How does one react to an accusation as shocking and seemingly absurd as the one Imran Khan has made against Asif Ali Zardari? Does Mr Khan really believe his accusations against Mr Zardari, or is this just another tactic meant to stay in the headlines? It is difficult to say. However, it does appear that a strange narrative has been playing out in the former prime minister’s head ever since a failed bid on his life last November.
The PTI chief believes that the several public ‘revelations’ he has made of alleged assassination plots being cooked up against him have actually helped keep him safe by discouraging would-be assassins from executing their plans.
After the November bid, too, he had brazenly named top government ministers and a senior intelligence officer as being involved — again, without offering any proof. While it is concerning that the former prime minister seems to be growing increasingly paranoid about his safety, it is also highly problematic of him to be levelling such serious accusations without substantiating them.
The PPP co-chairman, Asif Ali Zardari, is a frequently vilified character in Pakistan’s political milieu. The tales of his wiliness and Machiavellian approach to politics are many and well known. However, his reputation alone does not qualify him to be labelled as a would-be murderer as well. This is a highly unfair and damaging accusation to make, especially when no proof has been offered.
The PPP is well within its rights to seek redress for Mr Khan’s claims. A warning from a PPP leader to Mr Khan, telling him to beware of “the snakes up his sleeve”, seems particularly pertinent, if only for the reason that it brings attention to the fact that someone somewhere seems to be whispering some very strange things in Mr Khan’s ears.
The PTI chairman himself has claimed in the past that ‘well-meaning’ sympathisers in the intelligence apparatus and security agencies have been ‘tipping him off’ regarding possible threats to his well-being. Perhaps he should start taking their murmurings with a pinch of salt, especially since they have started making him sound like someone who may be losing their grip on reality.
All of that said, the assassination of high-profile individuals has indeed been a tragic recurrence in Pakistan’s history. Mr Zardari, whom Mr Khan has accused, has seen it up close when he lost his spouse, Benazir Bhutto, in a violent bid on her life. If Mr Khan seriously fears for his safety, he should approach the authorities and share what he knows. The state and the government are responsible for providing him with the security he deserves as a former prime minister. Throwing out accusations is a highly irresponsible way of dealing with a matter as serious as this.
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2023