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  • Writer's pictureSaleem Qamar Butt

Socrates’ Choice

                Socrates (470–399 BC) was a Greek philosopher from Athens who is credited as the founder of Western philosophy and among the first moral philosophers of the ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, Socrates authored no texts and is known mainly through the posthumous accounts of classical writers, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. These accounts are written as dialogues, in which Socrates and his interlocutors examine a subject in the style of question and answer; they gave rise to the Socratic dialogue literary genre. Socrates was considered a polarizing figure in Athenian society by the authorities of his time. In 399 BC, he was accused of impiety and corrupting the youth. After a quick trial that lasted only a day, he was sentenced to death. He spent his last day in prison, refusing offers to help him escape. The death sentence of Socrates was the legal consequence of asking politico-philosophic questions of his students, which resulted in the two accusations of moral corruption and impiety. At trial, the majority of the dikasts (male-citizen jurors chosen by lot) voted to convict him of the two charges; then, consistent with common legal practice voted to determine his punishment and agreed to a sentence of death to be executed by Socrates drinking a poisonous beverage of hemlock.

             In the event, friends, followers, and students encouraged Socrates to flee Athens, an action which the citizens expected; yet, on principle, Socrates refused to flout the law and escape his legal responsibility to Athens. Therefore, faithful to his teaching of civic obedience to the law, the 70-year-old Socrates executed his death sentence and drank the hemlock, as condemned at trial. Plato's presentation of the trial and death of Socrates inspired writers, artists, and philosophers to revisit the matter. For some, the execution of the man whom Plato called "the wisest and most just of all men" demonstrated the defects of democracy and of popular rule; for others, the Athenian actions were a justifiable defence of the recently re-established democracy. In Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths (2009), Robin Waterfield wrote that the death of Socrates was an act of volition motivated by a greater purpose; Socrates "saw himself as healing the City's ills by his voluntary death".  Waterfield wrote that Socrates, with his unconventional methods of intellectual enquiry, attempted to resolve the political confusion then occurring in the city-state of Athens, by willingly being the scapegoat, whose death would quiet old disputes, which then would allow the Athenian polis to progress towards political harmony and social peace.

Ever since it occurred in 399 BC, the trial of the Athenian philosopher Socrates has been portrayed as a travesty in which the founding father of Western thought was made to face trumped-up charges invented by his ignorant and prejudiced fellow-citizens. He was found guilty of “impiety” and “corrupting the young”, sentenced to death, and then required to carry out his own execution by consuming a deadly potion of the poisonous plant hemlock. It remains one of the most famous trials in history that has been represented as a miscarriage of justice and often quoted whenever and wherever a political leader or a dreamer is subjected to similar injustice by the powerful elite, tyrants, colonialists and their modern day agents.  Those in history who followed Socrates’ Choice i.e. preferring death over escape, submission or compromise have earned political and moral immortality. Many names jump to mind like Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah (he was the last independent Nawab of Bengal, reigning from 1756 to 1757. The end of his reign marked the beginning of the rule of the East India Company over Bengal and later almost all of the Indian subcontinent), Tipu Sultan(1 December 1751–4 May 1799; commonly referred to as  "Tiger of Mysore", in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, a combined force of British East India Company troops supported by the Marathas and the Nizam of Hyderabad defeated Tipu and he was martyred on 4 May 1799 while defending his stronghold of Seringapatam), Omar al-Mukhṭār Muhammad (20 August 1858 – 16 September 1931; a teacher-turned-general, Omar was a prominent figure of the Senussi movement and he is considered the national hero of Libya and a symbol of resistance in the Arab and Islamic worlds. After many attempts, the Italian Armed Forces managed to capture Al-Mukhtar near Slonta when he was wounded in battle by Libyan colonial troops, and hanged him in 1931 after he refused to surrender), Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela(18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013; he was a South African anti-apartheid activist and politician who served as the first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 after spending 27 years in prison for leading the African National Congress (ANC), which opposed apartheid policies that kept South Africa's Black residents segregated, often in inhumane conditions), Ernesto "Che" Guevara(14 June 1928 – 9 October 1967; he was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist. A major figure of the Cuban Revolution, got captured by Bolivian special forces and executed by firing by a drunk sergeant), Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz (13 August 1926 – 25 November 2016; he was a Cuban revolutionary and politician, the leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008, the longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries, Castro polarized world opinion, his supporters view him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism whose revolutionary government advanced economic and social justice while securing Cuba's independence from American hegemony),  Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (5 January 1928 – 4 April 1979;  he was a Pakistani barrister, politician, and statesman. He served as the fourth president of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973 and later as the ninth prime minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977. Bhutto founded the Pakistan People's Party and served as its chairman until his controversial execution, which has kept him politically alive till to date) and the latest example in motion is that of PTI’s founding father and former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Imran Khan.

Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi (5 October 1952) is a Pakistani politician and former cricketer who served as the 22nd prime minister of Pakistan from August 2018 until April 2022. He is the founder and former chairman of the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from 1996 to 2023. He was the captain of the Pakistan national cricket team throughout the 1980s and early 90s. Born in Lahore, Khan graduated from Keble College, Oxford. He began his international cricket career in a 1971 Test series against England. Khan played until 1992, served as the team's captain intermittently between 1982 and 1992, and won the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan's only victory in the competition. Considered one of cricket's greatest all-rounders, Khan was later inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

During the 1990s, Imran Khan also served as UNICEF's Special Representative for Sports and promoted health and immunization programmes in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. While in London, he also works with the Lord's Taverners, a cricket charity. Khan focused his efforts solely on social work. By 1991, he had founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust, a charity organisation bearing the name of his mother, Mrs. Shaukat Khanum.

As the Trust's maiden endeavour, Khan established Pakistan's first and only cancer hospital, constructed using donations and funds exceeding $25 million, raised by Khan from all over the world ( a Cancer hospital in KPK and Sindh provinces followed up after Lahore’s accomplishment). On 27 April 2008, Khan established a technical college in the Mianwali District called Namal College; it was built by the Mianwali Development Trust (MDT), and is an associate college of the University of Bradford in December 2005. Imran Khan Foundation is another welfare work, which aims to assist needy people all over Pakistan. It has provided help to flood victims in Pakistan. Buksh Foundation has partnered with the Imran Khan Foundation to light up villages in Dera Ghazi Khan, Mianwali and Dera Ismail Khan under the project 'Lighting a Million Lives'. The campaign will establish several Solar Charging Stations in the selected off-grid villages and will provide villagers with solar lanterns, which can be regularly charged at the solar-charging stations.

Founding the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in 1996, Khan won a seat in the National Assembly in the 2002 general election, serving as an opposition member from Mianwali until 2007. PTI boycotted the 2008 general election and became the second-largest party by popular vote in the 2013 general election. In the 2018 general election, running on a populist platform, PTI became the largest party in the National Assembly, and formed a coalition government with independents with Khan as prime minister. As prime minister, Khan addressed a balance of payments crisis with bailouts from the IMF as an unavoidable menace. He presided over a shrinking current account deficit, and limited defence spending to curtail the fiscal deficit, leading to some general economic growth. He enacted policies that increased tax collection and investment. His government committed to a renewable energy transition, launched Ehsaas Programme and the Plant for Pakistan initiative, and expanded the protected areas of Pakistan. He presided over the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused economic turmoil and rising inflation in the country, threatening his political position.

Amid a political and constitutional crisis, Khan became the first prime minister to be removed from office through a no-confidence motion in April 2022. According to a leaked classified Pakistani deciphered transcript, reportedly at a 7 March 2022 meeting the US State Department encouraged the Pakistani government to remove Khan from office because of his neutrality on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. On 8 March 2022, the opposition parties submitted a motion of no confidence against Khan to the National Assembly's secretariat. On 27 March 2022, Khan waved a piece of paper projecting it as a diplomatic deciphered letter carrying a message from the US in the public, claiming that it demands to remove Khan's government in a coup. Though, later he changed his stance about the US conspiracy against his government. On 1 April 2022, Prime Minister Khan announced that in context of the no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly, the three options were discussed with the establishment in Pakistan to choose from viz: "resignation, no-confidence [vote] or elections".

On 3 April 2022, President Arif Alvi dissolved the National Assembly of Pakistan on Khan's advice, after the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly rejected and set-aside the motion of no confidence; this move would have required elections to the National Assembly to be held within 90 days. On 10 April, after a Supreme Court ruling that the no-confidence motion was illegally rejected, a no-confidence vote was conducted and he was ousted from office, becoming the first prime minister in Pakistan to be removed from office by a vote of no confidence. Khan claimed the US was behind his removal because he conducted an independent foreign policy and had friendly relations with China and Russia. His removal led to protests from his supporters across Pakistan.

In August 2023, Imran Khan was charged under anti-terror laws after accusing the police and judiciary of detaining and torturing an aide. In October, Khan was disqualified by the Election Commission of Pakistan from taking office for the current term of the National Assembly of Pakistan, regarding the Toshakhana reference case. In November, he survived an assassination attempt with multiple bullet injuries during a political rally in Wazirabad, Punjab. On 9 May 2023, Khan was arrested on alleged corruption charges at the Islamabad High Court by paramilitary troops who smashed their way into the courthouse. Protests broke out throughout Pakistan resulting in the arrests of thousands of Khan's supporters along with some military installations being ransacked. He was sentenced to a three-year jail term on 5 August 2023 after being found guilty of misusing his premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during diplomatic visits abroad. On 29 August 2023, a Pakistani appeals court suspended Khan's three-year prison term, and granted him bail; Khan still remained incarcerated in connection with a diplomatic cypher case where he stood accused of leaking state secrets and violating the Official Secrets Act. On 30 January 2024, a special court sentenced Khan to 10 years in prison after finding him guilty of making public the contents of a secret cable sent by Pakistan's ambassador in Washington to the government in Islamabad. Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Khan were each handed a 14-year jail sentence on 31 January 2024 in a case related to illegal selling of state gifts. And still, there is more to come especially with regards to cases of hooliganism and vandalism allegedly by his agitated party workers when he was put under arrest from the premises of a court in Islamabad in May 2023.

Imran Khan’s political opponents and other haters, have tried their best to belittle him by accusing him as a “Failed Project Imran Khan'', calling him a “Cult” and a “political maverick” who vainly tried to defy established norms of a “controlled democracy” in Pakistan and who imprudently dared to resist the American imperialism by saying “Absolutely Not”…hinting at refusing to allow US’ military bases in Pakistan or to continue playing as a second fiddle. The unprecedented anti Imran Khan propaganda unleashed, media blackout and state suppression of him, his wife, other family members, political workers and PTI’s leadership has bounced back like a rubber tennis ball and added to the public support to Imran Khan and his splintered and decimated party. Although, PTI has virtually been mauled as a party with no election symbol, yet the PTI candidates are contesting as independents in the general elections to be held on 8th of February 2024; hoping that if at all elections could be held without the traditional rigging, they could win and reunite to put life back in to the dismantled PTI and rescue their incarcerated leadership. What lies ahead for PTI and Imran Khan, only Allah will decide, however, already with an award of rigorous imprisonment for more than 24 years (almost equal to double death sentence) and still facing more serious charges and potential severest sentence; Imran Khan’s preference for Socrates Choice has already earned him an unmatched status in Pakistani as well as in international politics. Those in Pakistan with stature of political dwarfs standing on top of filthy money hills, feel jealous of the most popular God gifted hero with unparalleled accomplishments in sports, academics, philanthropy, welfare of humanity, ecology and politics; and are prone to ceaselessly backstab and indulge in intrigues against him. However, as the fortune favours the brave, one can hope and pray that the superior judiciary in Pakistan will quash all untenable award of punishments on flimsy charges by knee jerk lower trial courts, and set him free to play his highly commendable role in Pakistani politics and the society. Minus the largest party and most popular political leader, the political and economic stability will remain elusive in Pakistan. Only the people of Pakistan can make sure by exercising the right choices in the elections that Imran Khan is not made to regret for following Socrates' Choice and for not heeding the advice given to him by great Pakistani Philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi to stay away from the politics (A Mirror to the Blind).

Pakistan Zindabad!


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