The Pakistani establishment’s juggernaut dismantling ex-PM Imran Khan’s network in the country and abroad is poised to go for the kill in the coming days.
In this phase, which has already been launched, two key elements of Khan’s support ecosystem—the Pakistan Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, and the diaspora, where PTI supporters rule the roost are expected to be in the firing line.
Already, the core of Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has been destroyed, with most of the party bigwigs showing an urgency to deboard Khan’s sinking ship.
But how can Khan be completely isolated and marginalised while the e Pakistani state retains the cover of legitimacy?
Reports from Islamabad indicate that considerable thought is being given to designating the PTI as a terror outfit, following the May 9 attacks on key military institution including the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi, Jinnah House, the Lahore corps commander’s residence and the martyrs’ memorial.
The terror designation of PTI will have three key implications. First, it will eliminate intervention by the courts to save Khan from the wrath of the establishment. Pakistani analysts are of the view that once the party is designated as terrorist, any related development will be out of the courts’ jurisdiction. In that eventuality, the decks will be cleared to try Khan in military courts, over which the civilian courts would be unable to exercise any jurisdiction.
So far, the ex-PM has been protected by the Pakistan Supreme Court, especially, the Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.
As reported by India Narrative earlier, the former Lahore Corps Commandeer Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Salman Fayyaz Ghani is facing court martial. He is accused of allowing the rioters on May 9 to enter the Corps Commander House in Lahore because of his and his wife’s leaning towards PTI and Imran Khan. Gen. Ghani’s wife is said to be cousin sister of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, who has come out in support of the ex-PM by granting him bail following his arrest on May 9. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the core of the ruling alliance is gunning for CJP Bandial, and has sought his resignation.
India Narrative has learnt that Bandial’s arrest is also under consideration within Pakistani ruling circles.
Second, declaration of the PTI as terror organisation can also weaken Khan’s supporters abroad. Once the party is declared terrorist, the Pakistani establishment has the right to seek extradition of the party kingpins abroad, provided there is an extradition treaty with the host country.
The Pak establishment, especially the military is furious that ex-PM’s supporters came out in force overseas in support of Khan after his May 9 arrest, including London and New York. As reported by IN, videos have emerged of Paul Fisher, the Westminster City Councillor for West End, in central London, showing him reasoning with PTI protestors outside Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s London residence at Avenfield House, where they were shouting slogans and blaring horns in Khan’s support.
Supporters of the ex-PM also gathered in New York’s Times Square.
Third, some Pakistani commentators say that the fear of PTI being branded as a terrorist organisation is adding urgency to the desertions from the Party. So far over 100 members of PTI have jumped Khan’s capsizing ship.
Given the stage where no compromise with Khan is possible after May 9, the PML (N) has rejected Khan’s call for dialogue.
PML (N) supremo Nawaz Sharif said no talks would be held with “the group of terrorists and saboteurs who burnt the memorials of martyrs and set the country on fire.”
While the ex-PM’s eco-system is being blown up, there are simultaneous moves of cobbling together a new post-Imran political dispensation in Pakistan.
Khan’s estranged ally Jahangir Khan Tareen is emerging as the rising star in the new arrangement that is beginning to take shape. Geo News reported on Friday citing its sources that Tareen is set to announce the formation of a new national-level “political party”.
As reported earlier that after the lurid attacks on Pakistani military institutions on May 9, Tareen had been activated to form a strong faction comprising majority of electable Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and Members of the Provincial Assemblies (MPAs) who can play a major role in any future set up. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Fawad Chaudhry and Pervez Elahi could be assigned a major role in Punjab. Pervez Khattak and Asad Qaiser will be major players in the new arrangement in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Faisal Wavda who had left PTI several months ago will play similar role in Sindh together with Ali Zaidi.