The Impact Of Imran Khan’s Shooting On Pakistan’s Army, Economy
Since being ousted from his position as Prime Minister in April, Imran Khan has embarked on a risky campaign to rally public support against prominent generals who lead the power institution. Pakistan’s strongest force. An attempt to kill him on Thursday significantly raises the stakes for both sides.
Khan, 70, is in stable condition after being shot in the leg while leading a march towards the capital Islamabad to demand an early national election, to be held later next year. . His party immediately blamed his successor, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, as well as an official in the Inter-Services Intelligence Service, or ISI, Pakistan’s internal security watchdog.
Sharif quickly condemned the shooting that left one person dead and seven others injured, and offered to assist local authorities in leading the investigation. But the rampant sympathy for Khan in cities across the country and on social media has only added to the pressure on the prime minister and military, who have directly ruled Pakistan for nearly half the period since when the country became independent from Britain in 1947.
“It can be quite bloody,” said Anit Mukherjee, an associate professor at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies who studies civil-military relations in South Asia. “There was anger among Imran Khan’s supporters who would then try to get rid of it at its founding.”
Khan shows no signs of backing down as he seeks to regain power in the world’s fifth most populous country and the shooting is only likely to sharpen his attacks on top generals that he allegedly orchestrated his overthrow. The former cricket star has succeeded in rallying the masses to his side, winning key elections last month despite facing a host of legal cases that could see him disqualified. from the next national election and could be put behind bars.
Doctor @ ShireenMazari1 Talk to @AlJazeera after the assassination of Imran Khan 1/3 pic.twitter.com/ohMHcRHdLh
– PTI (@PTIofficial) November 3, 2022
Historically, Khan faces high odds of returning to power in Pakistan, where no prime minister has served a full five-year term in office. Many people who lasted more than two years were either exiled or killed, including Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated during a campaign stop in an attack similar to that against Khan on Thursday.
The shooting also complicates the calculation for the formation of the army, which supported Khan’s rise to power in 2018 before crumbling last year. Any future attack on Khan, or an attempt to deny his participation in the next election, will bring attention to the generals who prefer to stay hidden while influencing too. major for domestic and foreign policy.
“The Pakistani army would not want a situation where they have to deal with a large number of people by force,” said TCA Raghavan, former Indian ambassador to Pakistan. “So if protests flare up, the military can tell the government to seek a negotiated deal with Imran Khan.”
The timing of the unrest is sensitive for the military, with incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa – widely regarded as the most powerful man in Pakistan – due to retire this month after six years on the job. Khan has previously suggested that the transition should not take place until the next election, so he may have a chance to appoint the next army chief in place of Sharif.
Khan’s efforts to control military promotions are at the root of Pakistan’s recent political tensions. Late last year, Khan publicly opposed Bajwa’s choice to lead the nation’s spy agency, voicing support for one of his allies to continue in the role. The army chief eventually got his way, but the incident planted the seeds of Khan’s ouster in a parliamentary vote of no confidence about six months later.
In subsequent speeches, Khan fended off the army with cryptographic attacks, breaking long-held taboos and stoking the ire of generals accustomed to respecting their commanders. At a press conference last week, military officials criticized Khan for indirectly calling top generals “animals” and “traitors” while secretly seeking Bajwa’s help to back as prime minister.
“We told him that the military would not play an unconstitutional role because it decided to remain apolitical,” said Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmad Anjum, head of the ISI that Khan opposed last year. know in a rare public comment. “We say you make your own political moves if you want to be back in power.”
Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is accusing another ISI leader, Major General Faisal Naseer, of helping orchestrate the attack without providing evidence. Pakistan’s media regulator warned TV channels to avoid repeating the charges, while the alleged shooter said he acted alone when he tried to assassinate Khan.
When asked to comment on Khan’s allegation that an officer was involved in the attack, the Pakistani military referred to an earlier statement calling the shooting “condemnable” and expressing hope. about the speedy recovery of the former prime minister and others injured in the “unfortunate. incident.”
The risk of political instability and more bloodshed threatens to further hurt Pakistan’s economy, which is already reeling from the worst floods in history as it seeks more funding from multinational lenders. regional and donor countries to shore up their ailing financial resources. Sharif, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier this week, has sought to strengthen ties with all major powers including the US after Khan pushed the country further towards Beijing and Moscow.
Khan has maintained his support by repeatedly blaming his abandonment on interference from the US, an allegation the Biden administration has denied. The Pakistani military and government have denied the allegation, but to little avail.
“His anti-establishment and anti-American narrative is effectively drawing crowds to support him,” said Ejaz Hussain, a political and military analyst based in Lahore. “If elections are held within the next few months, Khan is likely to win enough seats to form a government.”
Although Khan could seek to appoint a new army chief if he regains power, such a move is highly risky. In 1999, incumbent Army Commander-in-Chief Pervez Musharraf staged a coup against then-leader Nawaz Sharif – brother of Pakistan’s current prime minister – after being replaced following an election. nominate.
“This is easier said than done,” said Hussain.
The next few days will be critical to determine whether Khan and PTI supporters can muster enough public support to force Sharif and the military to respond to his demands. According to Elizabeth Threlkeld, senior fellow and regional director for South Asia at the Washington-based Stimson Center, Khan “certainly will be promoted” but it is unclear how sustainable that will be and whether the situation will become more violent.
“Many PTI advocates are describing this as a red line that they see as crossed,” she said. “It’s difficult to see a lot of ramps.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)
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