MORE and more, Imran Khan’s erratic political trajectory is guiding him towards a major collision with reality, while his party resembles a coach dragged along by a runaway horse.

Just when I thought Khan was incapable of further absurdity, he comes along with his bizarre proposal to induct the ISI and Military Intelligence into a judicial enquiry into alleged election rigging. Considering that in just about every election held in Pakistan, the two military intelligence agencies have been accused of fixing the results, this is literally setting a thief to catch a thief.

And these charges have not been without foundation. In the famous Asghar Khan petition before the Supreme Court about rigging in the 1990 general elections, the court ruled, 22 years after the event, that the ISI had indeed been involved in distributing funds to favoured candidates of the anti-PPP alliance under Nawaz Sharif.

Although retired generals Aslam Beg and Asad Durrani, both found guilty by the Supreme Court, are still walking free, the fact is that their involvement was clearly established. Despite this clear evidence, here is Imran Khan demanding that the ISI and MI be inducted into the judicial probe to look into the 2013 elections.

Imran Khan is showing signs of desperation.
I became personally aware of the way intelligence agencies dabbled in elections during the 2002 polls. A very close friend was contesting a Lahore constituency on a PPP ticket, and I stayed with him for part of his campaign.

Another friend who happened to be a key adviser to Musharraf in those days asked me to pass on a message to my host: run from some other constituency as his opponent, Tahirul Qadri, was going to win. He wouldn’t go into any reasons except to say it “had been decided”. In the event, my friend was declared the winner in the unofficial first count; soon afterwards, the result was reversed, with Qadri emerging as the ultimate winner.

In the same elections, I heard of candidates being pressurised by spooks to switch sides, or sit the polls out. They were threatened with exposure of false tax returns and other shenanigans.

Ever since Khan’s political star came into the ascendant, there have been rumours about covert backing from the army. According to Javed Hashmi, PTI’s ex-president, a ‘third force’ was behind Imran Khan’s destabilising drive. And certainly, Nawaz Sharif’s government has been greatly weakened as a result of the PTI campaign, an outcome that could not have displeased the army’s top brass.

Khan’s grasp of international relations was displayed with his campaign to block Nato containers transiting through Pakistan to Afghanistan. These supplies were being moved under an agreement between Pakistan and Nato, and their blockage embarrassed the government. Unruly PTI goons roughed up drivers and damaged trucks.

The result? Since January, there have been 10 US drone strikes in Fata without a squeak from the fire-breathing Khan. In a further display of diplomatic finesse, the PTI dharna and general lawlessness in Islamabad blocked the visits of the presidents of China and Sri Lanka, both important friends of Pakistan.

And of course we have followed Imran Khan’s defence of the Taliban with growing bemusement and dismay. He delayed military action against the militants using North Waziristan as a sanctuary. By cosying up to groups such as the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami, he has aided and abetted growing radicalisation in Pakistan.

What we were unaware of is Khan’s standing as an educationist. Here’s an email I received recently: “As a teacher, I am alarmed by Imran Khan’s announcement that once in power PTI will have one education system in the country by ‘combining the syllabus of the madressahs, Urdu medium schools and English medium schools’. Teachers in Pakistan have to stop him before he completely destroys an already compromised education system…

“[With the money being spent on his sons’ education in England] he can open a model school on his Bani Gala estate to experiment with his ideas before thrusting them down our throats.”

Already completely isolated, Khan is showing signs of desperation as his exhausted, disillusioned followers return to their homes. While his campaign has shown that there is a huge appetite for reform among large sections of Pakistani society, people won’t be taken for an unending ride by charlatans chanting slogans for change. This is especially true when the messiah chooses to surround himself with dubious political hacks who have profited from the very system he wants to overthrow.

Ever since he was captain of Pakistan’s cricket team, Khan has been known for his stubborn, uncompromising streak. While this was mostly an asset on the cricket field, it is a major flaw in a politician. The art of compromise and give-and-take is an essential component of politics. Without it, the system goes into gridlock.

So while I support Khan’s demand for electoral reform, there’s not much else I can agree with him about.