawaz Sharif. However, it was also alleged that anti-Nawaz Sharif agitation was supported by the then ISI Chief General Zaheerul Islam, who had allegedly prepared the plan to stir unrest and chaos in the country through Imran Khan, who is reportedly in good books of ISI.
Imran Khan's six-month-long anti-Nawaz Sharif agitation also led to succumbing of Nawaz Sharif before the then newly appointed army chief, General Raheel Sharif, who preferred to rule the government indirectly rather than overthrowing the civilian government of Nawaz Sharif. Since then, Nawaz Sharif and his civilian government have been virtual puppets at the hands of Pakistan army and ISI. Some leading Pakistani watchers gave credit to Imran Khan's agitation for changing the political equitation at national level, giving an upper hand to the army in civil-military relations.
Meanwhile, in a sensational accusation, PTI accused had Nawaz Sharif of hobnobbing with the Al-Qaeda and receiving funds for terrorist activities in Kashmir. Nawaz Sharif had also been threatened to be taken to court (Islamabad, May 9, 2017) by PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry, for receiving money to the tune of Pak Rs 1.5 billion in the late 80s from Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden to promote 'jehad' in Kashmir. However, Nawaz Sharif utilised an amount of Pak Rs 270 million out of those funds for toppling the democratically elected government of Benazir Bhutto in 1989 in connivance with the former army chief Mirza Aslam Baig, and former President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan, known to be a pawn of Pakistan army as they all three wanted to keep Benazir Bhutto out of power. Revelations about Nawaz Sharif's taking money from Al-Qaeda had been made in a book titled "Khalid Khawaja: Shaheed-e-Aman" written by Shamama Khalid, the widow of former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy Khalid Khawaja, who was reportedly murdered by the Pakistani Taliban in 2010.
Imran Khan was also against Nawaz Sharif-supported Pakistan army's 'war on terror' through operation 'Zarb-e-Azb' as according to him, it was an American war being fought on Pakistani soil and he had pledged to abandon it if he came to power. He alleged that it was Nawaz Sharif and his ruling PML(N), which along with some political parties like Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Awami National Party (ANP) were responsible for dragging Pakistan into a war of "others". He also accused some political and religious parties of being directly involved in the wave of militancy in Pakistan and maintaining double standards on USA and its policies in Afghanistan as well as in the region.
Nawaz Sharif has faced a regular and scathing attack from Imran Khan on charges of corruption since the latter's coming into power. Imran Khan has even described Nawaz Sharif as the "godfather of corruption". After revelation of Panama Papers, in April 2016, alleging involvement of Nawaz Sharif and his sons in owning offshore companies and assets, which did not reflect in his family's wealth statement, Imran Khan escalated his anti-Nawaz Sharif drive on charges of corruption and demanded his resignation. In a buzz worthy claim, Imran Khan also alleged (Peshawar, April 25, 2017) that Nawaz Sharif government had offered him Pak Rs 10 billion to back down from Panamagate, which was vehemently denied by the ruling PML(N) and Imran Khan was sued. Imran Khan also alleged that Nawaz Sharif had submitted "fake documents" in the Supreme Court about his getting economic assistance from Qatari Prince Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim for offshore investments.
With regards to Nawaz Sharif's policy on India, Imran Khan has been critical of Nawaz Sharif's back channel diplomacy. He disapproved Nawaz Sharif's alleged secret meeting (Murree, April 27,2017) with Indian businessman Sajjan Jindal and alleged that Nawaz Sharif and his family were engaged in serving their personal financial interests abroad and called upon Nawaz Sharif and his entire family to disclose their financial interests and assets abroad, especially after the meeting with Jindal. Imran Khan also described Nawaz Sharif as a "security risk" and criticized him for putting the country at "grave risk". However, Imran Khan has been in favour of resolving all issues with India, including Kashmir, through dialogue.
Further, Imran Khan has been extremely critical of Sharif government over handling the case of alleged Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav's in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), at The Hague, Netherlands and blamed Nawaz Sharif for an unfavourable verdict leading to humiliation of Pakistan also describing it as a "debacle" for the country.
Notably, Nawaz Sharif has also not remained silent over Imran Khan and his party's regularly attacking him, and has occasionally responded to the allegations against him. Nawaz Sharif stated (January 12, 2017, Lahore) that he was sick of Imran Khan and some other politicians' "lies and wrong allegations". He alleged that Imran Khan and his opponents speak lies on "daily basis" and talk about things which do not exist. While declaring that Imran Khan and his partymen would not succeed in their plans against him, Nawaz Sharif alleged that these politicians wanted to stop his government from working for the progress of the country.
Since general elections in Pakistan are approaching very fast, Imran Khan and his party is expected to adopt more offensive and fiery political approach against Nawaz Sharif and his ruling PML(N) party.
Meanwhile, according to a survey conducted by 'Gallup Pakistan' in April 2017 after Panama case decision, the popularity of Imran Khan-led PTI has surged by 3 per cent whereas the popularity of Nawaz Sharif-led PML(N) and Asif Zardari-led Pakistan People's Party(PPP) had decreased 2 per cent and 1 per cent respectively. However, in overall popularity chart, Nawaz Sharif's PML (N) is still way ahead with 36 per cent, in comparison to Imran Khan-led PTI's 22 per cent and Asif Zardari-led PPP's 17 per cent respectively.
Thus, merely being rhetorical and following aggressive politics by Imran Khan is no substitute to Nawaz Sharif's political acumen and his over four decades of advantageous experience at the country's highest political level.