Pakistan is mired in a multi-cornered political disorder

Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa (Photo: Reuters)
Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa (Photo: Reuters)

Imran Khan’s Assassination Attempt
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered that an FIR be lodged on the attempted assassination of the former Prime Minister, Imran Khan during his party’s long march. But the Punjab government is hesitant to do so. The reason is that while it agrees to name the Prime Minister and the Home Minister as the conspirators of the assassination attack, it would not want to include the name of Maj Gen Faisal of ISI among the handlers. Imran Khan categorically mentioned the three names responsible for open gunfire on the protesters in which 12 persons were wounded and one was killed on November 3 at Wazirabad in Punjab.

Pakistan Supreme Court has not mentioned any name in its order but Imran Khan is insisting on the inclusion of the ISI officer. He knows naming the ISI officer means dealing a blow to the integrity of the ISI which the establishment would not allow to happen in any case.

Stubborn opposition to interference by the army and its powerful wing ISI in the administration of an elected government of the people is the primary stake of the Tehreek-e-Insaf Party of the former prime minister. 

How Imran Khan became PM and Why was he ousted?
Imran Khan enjoyed the support of Gen Bajwa and the establishment to become Prime Minister. Gen Bajwa wanted to make the Sharifs and Bhutto irrelevant in Pakistan politics and was fascinated by Imran Khan’s strong ideas of eradicating corruption. He was also a former cricketer like Imran Khan and the equation between the two was in place.

But the bonhomie did not last long and the case of replacement of Lt Gen Faiz Hameed by Gen Bajwa became the catalyst for the inevitable fracture between Imran Khan the prime minister and the establishment.

As PM Imran Khan found that the Pakistan Army and ISI both had developed strong clout in the Pentagon. He was convinced that the Pak Army and ISI both owed their power and influence to the Pentagon. Therefore the real challenge to his authority and the bravado of the establishment surfaced from the US. Consequently, he fed his party men and the Pakistani youth in particular with an anti-American wavelength.  

Now the ISI began contriving his ouster; a vote of no-confidence in the national assembly was the way to a successful mission. A letter claimed by Imran Khan to have been allegedly written by a senior functionary in the US State Department was brandished by Khan during the markedly turbulent non-confidence vote debate in the National Assembly. The government quarters considered the letter a fake one and the State Department disowned any document that reflected its involvement.

Imran Khan was removed but his anti-America narrative dovetailed into the ISI-Pentagon connection and worked well with his fiery and youthful followers in the party. He projected himself as the victim of the Pak Army, ISI, opposition parties and the US. This multi-cornered political disorder and rivalry spelt disaster for the nation. Political storm raged in full fury.

Maulana Fazlu’r Rahman of Jamiat’l-Ulema-e Pakistan, the coalition party in the Shahbaz Sharif government, chaffed the assassination attempt. He called its dramatics more fascinating than what famous Bollywood actors like Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan stage manage. He asked amusing questions like how many bullets were fired; was only one leg wounded or both; how Imran withstood a long journey of more than 150 miles to reach the hospital where he was admitted etc. This indicates that the opposition is taking the event lightly and rather cynically.

In the meanwhile, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has ordered the constitution of an inquiry committee into the case of firing at the mass rally of the PTI party on 3 November in Wazirabad. Imran Khan has welcomed the action of the Prime Minister but has also expressed his diffidence in the inquiry commission.

There are conflicting reports about the resumption of the long march of PTI. Imran Khan has nominated Shah Mahmud Qurush, the then foreign minister of Imran Khan, to lead the resumed march till the crowds reach Islamabad. By that time he would recover and be able to join the rally in Islamabad.

What do the Pakistanis think?
Imran Khan seems to have won public sympathy for his cause whatever it is. A stir is witnessed almost in all major cities and towns of Pakistan. His sympathisers are raising provocative slogans like remove the Sharif government, down with the establishment and even shouting slogans asking for the removal of Pak Army chief. These yelling crowds can go out of control. Even the women’s wing of PTI has come to the streets in strong protest against the government.

Gen Bajwa will be retiring by the end of this month. The government has not so far nominated his successor. Imran Khan has suggested that Gen Bajwa should continue till elections are held and the new government will nominate the next Pak Army chief. Believing that he will win the elections and become Prime Minister, he will appoint his confidante Lt. Gen Faiz Hameed as the army chief so that he can have one or two more terms in office without hassles.

This being the story of competitive rivalry and domestic squabbles in Pakistan, there remain fundamental issues which all political parties are loath to grapple with. Most of these debilitating issues emanate from the diseased mentality of Pakistani ruling circles. It is the inherent hatred and animus against India and the Hindus. From this deep-seated malaise has originated the intransigent concept of Islamic terrorism and the formation of state-sponsored terrorist outfits categorized as the frontline defence against the alleged Indian incursion. First religious minorities like the Hindus, Shia, Ahmadis, Parsees, and Christians became the victims of these barbaric groups and later on ethnic groups were added to the list of identified victims. In this way, the entire Pakistani society was militarized as full state patronage flowed without any reservation.

Amusingly, while media persons and political dissenters generally accuse the Pakistan Army of using illegal means of amassing wealth and dumping it in foreign countries, nobody in Pakistan has been demanding a thorough probe into the origin, growth and activities of scores of terrorist organizations. The state says that these groups receive funding from donors within and outside the country but the history of hawala transactions in Kashmir has revealed that the primary and most frugal donor of these terrorist organizations is the State of Pakistan. That is why the FATF had been placing Pakistan on its grey list until recent weeks. The FATF knew the sources of funding.

Apart from domestic uncertainties and divisive forces, Pakistan has to rebuild its clean profile in the eyes of the international community. It has to wash away the stigma of the “mother of international terrorism”. That cannot happen by gimmicks, tricks and denials.

Who will replace Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as Pak Army chief?
General Bajwa will retire on 29 November. There is no indication in official and army circles that he will be given an extension. Therefore, the possibility of a military takeover is out of the question. But the government has not announced the name of his successor and that can lead to various guesses. Also, the Pakistani government is not in the mood of announcing general elections shortly. Shahbaz Sharif’s government does not foresee any serious eventuality to decide on early elections. The so-called Long March is likely to come to a clueless end.   

Recently sections of international media carried the story that Pakistan has been thinking positively about providing Ukraine with the technology of nuclear-powered ballistic missiles. It is difficult to verify this news but we know that delegations between Pakistan and Ukraine have been exchanging visits. Pakistan is in dire need of foreign exchange and she would not share any nuclear secrets without receiving adequate cost or compensation. Ukraine is not in a position to pay a hefty amount for the guided missiles. Naturally, she will approach her benefactor to bail her out. The question is whether this is a bilateral or trilateral transaction if it matures.

Lastly, Pakistan and its economic woes form a separate subject. We may do it next time.

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