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Pak pitch turns more bouncy for Imran, 9 bail pleas rejected, booked for losing cipher

Troubles keep mounting for Imran who is languishing in jail, and it may remain so for a longer period.

Major developments added to the drama that is unfolding daily in Pakistan in connection with “complete ouster of former PM Imran Khan from politics”. On Wednesday, local courts in Islamabad rejected nine bail pleas of Imran Khan in separate FIRs filed against him in connection with May 9 violent protests. Meanwhile, President and former Pakistan Tehreek- e- Insaf leader Arif Alvi refused to give his assent to and returned 13 bills, including a key one that empowers police to arrest a person without warrant. But, he didn’t object to the Official Secrets (Amendment) Act that might be invoked against Khan in case of losing the cipher cable sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US.

In a quick move that could be detrimental to Khan’s future, the anti-terrorism wing of the Federal Investigating Agency (FIA) booked him for losing the US cipher, which he held up as evidence of his claim that Washington orchestrated his ouster. Officials registered the case earlier this week, while the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) will probe the case in detail.

The Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Islamabad dismissed three bail petitions, while Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Mohammad Sohail rejected six petitions seeking pre-arrest bail for Khan as the latter was absent during the hearing due to his detention after his conviction in the Toshakhana case.

The legal team was also again denied access to the PTI chairman who is serving a sentence in the Toshakhana case. His wife though got a relief from the Islamabad high court in the same case till September 7.

The hearing on Imran’s appeal against Toshakhana lower court verdict has been set for August 22 hearing.

All these developments don’t bode well for Imran and hundreds of PTI cadres that are languishing in jail as the military, which appears to be making every decision in the country now, is not ready to make any concessions, at least as of now. A hint of it reflected when a pro-Army journalist Ansar A. Abbasi, who was the first to announce the correct name of Pakistan’s caretaker PM, said in one his YouTube broadcasts that CPM Anwaarul Haq Kakar deems May 9 attacks on Army and government installations as equivalent to ransacking of the Capitol Hill by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

“Like perpetrators of Capitol Hill vandalism have been punished vehemently and President Trump stares at jail term, we shouldn’t expect leniency in May 9 cases as well,” he said.

The military has already begun a crackdown on him and his party in an intimidation campaign that has effectively hollowed out his support in places like major cities and urban Punjab.

As the fate of Imran hangs in balance, the majority of commentators in Pakistan predict that his game is over and that the establishment has tested in the last 16 months how a new hybrid model may function sans Imran. “In the last 16 months we have experienced a hybrid-plus rule. The inclusion of the Army leadership in a supra body spearheading the country’s economic and investment policies has enhanced the military’s political role and put the security establishment in the driving seat,” wrote senior analyst Zahid Hussain in Dawn.

Meanwhile, populist clout of Imran that he built on his fame as a star cricketer continues to reap fandom for him. On Wednesday, there was an eruption of social media over his exclusion from a Pakistan Cricket Board’s video feature on Pakistan’s cricket history. Bowling legend Wasim Akram termed this “the shock of his life”, kicking off an avalanche of similar reactions.

Caretaker Cabinet

The cabinet names were reportedly finalised by the “establishment” to support the caretaker set-up under Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar. It included names of technocrats from various fields. Noted development economist Dr Shamshad Akhtar will likely hold the key position of Finance Minister and cricketer Shahid Afridi will be inducted as a minister.

Former diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani, who was also a frontrunner for the PM job, will reportedly be the next Foreign Minister. Defense analyst Syed Muhammad Ali is expected to become Interior Minister.

Besides, caretaker chief ministers for provinces like Sindh and Balochistan were announced to support the caretaker set-up in the country.