Home Editorial Editorial: The Problem of Talking to Imran Khan

Editorial: The Problem of Talking to Imran Khan

Calls for dialogue between the government and the PTI are unlikely to bear fruit until both sides are willing to work for compromise

by Editorial

File photo of PTI chief Imran Khan

The police’s attempt to arrest PTI Chairman Imran Khan on court orders appears to be nearing a conclusion after events that have humiliated the state’s writ and raised serious concerns about the “rule of law” that the former prime minister claims to be fighting for. Understandably, both sides—the PTI and the government—have taken a step back, with Khan now claiming he is “ready to talk with anyone” as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif offers an olive branch by saying “all political forces will have to sit for dialogue to rid the country of the ongoing political and economic crises.”

The key stumbling block, however, remains general elections, which the government maintains should happen after the end of Parliament’s current term even as Khan continues calls for their “immediate” announcement. Sharif, it appears, is aware of this, noting that “though politicians always resort to dialogue, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has a history of not responding positively in this regard.”

The prime minister is not wrong in believing offers of dialogue to the PTI rarely prove fruitful. Khan’s political policy is quite clear: no quarter is to be given when an adversary is down and nearly out as the state of Pakistan is. The government, already struggling with a crippled economy and social unrest, is currently “down” and Khan has naturally decided this is the time to strike. His claims of acting only “in the national interest” are not reflected in his actions, as evidenced by his party’s refusal to even attend an Apex Committee meeting in Peshawar to deliberate on resurgent terrorism. Unsurprisingly, the PTI also continues to push back on calls for a Charter of Economy, a topic that is not Khan’s forte, despite it becoming abundantly clear that part of the reason for the IMF’s current distrust of Islamabad is the former government’s reneging on commitments to the lender.

Unfortunately for Sharif, Khan is not a politician and “normal” rules do not apply. Over 30 years since his retirement from cricket, the PTI chief still subscribes to the rule of “extermination” of his opponent, forgetting that even in sports the defeated team accepts defeat and the winner is gracious in victory. Conflict resolution, by contrast, is primarily achieved through compromise. Cricket does offer some of the principles of reconciliation that politicians need, but other aspects call for battle tactics, with no quarter given. Democracy, at its core, shuns the rules of primitive conflict: any party that wins elections is expected to work with the loser, who is called to serve as a critic and commentator, with an aim to achieving power in the next election. What democracy does not allow is finishing an opponent “forever” because the victor does not want to give them a chance to becoming a critic.

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