Imran’s letter bluff | By Naveed Aman Khan


Imran’s letter bluff

IMRAN Khan lost the support of Pakistan’s powerful Establishment, which the then Opposition alleged helped him win the 2018 general election, and had recently publicly fallen out with Imran over senior military appointments and policy decisions.

Imran Khan’s political demise is rooted in new realities. Imran’s PTI had lost the support of coalition allies, denying him the majority he needed to defeat the vote of no confidence.

There was disgruntlement for the past two years. The sour mood among Imran’s erstwhile allies was echoed. As far as Imran’s governance was concerned, it had totally failed.

As the PPP and PML-N, ramped up their efforts to dislodge Imran Khan, coalition allies became vocal in their dissatisfaction with him.

Defeated inside parliament and undone outside, Imran is likely to be a spent force politically. The cyclical nature of Pakistani politics has seen former premiers rebound before.

Has Imran any chance of clawing his way back to power? But by pledging to support the no-confidence vote against Khan, the coalition allies effectively ended Imran’s more than three-and-a-half-year rule.

The Opposition parties also claimed to have support of a number of dissident PTI parliamentarians.

The economy remained in a parlous state. Inside parliament, the loss of the allies’ support reversed the numbers for Imran.

The BAP, the MQM and PML-Q account for fewer than five percent of the seats in the 342-member National Assembly.

Discontent among constituency voters had tipped over. The two biggest economic challenges facing Pakistan at the moment are high inflation and fast depleting foreign exchange reserves.

The premier’s parliamentary support began to dissolve when the military signalled it would not side with Imran against the Opposition, as a policy of neutrality.

With Imran’s exit confirmed, former allies are increasingly candid about the third rail of Pakistani politics. Once the view was entrenched that he can’t stay, it was only a matter of time.

When the Establishment became neutral, the allies saw that the government wouldn’t survive.

General Qamar Bajwa’s second term as Army Chief will end in November. Will General Faiz Hameed, one of the senior-most generals, eligible to replace him?

In October, simmering civil-military tension exploded in public view when Imran Khan tried to retain Lieutenant-General Faiz Hameed as the military spy chief, rejecting the nominee of Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa.

General Bajwa’s nominee, Lieutenant-General Nadeem Anjum, was eventually appointed as the new DG ISI, but the weeks-long standoff was bruising and ominous.

In pursuit of what Imran described as a neutral foreign policy, he travelled to Russia on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He left with only a handshake from Russian President Vladimir Putin hours after the attack.

Imran Khan is the latest in a long line of Pakistani premiers who have fallen out with the military over key appointments and foreign policy.

Extraordinary, too, was Imran’s attempt to recast ties with the US, Pakistan’s largest trading partner and a fractious ally that the military has sought to maintain as an important partner. Imran’s this dubious and fictitious letter conspiracy plot is proven stage drama.

The Army, Air Force and Navy Chiefs have categorically declared Imran’s conspiracy theory a stage drama.

While the Pakistani military backed Imran’s Russia trip, differences intensified after he made a high-stakes domestic pivot.

Faced with defeat in the no-confidence vote in parliament, he alleged a US-led plot to remove him as punishment for his Russia trip and neutral foreign policy. On policy matters, Imran could be mercurial. There was no predictability or stability.

The diplomatic missive, the alleged US threat and Imran’s claim that the no-confidence was part of a US-led conspiracy roiled Pakistani politics and civil-military relations. The letter warranted a strong response and corrective measures.

Response in the military is very clear on whether it should have been used to meddle with the vote of no confidence.

As evidence of the plot, Imran showed a piece of paper in a public rally in Islamabad on March 27, wrongly claiming the US had delivered a diplomatic warning to Pakistan to remove him as Premier.

Pressure on military leadership is if it was America’s war, then all the sacrifices of young officers and soldiers were a waste.

The Imran’s position on war on terror is that we fought America’s war and suffered loss of men and material.

Military’s view was that it was the fallout of the Afghan war and we had no choice. The tension with the military also concerned Imran’s style of governing.

Number of differences between Imran and the military leadership that had accumulated over Imran’s time in office, including bleak and fragile political and economic management by Imran that was acting as a drag on the military’s public image.

After being kicked out of Parliament playing with the sentiments of the innocent people irresponsible and cunning Imran Khan has now stood up for a “proud and independent Pakistan” – another lollipop.

Not believing in his uttered words masses are publicly abusing Imran Khan and the PTI for inflation and anti-establishment policies.

So much so because of his worst way of governance and anti-State policies masses are burning his effigies elsewhere in the country.

—The writer is editor, book ambassador, political analyst and author of several books based in Islamabad.


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