Imran Khan to sabotage democratic process, consolidate grip on power
Pakistan is suffering from a dense political chaos that has stemmed from a debt dependent economy
The rift between Imran Khan and General Bajwa over the transfer of Lt. General Hamid as Corps commander Peshawar and appointment of a new DG ISI turned into a bitter conflict of interests
Imran Khan represents a peculiar phase in politics that emerges during periods of economic contradictions between the ruling elite and the wider population and which cannot be resolved through democratic and peaceful means. Pakistan is suffering from a dense political chaos that has stemmed from a debt dependent economy.
The rift between the military and the civil government of Nawaz Sharif led to the ultimate demise of the latter. The question was who will be in charge of running the economy of Pakistan. When it came to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) former Prime minister Nawaz Sharif wanted Parliament to be the supreme decision making body. But the military was not willing to give in.
Imran Khan was launched by the military establishment to defame the two party system that according to Khan were taking turns to come into power to plunder the country. Khan was also fed the narrative of an imaginary Riyasat-e-Madina which to me is a utopian idea and was applied to Pakistani polity by Khan as a deadly political weapon.
The military engineered Imran Khan's accent to power hence he was named the 'selected' prime minister by the opposition.
The first task that Khan was given by the Pakistani military establishment was to trod across the globe begging for money. Khan did his best. However, an economy that solely depends on loans and borrowed money cannot erect a sustainable economic foundation. Therefore, with the passage of months and years Pakistan's current deficit, trade deficit as well as foreign debt continued to rise.
A civil section of the Pakistan's ruling elite under the leadership of former President Asif Ali Zardari, former Prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Jameet e Ullema Islam leader Maulana Fazal ur Rahman formed Pakistan Democratic Movement or PDM. Dozens of public rallies were held that pulled crowds in millions. Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif made fiery speeches accusing the military generals of conspiracies against elected civilian governments of the past.
Slogans such as 'ye jo dehshat gardi hai, is kay pechay wardi hai', became the anthem of the PDM rallies. The military generals were now clearly on the back foot. The economy that Khan was supposed to turn around slipped further into a downward spiral bringing Pakistan's GDP into the negative.
General Bajwa and Khan became suspicious of each other as Bajwa realised that Khan was not only unable to deliver but on the contrary had thrown the country to the dogs.
The DG ISI at the time Lt. General Faiz Hamid, who is accused of the political engineering that brought Khan into power, was now trying to out maneuver army Chief. The visit General Hamid made to Kabul in August 2021 to meet the Taliban and help them to come to a consensus to form a new government in Afghanistan was seen as a direct challenge to Bajwa's authority.
Then on October 6 last year the rift between Imran Khan and General Bajwa over the transfer of Lt. General Hamid as Corps commander Peshawar and appointment of a new DG ISI turned into a bitter conflict of interests.
Meanwhile, General Bajwa managed to elevate Shahbaz Sharif to replace Maryam Nawaz as the leader of the PDM. Sharif banned anti-army slogans to be raised at PDM rallies. Now it became clear that General Bajwa was backing the opposition against Khan. The man in Peshawar, the Khan loyal former DG ISI, was pulling strings from the Peshawar Corps headquarters to weaken the opposition.
This led to a split in the military that was never heard of in the past. Such hybrid war in an institution like the Pakistan army has seriously undermined the fighting spirit of the soldiers and lower ranking officers.
It is in this backdrop that Khan decided to sabotage the whole democratic process and consolidate his grip on power. He devised a plan. On February 24, just one day before Russia attacked Ukraine, Khan landed at Moscow airport to meet president Putin. Khan knew that at a time when the western democracies were opposing Russia and NATO was being mobilised, Khan's visit would be criticised by the west.
(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK. The views expressed are personal)