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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
Outlook.com

The Umpire Takes Sides

The caretaker Prime Minister's support to Imran Khan raises suspicions about the establishment backing him

The Umpire Takes Sides
The Umpire Takes Sides
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Cricket hero Imran Khan's campaign for the February 3 national elections was bound to be controversial. With his marriage to a British heiress, his lively social life in England and his nonexistent political experience, media attention was guaranteed. But no one had expected caretaker Prime Minister Malik Meraj Khalid to add to the controversy by overwhelmingly endorsing Imran's prime ministerial aspirations.

But then, Imran's political future is not the only thing marked by uncertainty. There are still doubts over the elections being held on schedule. And the caretaker government installed by PresidentFarooq Ahmed Khan Leghari seems to be going out of its way to confuse the situation. Not a day passes without the interim set-up taking a questionable decision or issuing a controversial statement.

The latest uproar ensued when Khalid was invited to a function at Imran's Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore. In his speech on the occasion, the ageing politician is reported to have said that people should support Imran's political objectives. He advised affluent people to follow the former cricketer's example and declared that he would now be allowed to run the campaign for his hospital on the state-run electronic media—a facility disallowed by theBenazir Bhutto government.

The reaction was immediate. Other political parties accused Khalid of being partisan. And while the next day the government claimed he had been misquoted, suspicions about the caretakers' intentions remain. One school of thought has it that this is part of President Leghari's gameplan to ensure a hung Parliament. The casual scrutiny of Imran's declaration of his assets in his nomination papers and the extensive coverage he is receiving in the foreign media have helped fuel speculation that he has the support of the establishment in Pakistan.

But these...

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