The Pak Army is behind Imran’s troubles and his Party’s disqualification

For several decades now, the Army has not allowed parliamentary democracy to take firm roots in Pakistan.
Keywords: Pakistan, Army, PTI, Military, Conflict, Elections, Dictatorship, ISI, Democracy, Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan
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Pakistan is heading towards chaos as efforts are being made to deny former prime minister Imran Khan a “level playing field’’ in national politics. The Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to declare internal elections in Imran’s party the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) unconstitutional needs to be seen as one more determined effort in this direction. Not only this, but the ECP also decided to deny PTI’s claim on the electoral symbol of a cricket bat on Friday December 22.

Imran, the former Kaptaan (captain) of Pakistan’s cricket team is closely identified with his party’s iconic electoral symbol, the bat. The denial of this electoral symbol is being widely seen by the party’s leaders as yet another effort by the ‘Miltablishment’ to undermine Imran’s electoral chances. It needs to be mentioned here that the Miltablishment is a unique term widely used in Pakistani media to signify the lethal combination of the Military and the Establishment, a faceless but all-powerful entity.

In the intra-party elections held by the PTI earlier this month, Barrister Gohar Khan was elected as the party’s new chairman. Gohar was elected to the post after Imran had nominated him as he is currently lodged in Adiala jail of Rawalpindi.

‘Ladla Sharif’ cannot compete on the ground, he knows he stands no chance of winning with Pakistani voters. This is yet another part of the famous London plan, a disgusting and shameful attempt to stop the PTI from contesting elections. InshaAllah, ‘’the bat is not dead. Long live the bat’’. We will InshaAllah win on 8th February! Imran’s party commented on its verified handle @PTIOfficial after the ECP verdict. 

Ladla Sharif is a dig at former PM Nawaz Sharif who returned from London in late October this year, after almost four years of self-imposed exile. His return to Pakistan is seen as an attempt by the Miltablishment  to get him anointed as PM once again. Nawaz Sharif, or Mianji as he is referred to by his supporters, was widely believed to be on the run from the law as he had been convicted in July 2017 and had to resign from the Prime Ministership.

Nawaz Sharif had left Pakistan to go to London for treatment but once he was out of the country, he decided not to return, even though there were no health issues. This was because he did not feel safe to return to Pakistan as long as General Qamar Javed Bajwa led the Pakistan Army. Bajwa was seen as backing Imran (over the Sharif brothers) and as long as the former was COAS (Chief of Army Staff), Nawaz remained in London. Even while staying there, he remained a powerful figure and used to run his party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) by proxy.

Present Pakistan Army chief General Asim Munir was at one time the head (Director General) of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In 2019, he was removed from that coveted post by Imran Khan eight months after taking his post and was replaced by Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed. This move was widely seen as an attempt to undermine Asim and ensure that he could not become the COAS. At the highest echelons of Pakistani political and military circles, it was openly said that Imran had plans to make Hameed the COAS when General Bajwa retired.

General Asim, however, got the top post in the Pak Army in November 2022 when Shebaz Sharif was the PM with the backing of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and other formations. Given this background, Asim is widely believed to be very unfavourably disposed towards Imran Khan. Not only this, he has also been accused of mistreating and ordering mass arrests of PTI’s supporters and is behind trials of civilians in military courts.

Incidentally, for several decades now, the Army has not allowed parliamentary democracy to take firm roots in Pakistan. Eleven years after its birth in August 1947, the nation saw its first military coup when General Ayub Khan overthrew Iskandar Ali Mirza and exiled him. Since then, Pakistan has spent several decades under military rule, from 1958 to 1971, then from 1977 to 1988 (under General Zia ul Haque), and again from 1999 to 2008 (under General Pervez Musharraf).

Ostensibly, the Army declares that its mandate is the defence of the country but politicking is the favourite game its top officers play. However, the fact is that the Army is used to wielding power without responsibility or accountability. This trait is so deeply ingrained in its DNA that it is considered a congenital malady. Asim’s predecessor, General Bajwa had said in his last public address in November 2022 as COAS that the military had “unlawfully meddled in politics for decades’’ adding that henceforth “it will no longer do so’’. 

Nevertheless, old habits die hard and that applies squarely to the Pakistani Army in the context of its “unlawful meddling in politics’’. By his overt and covert actions, Bajwa’s successor Asim has left no one in doubt as to what he thinks of Imran, the PTI, and politicians in general. His indirect backing of Nawaz Sharif is believed to be the reason for all the troubles faced by PTI including large-scale desertions of its leaders and the strong-arm tactics used against the party supporters.

History repeats itself and it is very true of the Pakistan Army playing a role in getting top politicians and their parties disqualified from time to time. During the Zia era, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) faced a military onslaught and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s hanging is described as a “judicial murder’’ by commentators. This party was also deprived of its electoral symbol, the sword, for a long time. In another phase, Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N also lost the right to use its electoral symbol the lion, and faced decimation at the hands of the Army.

Presently, that is something faced by Imran and he has, more than once, stated publicly during rallies that the Pakistan Army had a role in his removal from the Prime Ministerial seat in April 2022. What Bhutto and Sharifs faced, the hostility of the Army is what Imran faces today. This is tantamount to rigging elections much before they are held in February 2024. Some advance planning that!

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Sant Kumar Sharma

Sant Kumar Sharma is a Jammu based journalist.

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