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Imran Khan’s party routed in civic elections, as angry Generals refuse to rig polls

Is Imran Khan’s ship sinking after the rout of his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the local civic elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)?

Is Imran Khan’s ship sinking after the rout of his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the local civic elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)? Has Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa decided to abandon the Project Imran?

These are the questions that have come to the fore in the neighbouring country.

Conceding the defeat in his stronghold province where Khan's PTI has ruled for eight years, Imran Khan announced that “wrong candidate selection was a major cause. From now on I will personally be overseeing PTI's election strategy.”

In the meeting of his party's core group, Khan was very angry and asked his senior members not to leave Islamabad for the next three months.

According to Pakistani sources, Imran Khan was banking on his favourite general, the former ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed who took charge as the Peshawar Corps Commander last month, but Khan’s party lost the prestigious Peshawar Mayor seat to the radical Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl which is part of anti-Imran Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).

It was General Bajwa’s plan which was executed by the then ISI chief Faiz Hameed to install Imran Khan as the PM and it was done through massive rigging in the 2018 elections. The Bajwa-Imran-Faiz trio was working together without much friction, with Khan essentially doing the army’s bidding without questioning or invoking any rules and the brass ignoring his occasional tantrums and consistent incompetence as the chief executive.

But the problem started when Imran Khan questioned Bajwa’s authority over appointing the ISI chief. He wanted Hameed to continue as the ISI chief. Imran Khan was hoping that Faiz Hameed will play a big role in bringing him back to power once again in the 2023 elections. But Bajwa revealed both his military clout and political maturity in getting his own man to head the ISI and Hameed was transferred as the Commander of the Peshawar Corps. In a meeting, Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa made it clear to Imran Khan that the government cannot interfere in the affairs of the army.

There was a rumour that the army might take over but according to Pakistani analysts, Bajwa wants to “finish” Imran Khan politically.

Imran was hoping that Hameed will ‘help in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa local elections but the military establishment decided not to support him,” says one Pakistani analyst.

“General Bajwa is now trying to distance himself from the Imran Khan government for political and other reasons including the mismanagement of the economy. This is the reason why the army is getting disenchanted with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party,” says Javed Aziz Khan, political analyst of Nawa-e-waqt.

While national elections are only due in 2023, the loss in a party stronghold comes as Khan's government grapples with a collapsing economy that sees Pakistan reeling from the highest inflation and the worst-performing currency in Asia.

Pakistani experts believe after the defeat in local elections, his own senior colleagues will be more vocal in criticizing and spilling beans and allies are also not happy with Khan. As Pakistani journalist Nazam Sethi writes, “a decision has been taken by the military establishment to support a vote of no-confidence against Imran Khan. This is what happens when a ship is sinking.”

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