Disgruntled party legislators, neutral Army set the clock ticking on Imran Khan

Published on Mar 18, 2022 06:43 PM IST

An unspecified but substantial number of PTI legislators have moved to Sindh House in Islamabad to protect themselves from political horse trading. These legislators as of now are expected to exercise the “conscience vote” against PM Imran Khan

With Army and America out, only Allah can save Prime Ministership of Imran Khan
With Army and America out, only Allah can save Prime Ministership of Imran Khan

With powerful Rawalpindi GHQ deciding to stay out of current political turmoil in Pakistan, the clock has started ticking on Prime Minister Imran Khan as he faces a no-confidence motion, moved by a united opposition and helped by disgruntled Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) legislators, on March 28.

Amidst all the bluff and bluster of PM Khan, reports from Pakistan indicate that the Opposition is considering two options. One is formation of an interim government under Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and then call for general elections, the other is to form a national government for five years as Pakistan reels from serious economic crisis. It is understood Shahbaz’s brother and exiled leader Nawaz Sharif is in favor of early elections.

While a seemingly desperate Imran Khan has resorted to use toxic language against the united Opposition leaders and threatened a million strong assembly of supporters at D-Chowk on March 27, reports indicate that the die has already been cast with Pakistan Army deciding to remain neutral in the entire political play. To complicate matters further, a “substantial” number of PTI legislators are currently housed in Sindh House in Islamabad and they are expected to vote against their own party exercising the “conscience vote.” In view of this development, PM Imran Khan has asked Speaker of the National Assembly to convene the House on March 21 in order to take action against so-called turncoats.

Although the Pakistan Army was instrumental in pushing the political career of former Pakistan swing bowler, it is understood that Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Jawed Bajwa developed differences with Rawalpindi’s protégé on the appointment of the new DG (ISI) last October. While it was a done thing that Pakistan PM would approve the name of succeeding DG (ISI) on the basis of Pakistan Army Chief’s recommendation, Imran Khan broke the tradition by formally asking Rawalpindi to send a panel of officers for the DG (ISI) job and then chose to interview them much to the chagrin of Gen Bajwa.

The real reason was that then DG (ISI) Lt Gen Faiz Hameed was Imran Khan’s man with the two on the same page on Kashmir and Afghanistan. Given the state of Pakistan, Gen Bajwa did not want to aggravate tensions with India on the LoC as also was opposed to ultra-orthodox Islam practiced by the Taliban to sweep a comparatively liberal Pakistan. Ultimately, Gen Bajwa prevailed over Imran Khan by getting Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum appointed as DG (ISI) to succeed Gen Hameed.

It is standard operating procedure for Pakistani politicians to use the Kashmir issue and anti-India rhetoric for their survival. Unlike the past, General Bajwa does not want Pakistan Army to force multiply on tensions with India and actually wants to diplomatically engage New Delhi as it feels that the Kashmir issue has lost juice strategically as well as politically. It is only due to General Bajwa and late CDS Gen Bipin Rawat that the Pakistan and Indian armies could revitalize ceasefire across the LoC.

With potent Pakistani deep state shedding its past king-maker role in Pakistan politics and preferring to remain a quiet bystander, time has actually run out on Imran Khan, who has failed miserably to deliver the promised change in Pakistan.

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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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