The more things change the more they stay the same. That is perhaps what is happening right now in Pakistan. Imran Khan,an achiever, a global celebrity having star power is in the driving seat. Listen to his victory speech from any perspective you would only hear it promising a sea-change for the better. But wait-a-minute. Even before he won the contest, he was made to suffer, for no fault of his perhaps, a strong public perception that he was just a puppet in the hands of you-know-who. And it did not help him when rigging was seen to be committed in broad day-light immediately before the polling day, on the polling day itself and immediately after the polling was over. Seemingly it was the superior judiciary, the NAB, the care-takers, the ECP and the powers that be who seemed to have played a decisive role in creating this perception. The only fault of Imran himself and his Party in this farce of an election appears to be, they chose to look the other way. It was the Dawn leaks of October 6, 2016 that had actually opened the flood-gates for Imran and PTI to sail through to the victory stand on July 25. In the first flush, as the numbers started coming in, it had seemed as if it were 1990 and 1997 all over again when Nawaz was given dream mandates to keep Benazir Bhutto out for good. Both the PML-N and the PPP have at one time or the other, at the bidding of the ‘puppeteers’ had gone for each other’s political throats only to eventually concede the game to them in the final count-down And at one point during the counting process on July 25 it had appeared as if the fate of Nawaz and the PMLN would be no better than what Zardari’s PPP had suffered at the Centre and in Punjab following the 2013 general elections. That Imran is certain to get the coveted office of the PM is in no doubt. What, however, is still open to question is with what of kind of margin is he going to maintain his majority in parliament. In the Punjab the situation is still dicey. But even if the PTI succeeded in forming a government in the majority province the party is likely to face a formidable opposition. And same would be the case at the Centre. Both houses seem to be hanging in balance. On the face of it, this almost negligible difference in the numerical strengths between the PTI and the opposition in the NA and Punjab Assembly respectively appears to be the result of a free and fair election. But when studied in the backdrop of the blatant engineering witnessed all through the election season the result seems to have been rigged to obtain just what was considered to be the right government-opposition numbers in the NA and Punjab Assembly to help keep the ‘winners’ on a tight leash. A closer look at the coalition partners in the offing makes it very clear from where they would be taking their orders in crunch times. And also there are a number of tried and tested leaders in Imran’s close circle with direct links in the ‘right quarters’. So, any time he tries to break out on his own and implement his own policies he is likely to be black-mailed from within — first by his coalition partners and in case that did not work then, ‘our men’ in his close circle would be pressed into service. Also Read: PTI’s false dawn In case all these attempts to rein him in failed then, the powers that be would opt for what would be their plan ‘B’. This would most probably be a repeat of what one witnessed during the PNA movement of 1977. Both the PML-N and the PPP have at one time or the other, at the bidding of the ‘puppeteers’ had gone for each other’s political throats only to eventually concede the game to the ‘puppeteers’ in the final count-down. Even the religious political parties like JI, JUI and JUP know when and how they too were used to keep the civil-military equation in favour of you-know-who and then consigned to oblivion after having been used. One would, therefore, like to believe that the lessons of the past would surely make these parties occupying the opposition benches to see the trap in plan ‘B’ and refuse to do the bidding of the powers that be. It was actually to frustrate such plans in future that Benazir and Nawaz had signed the Charter of Democracy in London in early 2007. The CoD was inexplicably abandoned by the contracting parties soon after 2008 elections and their confrontational politics since seems to have brought them to the current sorry political pass. But the two along with other parties in opposition can now turn the tables on the ‘puppeteers’ and send them back to the barracks for good if they tried to play their cards sensibly and with political astuteness. Both PML-N and PPP have in their respective tenures tried to improve relations with India. ANP and JUI too are on record of favouring the same. Only JI has been opposed to the idea. But by now they too must have understood why it is in our national interest to have good relations with India without having to give up our claim on occupied Kashmir. So, if Imran tries to establish trade relations with India all that the opposition needs to do is to refrain from calling him ‘Modi ka yaar’. Also, if he wants to make the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan irrelevant and set up a free trade area in the region replacing the current free terror area, the opposition should extend its full support to the idea rather than putting hurdles in his way on the instructions of you-know-who. And if Imran tries to reduce the trust deficit that exists between Pakistan and the US the opposition must give him full backing instead of accusing him of selling-out because in return he did not bring any dole to sustain the security state which has been finding it increasingly difficult to maintain its political hegemony within the country since President Trump cut off the Coalition Support Fund. The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad. He served as the Executive Editor of Express Tribune until 2014 Published in Daily Times, August 2nd 2018.