FeaturedNationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 50

Will Imran Khan’s march fail again?

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan has started his long march to force the government to announce early polls. However, there are many questions which need serious deliberation to answer. His main aim is to return to power after winning the next general election. His journey has become even more difficult after he has opened too many fronts to handle.

He faces a number of uphill tasks. It is not sure whether he will really be able to achieve his objective and win the general election and even if he wins, it is not sure whether he will be able to perform. His first term was a big disaster. It was not different from past governments, rife in price hikes, corruption and bad governance. It was a time when all national institutions were supporting him. He has picked a fight against all of them now. Though his popularity has increased, it is still difficult for him to dictate terms to the present system. In fact, it is working against him.

He continues to target national institutions, particularly the security establishment. It forced the country’s spymaster to hold a rare public appearance at a news conference. Flanked by military spokesperson Lt-Gen Babar Iftikhar, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt-Gen Nadeem Anjum spoke about closed-door discussions between the military leadership and Imran Khan. He also revealed that Imran Khan, in a bid to save his government in a no-confidence motion, had offered Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa an indefinite extension, which Gen Bajwa refused. “The real reasons behind the former prime minister’s outburst against the military leadership was that Gen Bajwa and his institution refused to play any unconstitutional role in saving his government in the no-confidence motion,” he added. The DGs of the ISI and ISPR also rubbished Imran Khan’s narrative of a US conspiracy to remove his government.

Giving reasons for his press conference, the ISI DG said, “I am not here for myself but for my institution, whose soldiers and officers sacrifice their lives every day for this country. I have come here especially for my agency, whose officers and agents all over the world protect this country 24 hours a day. I cannot remain silent when they are made targets of uncalled-for criticism on the basis of lies, then as the leader of this institution, I cannot remain silent. You should know that this (Imran Khan) narrative has been 100 per cent constructed on the basis of lies,” he told reporters.

He was rightly annoyed at Imran Khan for calling the military leadership “traitors.” “Calling someone Mir Jaffar, Mir Sadiq, traitor, neutral and an animal was not because the ISI or the Army Chief were disloyal or because the Army Chief did something unconstitutional or unlawful. “It was because the Army Chief and his institution refused to do something unconstitutional and unlawful. Last year, the army as an institution took a considered decision not to get involved in politics.” He said the Army Chief was offered an indefinite extension to his tenure in March and questioned: “If you think he is a traitor, then why did you meet him secretly?” “It cannot be that you meet the chief in the darkness of the night and express your constitutional and unconstitutional desires, you can express them, that’s fine, but don’t then go out during the day and call him a traitor.”

His extreme displeasure with the former prime minister is absolutely justified. The establishment may have made wrong decisions in the past but it has always acted keeping in view national interests, whenever the nation faced a challenge. Its integrity cannot be challenged in any way. It is above board. Even Imran Khan himself has admitted in the past that the establishment makes decisions according to the situation, which could prove to be wrong in future but its intention and integrity cannot be questioned. The establishment was blamed for bringing Imran Khan to power. However, he crossed all limits after being ousted.

It is also a pity that Imran Khan’s criticism of the establishment was widely welcomed by the Indian media. On the other hand, Imran Khan claimed that his party wanted the army to be “strong” and his “constructive” criticism was not aimed at harming it but strengthening it. Addressing his supporters, he said that his criticism of the establishment had been constructive. “I want the army to be strong. We need a strong army. My constructive criticism is not intended to harm them. India, don’t misunderstand, we stand with our army. The neighbouring country is celebrating after the ISI chief’s press conference as it believes that the army and Imran Khan are having a face-off,” he maintained.

His words are a bid to pacify the situation. However, one believes the damage has already been done. It will be difficult for him to force the government to announce an early election, if national institutions continue to support it. Even if he forces the government to hold early elections, there is no guarantee that he will be able to win them. Even if he wins the election, it will be difficult for him to run the government without the support of national institutions. Pakistan’s problems have worsened because of bad governance, corruption and inaction for decades. No government can solve them singlehandedly in its five-year term. The next government will have to take along all institutions to solve national issues and it will take dedicated efforts for decades.