Why Imran Khan Has To Be Eliminated In The Final Showdown

Why Imran Khan Has To Be Eliminated In The Final Showdown

By Shaheen Sehbai

Where is Pakistan headed?

There is a growing threat that the Establishment of Pakistan may finally try something fatally drastic to eliminate Imran Khan, a leader who has slowly but strongly challenged the hitherto unshakeable control of the army and its cohorts in the judiciary, bureaucracy, and the orphans in the political arena.

The threat has emerged because of a three-dimensional phenomenon which is slowly converging to erode the hold of the army on events political, apolitical, economic and security related.

THE FIRST DIMENSION has been the totally unexpected and powerful surge in popularity of Imran Khan, the prime minister who almost lost his charisma after about four years of lame duck governance, when a soft coup in April 2022 revived his fortunes, generated a tsunami of sympathy, and turned the masses overnight into a “save Imran movement”.

The biggest shock of that night was felt by the Army GHQ in Rawalpindi as hundreds of thousands of men, women, old and young, took to the streets almost everywhere in the country at night, shouting slogans against the army chief General Bajwa.

Unnerved, the army junta quickly installed a motley group of all Imran-haters into a government with a majority of just two MPs.

That was the second blunder of the Establishment on its slippery slope of losing control.

SECOND DIMENSION: The government of robbers became the trigger of the second dimension of people’s anger and resistance, as they were the main accused criminals who were about to be indicted and jailed for big billion-dollar robberies.

It was deemed “NRO-2 of General Bajwa” — in the footsteps of NRO-1 that General Musharraf signed as an amnesty law. Years later, but before his death, Musharraf repeatedly and publicly regretted why he let Benazir and Nawaz Sharif return to Pakistan in 2007.

This coalition led by Nawaz’s brother Shahbaz, turned out to be a natural disaster for the economy. The country slipped quickly to the brink of bankruptcy and default, giving Imran Khan strong logic, stats, and reasons to compare his four years with this crowd of economic mis-managers.

One indicator everyone used was the value of the dollar against the rupee which went up from Rs180 to almost Rs300 in less than a year. The IMF also sensed this was a weak and clueless regime and slapped conditions which, if accepted, would further sink the army and its supported coalition into a deep dirt well, knowing the more they dig the deeper they’ll sink.

Thus the second dimension boosted Khan’s popularity — he won 30 out of 37 by-elections in a year, led rallies of hundreds of thousands of people and became such a threat to the rulers that a planned assassination attempt was made on him, injuring him but not fatally, when forensic probes found several shooters who also tried to kill the man who fired at Khan. Both survived.

THIRD DIMENSION: Amid all this political, economic, and physical chaos, the judiciary of Pakistan was caught in between as the final arbiter because the army-led government disregarded all laws, rules and constitutional provisions to attack Khan who at every step looked up towards the judges. A record 75 cases were registered against Khan, and several of his close aides were arrested, tortured, humiliated, and paraded before the cameras – one prominent media critic of the regime Arshad Sharif was murdered in Kenya – and every attempt was made to intimidate, terrorize, and break down Khan supporters.

Everything failed with the judges finally started coming to their senses and started upholding the law which mostly went in favour of Khan, earning him relief after relief as the laws were blatantly and unabashedly flouted. The beleaguered coalition started directly and publicly abusing the judges and the army generals. It was almost too late.

One key judgment by the Supreme Court bound the government to hold the elections for two dissolved provincial assemblies, where Khan had his chief ministers, within 90 days, a timeframe which the army, the coalition and the establishment bureaucrats considered a death sentence as Khan would just sweep everyone clean.

These three dimensions of Pakistan’s internal situation were compounded by the collapsing economy and the reluctance of the IMF to deal with a weakling regime. Even guarantees by the army to the IMF and other friendly countries were not accepted. The precipice had arrived and they were on the brink.

In this scenario the ultimate thought and solution that is now gripping the confused and defeated minds of the generals and their cohorts is to arrest and then eliminate Khan, if they have to survive.

It’s a situation like the 1977 coup by General Ziaul Haq against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, when at the end the General burst out: “There is one grave and two bodies, either me or Bhutto.” He had loyal officers and he put Bhutto in that grave.

The same situation is now emerging but this time the army is not as united and under control as under Zia.

A key sign of this impotence was General Bajwa’s attempts until the last day to remain on his post and get a second extension but failing to do so. His successor was retiring the next day had he not been named the new chief. He is so obliged to crooked politicians that he cannot move a key officer, in ISI or other places, because his legs are shaking. Three months after he became the chief his footprints are invisible and remnants of the old regime are still in control.

Importantly, no one listens to him internationally and his juniors are raising questions at formation commander meetings and the ‘darbars’ held in British tradition. A question in a recent gathering asked by a brigadier was why an 80-year old retired general Amjad Shoaib had been arrested. The chief had a red face with the entire house clapping for the questioner. The arrested general was released in hours. The chief got the message from his ranks.

So what are the options left for the army led coalition to stop Imran Khan, not to hold general elections, and cling on to power for as long as they can? Or if elections are held as directed by the Supreme Court and Khan sweeps, where will they stand?

Remember Khan is going for elections in only two provinces but if he wins them, as he will, he will control 70 percent of Pakistan when National Assembly elections are held under interim cabinets and that puts him in super advantaged position, making him an even greater threat.

Several attempts have been made to arrest Khan on flimsy and bogus charges like buying a watch from the government gift shop and selling it. Previous rulers including Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari and many others took away among other gifts banned bullet proof million-dollar vehicles gifted to Pakistan by foreign governments and not a single question was raised.

So the bias against Khan is floating all around but the courts, still under pressure, are holding their grounds. Khan is depending only on these courts and every illegal action is challenged within hours. He is being forced to appear in court when the person who shot at him in November, now under arrest, is allowed to testify virtually.

This is the intensity of hatred and vengeance that has brought the Establishment against Khan to a desperate edge. But Khan is following the law and goes to the court surrounded by thousands of his supporters as they know he is under severe threat of attack and assassination.

Even this is not being permitted and a lunatic Home Minister announced that no crowds will be allowed with Khan. Teams of police travelled 180 miles to Lahore to serve Khan an arrest warrant but his supporters thwarted that attempt.

Temperatures and tempers have thus reached the boiling point. If Khan survives these attacks and the election time comes, no one will stop him from a two-third majority. To stop him the Home Minister has floated a unique idea: elections should be held with no rallies, no campaigning, no speeches, no TV appearances, and no lobbying.

That will give his coalition a face saving option not to face the people who are ready to throw shoes (old ones), eggs and tomatoes while greeting Khan with flowers amid thousands of supporters. The secret agencies could then rig the polls at will.

In less than 60 days, if nothing fatally drastic like an assassination of a major leader, either of Imran Khan or any other party, happens and the polls are held, Khan will defeat the Establishment.

But that is a long time away. The ISI and army high ups are worried, as they have refused to provide security to polls, Coalition Government has refused money to the Election Commission, and government offices have refused to release personnel for election duty.

But the people are moving on and hoping they will get the chance to vote Khan back into power.

All by-elections have been won with a clean sweep by Khan’s party despite all these forces pitched against him. In the latest poll his candidate got more votes than all others combined.

That is the threat and the urgent need to remove Khan from the scene.

Where will Pakistan go if that happens is not clear but people will revolt, sections of the army will revolt, police and law enforcement will refuse to fire at masses of protestors, Pakistan will be uncontrollable and ungovernable. Military rule will become inevitable but unsustainable internationally and domestically. People will throw shoes at anyone wearing an army uniform. Who will then fight the terrorists along the borders and inside. No army can fight external enemies and its own people at the same time.

The economy in this turbulent time will sink and every enemy of Pakistan wishing to dismember this part of the world with nuclear weapons, will converge for the kill.

Whomever takes away the nukes and hides them to blackmail others will thrive but the rest of the county will be dismembered.

That is what many fear and the army Establishment, tasked to secure the country, will be the culprit.

They will be the biggest losers and a few holding the nukes may, or could, sell them off and settle in safer peaceful countries.


Categories: Analysis, Pakistan, Pakistan Armed Forces

Tags: , ,

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