New Delhi: In his heart of hearts, Imran Khan must rue the day when he made a Faustian bargain with the Pakistan army to come to power. Ensuring that his political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf or PTI, never got its own majority in the National Assembly through calibrated rigging using, inter alia, the cadres of the Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist group, the Pakistan army and the Deep State it heads guaranteed that the former Pakistan Test cricket captain, one of the fast bowling greats of the game, remained their puppet. Gone are the days when all of South Asia, including big-hearted India, celebrated Pakistan’s World Cup cricket victory in 1992 as a token of their common struggle against racism in sports. Today, Imran Khan is a lonely man who is isolated among nations and people who value life, liberty and decency and unconditionally oppose violence. In the wake of the Indian bombing of Pakistani terrorist camps, Imran Khan has become more than before a prisoner of the Pakistan Deep State, and his room for manoeuvre is limited to issuing calls for peace with India which has no real sanction from the Pakistan military. A Keble College, Oxford, graduate with a real education unlike some others in the subcontinent, Imran Khan should have known better than most about the price of trading the soul for power. He has called a tragedy of historic proportions to himself and it is almost reminiscent of Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s ill-fated attempts to lend Pakistan a lofty secular character after having fought and secured a dyed-in-the-wool Islamic state. Pakistan’s national tragedy is that it did not have a founding leader like Jawaharlal Nehru and the loss cannot be repaired in the near future.

Imran Khan’s overriding infirmity is that he is not a professional politician like Nawaz Sharief or the late Benazir Bhutto or even her rather dodgy widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who saved his regime from doom after the Americans got Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad under the very noses of the Pakistan army and air force. A combination of radar failure on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and US-induced technical glitches in frontline F-16 squadrons permitted a two-hour window to the United States to complete the Osama operation unimpeded. The Pakistan military sought to make Zardari the scapegoat but he proved an even better survivor than Nawaz Sharief which should have brought solace to his wife, an unheralded martyr to democracy. History has at least half-repeated itself with the Indian raid and although Imran Khan will survive it, he won’t be half the man he was before the Circe of power took him in her treacherous embrace.

Prior to becoming prime minister, Imran Khan and the PTI were opposed to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor since it was bound to lead Pakistan into insolvency like other Chinese project signatory states like Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In the first weeks of coming to power, Imran Khan persisted with his opposition until he made a state visit to China where the Chinese took him to task. Forbidden from opposing CPEC, he returned to Pakistan to face further strictures from the Pakistan army, which reminded him that he owed his power to it. His power position, it further implied, was also tainted because he had not objected to the Pakistan Deep State’s use of Jaish-e-Mohammed cadres to rig elections, the Lashkar-e-Toiba having fallen from grace because it had come in international crosshairs after the 2008 Bombay carnage. With Pakistan facing economic collapse, the Pakistan army raised several billion dollars in grants and investments from Arab sheikhdoms on the basis of past mercenary services rendered and promise of future ones in Yemen despite the strains on relations with Shia Iran this would produce. By reminding Imran Khan of all this as well, the Pakistan army effectively put him in his place. Lacking the inbuilt gyroscope of, say, Nawaz Sharief, Imran Khan did not know when to cease the pro-army tilt even if he could have done so. Internal reports from Pakistan say he now realizes he has ceded too much ground to the Deep State, but it is perhaps too late to mend matters. When Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharief were in power, they protected one another’s interests as far as possible against their common political enemy, the Pakistan army. On the other hand, Imran Khan’s Faustian deal with the Deep State was coloured by profound hatred for the dynastic Bhuttos and Shariefs. Imagining it to be paved with good intentions, he then hubristically took the road to hell.