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Pakistan threatens to jail dissidents 'within 72 hours'

Pakistan's iron fisted interior minister <a href="https://indianarrative.com/world/ahead-of-pdm-lahore-jalsa-imran-picks-sheikh-rashid-to-take-on-rivals-40399.html"><strong>Sheikh Rashid Ahmed</strong> </a>on Saturday declared he would summarily lock up "within 72 hours" anyone who used derogatory remarks against the state institutions. Addressing the media in Rawalpindi, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that the use of indecent language against Armed Forces of Pakistan would not be tolerated and legal action would be taken against the violators. Analysts say that Sheikh Rashid and Prime Minister Imran Khan have emerged as Pakistan's new icons eager to implement the military’s anti-people diktat.

The latest move by the ruling government is aimed at silencing its critics. The Imran Khan government, described as a "fake regime" by the top leaders of the 11-party <a href="https://indianarrative.com/world/maryam-nawaz-sharif-and-aseefa-bhutto-slam-imran-khan-at-pdm-rally-33124.html"><strong>Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance</strong></a>, is in opposition's line of fire and has been criticized heavily for the current political turmoil in the country.

Only yesterday, as reported by Pakistan's leading daily <em>Dawn</em>, PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had said after a meeting of the alliance leadership in Raiwind that the opposition's movement would no longer be directed only at the Imran Khan-led government but also "his backers", clearly indicating that the upcoming long march to Islamabad "could also be to Rawalpindi".


"PDM has come out stronger than before and is more determined than before to rid the nation of this illegitimate government," said Rehman with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz and other leaders standing by his side.

In response to the high-octane "rebellion" that had spilled over in the streets, Khan, in his first interview of the year told <em>Dunya TV</em> that people will pay no heed to the PDM call for ‘long march’ and rejected the opposition’s allegation of a ‘puppet’ premier.

"I can give in writing that Pakistani nation will not come out on the streets on the call of PDM. If I am a puppet and if the army has asked me to hold talks with the opposition then why I am not doing so," the cricketer-turned politician told the news channel.

That the embattled Pakistani PM had to come out to defend himself yet again in a space of two weeks, telling the world that he is the boss, itself reveals that he stands on a knife-edge.

Just before Christmas, Khan had told another Pakistani channel that there is a “lot of anger” within the Pakistani Army over the verbal attacks launched against the top military leadership — particularly by former PM Nawaz Sharif from the PDM platform.

"But Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa is putting up with the tirades for the sake of democracy,” Khan had asserted.

<img class="wp-image-10002 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Sheikh-Rashid.jpg" alt="Sheikh Rashid" width="400" height="266" /> Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid

But the lip service towards democratic expression has clearly expired as bull-horned by Rashid's comments on Saturday.

Khan and his bosses at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi have been fuming for long as PML-N chief Sharif, while addressing the PDM rallies through video link from London, repeatedly accused the Pakistan’s security establishment of orchestrating his ouster, bringing Imran Khan into power, creating “two governments” and a “state above the state.”

Sharif has blamed the present government and country’s military for the “prevailing woes” and jeopardising the country’s security.

“They pushed the country into unprecedented inflation and unemployment, time has come to get freedom from this selected set-up as the country can never prosper hijacked democracy,” said the ousted premier.

Even as the PM talked about showing patience in TV interviews, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed announced that Sharif’s passport will be cancelled on February 16.

“Let me give you a piece of news. We will cancel Nawaz Sharif’s passport on February 16,” Ahmed said on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Sharif was declared a proclaimed offender in two graft cases by the Islamabad High Court after he failed to appear in person.

Interestingly, after the interior minister's 72-hour deadline announced today, the Pakistani social media is abuzz with video clips from the past showing Imran Khan criticizing the army generals.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet">
<p dir="rtl" lang="ur">شیخ جی ذرا ادھر بھی ۔ آپ پہ بھی پھول برسائے جا رہے ہیں اور جرنیلوں پہ بھی <a href="https://t.co/m50koGRZqw">pic.twitter.com/m50koGRZqw</a></p>
— Gul Bukhari (@GulBukhari) <a href="https://twitter.com/GulBukhari/status/1345288195928424449?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 2, 2021</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

And there are no signs that Sharif is in a mood to relase Khan, Rashid or the military off the hook. Surely, the political polarisation in Pakistan has reached an inflexion. Expect high drama as 2021 unfolds.