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Imran’s misconstrued “Truth and Reconciliation”

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Islamabad (Imran Y. CHOUDHRY) :- Former Press Secretary to the President, Former Press Minister to the Embassy of Pakistan to France, Former MD, SRBC Mr. Qamar Bashir analysis :
The PTI’s current leadership is actively seeking to reconcile with the powerful establishment by extending an olive branch. However, the establishment, feeling betrayed and angered by Imran Khan and the PTI, appears reluctant to forgive and forget. This rift deepened notably after Imran Khan’s aggressive criticism of the armed forces. His blatant and fierce onslaught on the armed forces challenged their alleged hegemony in civilian affairs, marking one of the most severe attacks on their rule since the 1971 criticism. The armed forces responded decisively, viewing Khan’s aggression as akin to an enemy attack, and deployed all available resources to repel it, ultimately prevailing in the conflict.
Allegedly, the Establishment effectively manipulated the unfortunate events of May 9th, launching a relentless counterattack on the PTI from all angles and achieving several objectives. Imran Khan, once viewed as invincible due to his substantial public support, was ultimately arrested and imprisoned. Over 200 cases were filed against him, including prominent ones like the Cypher case, Toosha Khana Case, and illegal Nikah case. Consequently, Khan was disqualified from holding any public office. The entire top leadership of the PTI faced arrest, with some members going into hiding. Thousands of party workers were detained, cut off from communication with their families. Furthermore, numerous journalists who supported the PTI found themselves behind bars.
The media faced censorship regarding any mention of Imran Khan’s name, while the PTI’s party symbol was revoked. Additionally, the party was stripped of its quota of women and minority seats in the national assembly. Subsequently, the entire PTI was absorbed into another smaller party, Sunni Ittehad, effectively sidelining the PTI from the national discourse.
PTI alleged that the establishment orchestrated the election results, effectively turning PTI’s winning candidates into losers. According to PTI, based on the compiled results from form 45, they had secured a clear majority in Punjab and at the center. However, their apparent victory was overturned through widespread, blatant, and shameless rigging, depriving the PTI of the mandate bestowed upon them by the people of Pakistan.

The fierce and unrelenting counterattack dealt a decisive blow to Imran Khan and the remaining leadership of the PTI, leaving them with a stark realization: without the forgiveness of the Establishment and an end to the relentless attacks on PTI and its members, their political survival remains uncertain. It became evident that the party’s revival hinges on reconciliation with the Establishment and an end to hostilities towards PTI, its leadership, and its supporters. They fully realize that until they mend fences with the Establishment, they will never have the level playing field enjoyed by other political parties to pursue their manifestos. However, they may have underestimated that the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission typically stems from a position of strength, not weakness.
The concept of Truth and Reconciliation is a framework for addressing past injustices and human rights violations, particularly in the aftermath of conflicts or periods of repression. It aims to promote healing and societal reconciliation by acknowledging and addressing the truth of past wrongs, fostering accountability, and facilitating forgiveness and understanding among affected communities.
The concept gained prominence in the late 20th century, notably through initiatives such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa, launched following the end of apartheid under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The TRC provided a platform for victims and perpetrators to testify about their experiences, with the aim of uncovering the truth, promoting reconciliation, and preventing future atrocities.
The objectives of Truth and Reconciliation processes typically include: Establishing an accurate historical record of human rights violations and abuses. Providing a forum for victims to share their experiences and receive acknowledgment and recognition of their suffering. Holding perpetrators accountable for their actions through mechanisms such as public hearings or trials. Promoting reconciliation and healing among divided communities by fostering empathy, understanding, and forgiveness. Recommending measures to address the root causes of conflict and prevent future atrocities.
In line with this concept, the PTI Chairman has notably softened his rhetoric against the establishment, a departure from his previous stance, which often involved confrontational rhetoric. This change came after his arrest and media ban, prompting a shift in approach. The PTI leadership now maintains a clear and persistent stance that they are no longer in conflict with the establishment. They have ceased defending the events of May 9th and are instead advocating for an independent judicial commission to investigate the incident. Their demand is for thorough scrutiny of evidence and testimonies, with individuals implicated to face legal consequences if found guilty, while those innocent should be exonerated.

The party has distanced itself from former army officers-turned-social media activists stationed abroad, who were critical of the armed forces. Rather than directly blaming the armed forces for alleged rigging, PTI now directs its criticism towards the Election Commission and interim government. They pledge to wage political struggle within the confines of constitutional rights and laws, vowing not to resort to vigilantism. Rather than issuing threats, PTI advocates for the establishment of a judicial commission to investigate rigging allegations and ensure justice for all victims.
Despite being victims of alleged rigging and experiencing setbacks to their mandate, PTI conducts itself responsibly in parliament, raising concerns about perceived injustices without directly implicating the establishment.
But there is a big problem: There are significant differences between the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of South Africa and any hypothetical commission in Pakistan. In South Africa, the TRC was established under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, who had spent decades fighting for equal rights for black people and eventually became president. He initiated the commission from a position of strength, not while he was imprisoned.
In Pakistan, the feasibility of implementing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is highly questionable, particularly given the current political dynamics. With Imran Khan’s party facing significant challenges for survival and the entrenched power of the establishment, the likelihood of accepting the principles of truth and reconciliation, especially those involving accountability mechanisms, is slim. The establishment is unlikely to endorse procedures such as public hearings or trials for holding perpetrators accountable and addressing the root causes of conflict. Key components of TRC, such as public testimonies, documentation of atrocities, community dialogues, reparations programs, and educational initiatives fostering understanding and tolerance, would face strong opposition and resistance from the establishment.
Though this concept was copied by many countries including Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Canada. In some cases the Truth and Reconciliation commissions succeeded in uncovering the truth of past atrocities, promoting healing and reconciliation, and laying the groundwork for lasting peace and stability. In other cases, challenges such as limited political will, ongoing conflict, or resistance from perpetrators hindered the effectiveness of Truth and Reconciliation efforts.
Proposing the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the current Pakistani context is not only inappropriate but also misguided. The concept of TRC, as perceived by PTI and its leadership, appears flawed. Moreover, the timing couldn’t be worse: the Establishment holds unassailable power, while Imran Khan finds himself incarcerated and PTI is in disarray. Frontline leaders have deserted the party, and second-tier figures are struggling for survival. Given these circumstances, PTI may need to wait for a considerable period until conditions become conducive for initiating a TRC.

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