- Imran Khan is making people believe that he has a magic wand, and as soon as he would come back to power, he would establish proper law and order.
- Without well-entrenched political clout, which allows them to call shots in almost every domain of Pakistani politics and society, the Pakistani army would be just like any other army of the third world; weak, fragile and festering with limitations of strategic capabilities.
- Amidst all these developments, no one is even paying attention to the destruction of the civil liberties of the ordinary people and the government with the aid of the army.
- With China on the eastern front and Pakistan on the Western front, India is realistically facing a two-front conflict threat.
- The fairytale enigma of peaceful mutual co-existence (with Pakistan) has proven to be a myth time and again.
For the past few months, there have been civilian unrest in Pakistan. The contestation between the public and the Army-led establishment has increased to an unprecedented degree. Probably for the first time in the Independent history of Pakistan, ordinary citizens are displaying a rebellious rage over the decades of deep-rooted interference of the Army in its political affairs. The central figure, who is leading this public outrage, is none other than Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Despite an assassination attempt on Imran Khan, he has remained boisterous. He has gained greater vigour in his vitriolic attack on the Army establishment, which in his view has become a major barrier against establishing a “true democracy” in Pakistan. Imran Khan wishes to bring about a paradigm shift in the internal affairs of Pakistan along with establishing a “Riyasat-e-Medina”, a perfect Islamic state wherein there is complete justice equality and prosperity for all the people. However, both his intent and his previous administrative experience speak volumes about the deep malice and anarchic tendencies that Imran khan possesses.
The Imran Saga
One needs to observe Imran Khan through the strategic damage that he has caused to Pakistan from his open assertions and protest movement against the Pakistani politico-military establishment. For the first time, in the history of Pakistan, a politician has been successfully dividing the Pakistani army, wherein one group of top generals, who are referred to as core commanders in Pakistan are directly supporting him and promoting his anti-establishment campaign. The reason for this is, Imran Khan during his tenure as Prime Minister developed close relationships and personal ties with the family members of the senior generals and became very popular among the power elites in Pakistan.
Several Indian analysts and Pakistan observers like Sushant Sareen, Maj Gaurav Arya and Tilak Devasher believe that probably even India’s armed forces couldn’t have inflicted so much damage to Pakistan and its deep state, as much as Imran Khan has committed through his disruptive actions. This fact debunks the theory of “Im the dim”, which the elite Anglophones had developed and mocked Imran for his intellectual innocence. Now we do realize that “Im (Imran) is not so dim” but is actually an astute strategist of the vicious political game which is being played in Pakistan. Imran Khan is making people believe that he has a magic wand, and as soon as he would come back to power, he would establish proper law and order, and the ordinary citizen will experience ‘truly democratic’ state machinery. The often uses a phrase in his speeches, describing himself as a “Sadik” (honest) and “Ameen” (Trusted) who is the saviour of Pakistan from the “Shetan” (Demon) who happens to be Shahbaz Sharif, the current Prime Minister of Pakistan.
But the most surprising element in these developments happens to be the failure of an assassination attempt on Imran Khan. Because if we revisit the history of assassinations in Pakistan, they rarely miss the intended target; whether it was Liyakat Ali Khan or Benazir Bhutto, the killer strikes are always a success in Pakistan. So in that case, why did this assassination fail? Certain reliable sources from Pakistan said that this was just a hoax attack to send across a warning signal to Imran Khan, to mellow down his tone and tenor and retreat his long march wherein he was spewing venom against the Pakistani army. If the military establishment wanted to Kill Imran, they would have done it at any cost and would not have left any trails of the assassin. The person who shot Imran, Mohammad Nabeed seems to be a highly radicalized youth, having obvious covert ties with the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), lacking a proper sophisticated plan to execute, and seems to have acted as a lone wolf.
If the military establishment wanted to Kill Imran, they would have done it at any cost and would not have left any trails of the assassin.
Despite consistent attempts to jeopardize and intimidate Imran Khan, he has not backed down on his Anti-Establishment campaign but instead has emerged stronger than before, in galvanizing public support. At this stage, if the army backs down and Imran Khan succeeds in his campaign and wins the elections, probably for the first time in Pakistan, civilian democratic supremacy might be established. This would become a very hard challenge for the Army to encounter as the centre of power and decision-making might shift from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. The Pakistani army’s low-key response to Imran Khan has demonstrated the fact that a “lot of water has flown under the bridge”, despite the attack on the Peshawar corps commander Lt Gen Hassan Azar Hayat’s house, and repeated slurs, abuses and aspersions being cast on the senior officials both in the army and in the political class. The slogans of “Go Bajwa Go” and “Yeh Jo Deshshad Gardi Hai, Us Ke Peeche Vardi hai” were repeatedly shouted and these often violent protests are happening right in the heart of the GHQ (General Headquarters) Rawalpindi. As a reaction, the pro-Bajwa group in the army is also pushing Imran’s supporters in the establishment into irrelevance and is forcefully retiring a few officials. Despite these, it looks like the army is on the back foot.
Pakistan’s army is able to survive and exist only because of its constant interference in politics. Without well-entrenched political clout, which allows them to call shots in almost every domain of Pakistani politics and society, the Pakistani army would be just like any other army of the third world; weak, fragile and festering with limitations of strategic capabilities. The power-play between Imran Khan, backed by Lt Gen Faiz Hamid and the ISI Chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum backed by Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is leading Pakistan towards a situation of internal security nightmare wherein both sides have unleashed their anarchist tendencies to establish the supremacy of their own. This reminds us of the statement made by eminent Pakistan observer Mr Tilak Devasher “In Pakistan, the army has its favourite politicians, but they will never allow the politicians to have the favourite generals”. Imran Khan got the liberty to gain the latter and we are witnessing the disruptive dynamism of its aftereffects.
The interesting factor behind Imran Khan’s removal as Prime Minister also happens to be the CIA and the Americans. It is now confirmed from top sources in the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, that a senior official of the US state department threatened the Pakistani Ambassador that “If Imran is not removed from his office, US-Pak relations will further deteriorate with a FATF sword piercing deep inside” (Paraphrased). This is a confirmation that the Americans lobbied and bailed out Pakistan from the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) grey list, as a reward for ousting Imran Khan. The irony is, amidst all these developments, no one is even paying attention to the destruction of the civil liberties of the ordinary people and the government with the aid of the army is repeatedly engaging in serious human rights violations, by targeting the innocents.
Why should India be cautious?
After the US exit from Afghanistan, the American establishment has no significant stakes on the ground when it comes to engaging in the Af-Pak region. Therefore American interests are changing in this region, with India being put on the strategic bright spot, both as an emerging power and also as an adversary of Pakistan and China. India’s stakes are high in the region and would become more critical and probably vulnerable because of the improved cooperation and enhancement of the relationship between the USA and Pakistan. The Americans have come to the aid of Pakistan by facilitating a $1.1Billion IMF bailout package. It has also provided military aid of $ 450 Million for the purpose of the F16 fighter jet sustenance and upgradation. It’s almost an open secret in the global strategic community that the Taliban chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in the month of June this year, because of the crucial intelligence inputs provided by the ISI. This is a testimony to the fact that the strategic cooperation between the US and Pakistan has strengthened in the recent past, and this is being done as a geopolitical counterbalance by the American establishment to counter India’s autonomous stand on Ukraine and its close defence and energy ties with Russia. There is a presumption that the Americans are trying to reestablish the old equations with Pakistan, re-coupling the India-Pakistan dichotomy in their South Asia policy. We have to also be clear that the Democratic Party dispensations in America have always been more favourable towards Pakistan. This shows the hardcore real-politick of the USA, to stay predominant in the Asia Pacific region.
Strategic cooperation between the US and Pakistan has strengthened in the recent past and is being done as a counter to India’s autonomous stand on Ukraine and its close defence and energy ties with Russia.
With China on the eastern front and Pakistan on the Western front, India is realistically facing a two-front conflict threat. Though the Pakistani establishment might be jolted because of its internal development and its disparaging economic condition, which presently does not possess any serious intent to attack India, the scenario might change if the Pakistanis gain the necessary economic and military strength. As former Army chief of Pakistan Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had once said in India’s context that “If you have the capability, intent can change overnight”. This proves the fact that, deep down in the Pakistani mind, the perennial Indian hatred is eternally and ideologically engrained through its Jihadi mindset.
Many senior diplomats and analysts in India are of the opinion that a stable Pakistan is in India’s interest. But they have always failed to provide a strategic rationale as to how it would impact India’s national interest and national security. The fairytale enigma of peaceful mutual co-existence has proven to be a myth time and again. Whenever the Pakistani state was stable and possessed demonstrable military strength, they waged war against India through conventional and non-conventional means. With the manipulative interplay of intent and capability, Pakistan will always pose a challenge to India’s national security. Therefore I do think that Maj Gaurav Arya’s assessment of Pakistan is quite accurate, when he says, “the existence of Pakistan is detrimental to India’s national security”.
(The author has a MA in International Relations)