Imran Khan’s moves boomerang

Pakistan PM’s political game-plan hatched with the army seems to have reached the pinnacle of power, writes Gopal Misra

His cricketing captaincy, celebrity status and political game-plan hatched with the army or establishment, though initially helped him to reach the pinnacle of power, the cricketer-turned politician, Imran Khan, the angry prime minister, finds himself stumped in the contemporary murky politics of Pakistan.

The Khan’s politics, as explained by Najam Sethi, one of the most respected journalists of the country, that he, perhaps, rightly believed that “the establishment, an euphuism for the army and its intelligence outfit, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), should stand by him in his political battle with the country’s main opposition parties.

However, he did not realize that each institution has its own limitations which are true about the armed forces too. His another perception is that any confrontation between the army and the opposition would benefit him politically and would strengthen his government too has failed any impact in the country’s politics. In spite of the confrontationist speeches of the three-times prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, blaming the establishment “stealing the votes to install the Khan government”, there are reports of secret parleys between the opposition and the army. Khan is naturally perturbed.

Khan and cronies were expecting that this high-pitch confrontation would ensure full support to his “non-performing” government, but their hopes appear to have dashed. It must have been really shocking for him, when the army chief, Kamar Javed Bajwa, personally telephoned. Rauf Klasra, one of the pro-establishment journalists, blames Khan’s stubborn nature for breaking the possibility of any possible dialogue between the government and opposition.

Bajwa had assured the Pakistan People’s Party supremo, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, that army would conduct enquiry within 10 days to fix the responsibility of the officers of the Pakistani Rangers, who had stormed the room of Maryam Nawaz Sharif during her recent stay at a five-star hotel in Karachi.

A 20-member force of the Rangers had gone to the hotel to arrest Marym’s husband Captain Safdar, who is an accused for raising slogans, ”Give respect to ballots, honour Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the founder of the Muslim nation, Muhammed Ali Jinna.”

Apart from the army’s assurance for conducting the enquiry, the other two institutions, the provincial government of Sind and the Senate, too have sought for a detailed report about who had asked the Pakistani Rangers to break open the door of the hotel room in the early morning. The Rangers had also abducted the Inspector general police of Sind forcing him to order the arrest of Safdar. It had led to the exchanges of fire between the army and the Sind police.

Since the Pakistani Rangers function under the administrative control of the federal interior ministry, Imran Khan feels that he is being implicated. However, the initial reports claim that the FIR against Safdar was registered by a volunteer of the Imran Khan’s political outfit, Pakistan-Tehrek-i-Insaf (PTI). Earlier, his move to implicate his opponents by framing sedition charges against the opposition leaders, which included the prime minister of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir drew a flak.  In this case, the FIR was lodged by a PTI volunteer facing several corruption charges. The FIR has promptly been withdrawn.

Khan’s disillusionment with the establishment is natural. During the past two years, his efforts to control the terrorists groups in Pakistan have been non-starter. The reason is that while he is being asked to get Pakistan removed from the grey list of the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), but the establishment and ISI continue to harbor them. In spite of engaging a well-known lobbying firm, Pakistan could not come out from the grey list, because it failed to comply all the 27 point advice.

It has been asked to comply with the remaining six parameters before the next FATF meeting scheduled in February 2021. Pakistan will continue to be among the countries like Albania, the Bahamas, Barbados, Botswana, Cambodia, Ghana, Iceland, Jamaica, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Panama, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe known for the sourcing funds for terrorists. It means Pakistan will continue to face serious economic crunch in coming three months unless the army cooperates with him in taming the dreaded terrorists like the chief of the Lashker-e-Toiba, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. 

Meanwhile, the opposition parties comprising Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Noon), Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s outfit Jamayat-i-Ulema Islam are continuing their scheduled rallies. If the political pundits could be believed, Pakistan may have a new leader with the dawn 2021.