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Imran Khan – ‘the enfant terrible’ pushes Pakistan to brink, martial law not ruled out

Imran Khan outsmarts his political peers

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former PM now occupies the centre-stage of his country’s politics. Initially, like his predecessors, he too was groomed at the GHQ; and was expected to lead a hybrid-government allowing the armed forces their final say in the affairs of the state. The experiment appeared to have failed finally leading to his removal, but the attempt on his life accompanied by the new histrionics he adopted, appears to have re-scripted his future as the unquestioned leader of his country.

The federal government in Islamabad and the GHQ at Rawalpindi finally breathed a sigh of relief on the night of Thursday, November 3, 2022, when the news of the survival of Imran Khan, a cricketer-turned-politician, reached them. He was hit by two bullets at the Allah Wala Chowk in Wazirabad, Punjab.

With the arrest of the assassin on the spot, there is now no mystery in this murderous attack to be unfolded. Earlier, the previous assassinations such as that of Pakistan’s first PM, Liaqat Ali Khan, or Benazir Bhutto are still being camouflaged in mystery. However, it is being debated on television channels regarding the motive of this attempt on Imran’s life, enhancing their TRPs (television rating points), but hardly adversely affecting Imran’s political windfall.

It is alleged that the arrested assassin, a nondescript person, and his confession regarding the motive of the crime could be for a huge financial consideration. In spite of a blitzkrieg spinning off various theories regarding the incident, Khan appears to have won the ongoing battle against his political rivals. The supporters of Khan have successfully established that there was ‘no motive’ or ‘mystery’ for the attack except to eliminate Khan from the political scene. He emerges as the country’s most popular political figure, symbolizing the aspirations of the youths thus, outshining his arch-rival Nawaz Sharif, a former PM convicted in some unsubstantial cases of corruption, seeking treatment in London.

Imran Khan’s address to the nation, just within 24 hours of the murderous attempt, has successfully set the agenda of 2014 regarding rampant corruption of Pakistan’s top politicians and their families, which had led him to power. With the naming of a top officer of the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Maj Gen Faisal Naseer behind the attack, he has also given a strong message to the GHQ that Khan enjoys substantial support within the army.

In this shooting, a supporter of Khan’s political outfit, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), supporter Muazzam Nawaz was killed and six others, including senior party functionaries Ahmed Chattha and Chaudhry Yousuf, were injured. Interestingly, in this medico-legal case, Khan was not taken to a government hospital but was moved to Lahore’s Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital, named after his mother. During his address to the nation, Khan shared the full details about his injuries and the surgery for removing the bullets in his leg. He, thus, again outsmarts his opponents, who were claiming that he was not hit.

It is true that the confessional statement, of the assailant, is not convincing enough. Many believe that it was an attempt to highlight the threat perception regarding Khan’s life for political purposes. The assassin has claimed that he was on a mission to assassinate Imran as the latter had been “misguiding the people”.”I wanted to kill him. I tried to kill him,” the arrested man was heard saying.

The high-pitch political drama started within a few hours of Khan’s arrival at the hospital. His close confidant and PTI secretary general, Asad Umar, told the media that “ Imran has asked me to tell the nation that he suspects three people of masterminding the attack, Shehbaz Sharif, present PM and brother of Nawaz Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah, and an ISI General Faisal Naseer.” The Punjab government under the PTI has registered an FIR against them and decided to order an inquiry.

The Bajawa Doctrine

The present army chief, Qamar Javed Bajwa, who may be demitting the high office any day this November, if he so desires, is, perhaps, one of the most intelligent generals that Pakistan ever had. Being promoted to the position, of the army chief by the then Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, he quietly implements the agenda of ‘destroying’ the country’s two main political parties, Pakistan Muslim League-Noon (PML-N) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). It was decided during the tenure of his predecessor, Raheel Sharif, that the army would be ruling the country through a hybrid regime and by manipulating the judiciary and media. It can be achieved only by destroying the country’s two powerful political outfits. These political outfits were nurtured by the army as its civilian face, but they have become too powerful for the establishment to manipulate on a day-to-day basis.

It may be recalled that the PPP’s founder and PM, Z.A. Bhutto, who used to call army dictator Ayub Khan, as ‘Papa” had to be finally deposed and hanged. His irrepressible daughter, Benazir, who too had become a PM, was killed in a blast believed to be masterminded by the ISI and General Musharraf. Since Bengalis and Sindhis did not have any presence in the armed forces, military dictators could suppress them and did not hesitate to eliminate their leaders.

It, however, was not easy for the army to get rid of Nawaz Sharif being a Punjabi. Since Punjab is the backbone of the army; he was deposed three times, but was not killed. The army used media and judiciary to oust the PML-N and PPP leaders by cooking up corruption charges. Nawaz, however, was allowed to go to London for treatment.

Khan’s Ouster

The poor performance of the Khan government ultimately forced the army to become ‘neutral’ in the country’s politics. It was finally removed on April 10, 2022. It goes to the credit of Bajwa that he did not resort to martial law despite being publicly abused and criticised. He allowed the constitutional process, and thus Khan could hold rallies for the removal of Shehbaz Sharif and seek immediate general elections.

Imran Khan, thus, has proved himself an avant-garde, outsmarts his political peers, and establishes his genius as a politician. His address to the nation draws the curtains on the ongoing political drama. He may continue his march or discontinue it, he, however, establishes his credentials before the people, especially the youths. He is really the “Enfant terrible” for his mentors in the ISI and the GHQ. He is unconventional and clever and ready to overwhelm Pakistani politics.