Pakistan News

Qureshi returns

PTI VICE chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi has been granted his freedoms back. Given how brazenly the state has targeted the party’s leadership while denying them due rights and liberties, one wonders why.

On Tuesday, he simply walked out of Adiala Jail after a Lahore High Court bench set aside his detention order. There was no police escort waiting for him outside to whisk him away on an erstwhile unknown charge, as has been the norm for other PTI leaders.

Nor did he address a press conference to denounce Imran Khan, the PTI, or politics altogether — the usual price for liberty paid by those who have deserted.

Instead, Mr Qureshi used his brief appearance before the media to reiterate his commitment to stand by the PTI chief’s side and to assert that he still holds “the flag of justice” in his hands and wishes to see the party succeed.

Those speculating that Mr Qureshi had only been allowed to walk because he was needed to relay an important message to Mr Khan may be on to something.

Mr Qureshi had announced a planned meeting with the PTI chairman on Wednesday, in which, he said, he would be sharing his political analysis and seeking guidance from Mr Khan on the path forward.

There was speculation that the message he was actually taking to Mr Khan was simple: excuse yourself from politics, or continue to watch your party be decimated by the state.

If true, this would be a tricky dilemma for Mr Khan. Mr Qureshi was named heir by Mr Khan himself; choice number one would see him seize the prize of the campaigning and considerable effort put in by Mr Khan into reviving his party post the 2022 vote of no-confidence. Choice number two could leave Mr Khan isolated and perhaps years away from a comeback to mainstream politics.

Presenting a popular public leader with such choices is, of course, unfair; not to mention it is unlikely to dent his actual power. The ‘minus-ing’ of popular politicians has been tried many times before, with the usual result that it creates lasting problems and resentments instead of providing enduring solutions.

What our powerbrokers continue to not understand is that political legitimacy is not conferred by the state that it can be taken away by it too. It is drawn from public support and can only be contested through the democratic process.

Taking the PTI chief out of the elections process may satisfy a few egos, but doing so will also make those who are lawfully entitled to make the decision regarding his political future resentful of the state. Why would anyone risk alienating a very youthful population for very short-term goals? One hopes there are better options on the table instead.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2023

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