In the confrontationist brutal cage match that is now Pakistan’s dog-eat-dog world of politics, there is an old game that has resurfaced. It is called the ‘minus-one formula’. And it is back like Banquo’s ghost. On Monday, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) boss and renegade for all practical purposes in ruling dispensation Shehbaz Sharif’s crosshairs, former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan crossed the Rubicon.
He tweeted: “Question for Shehbaz Sharif: Are you, out of PTI-fear, responsible for media gags on us, threat and violence against journalists and fake cases against them, forcing blackout of PTI and myself from TV and YouTube and the callous act of trying to blackout my flood relief telethon?”
This came on the back of his September 9 tweet: “Tomorrow our Gujranwala jalsa will be last of our present phase of Haqiqi Azadi Movement. I will announce the next critical phase at the jalsa. Imported government and its handlers are so petrified that nation is standing firmly behind PTI, they are desperately moving on ‘minus-one formula’.”
Hinting at the dirty underbelly of subterfuge around the ‘minus-one formula’, Khan is upping the ante in a beleaguered Pakistan. His supporters have been shouting in synchronicity “minus-one formula na manzoor (not acceptable)”, sending a direct message to the “powers that be” that Khan should not be disqualified or kayoed through any means “as this will be damaging to Pakistan’s democratic process”.
Imran Khan’s PTI has launched on ground protests against the “minus-one formula”, a popular nomenclature used in Pakistan to describe attempts by the “establishment” to turn a political party against its own leader, usually in return for a survival guarantee. The PTI has claimed that attempts are being made to use the formula to disqualify Khan from any future elections.
The ‘minus-one formula’ is basically a turbulent time in Pakistan polity which when it reaches a crescendo sees the principal actor in this case Imran Khan being turned into a persona non-grata by the ruling establishment.
In Pakistan that generally means the Fauj. In the past, Liaquat Ali Khan, Fatima Jinnah, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif et al have been victims of this dreaded formula used to destroy the credibility of a popular politico.
Several civilian leaders perceived as having become too big for their boots have been sidelined or forced out through questionable means. Prime Ministers, Presidents, and even lesser politicians deemed ‘undesirable’ for defying red lines have found themselves on the receiving end of ‘minus-one’.