Image source Youtube
by M.A. Sofi 2 June 2023
Smug in the belief that it has taken upon itself the ‘God-send’ mission to clean up the Augean stables in Pakistan which, in their perception, amounts to stopping the otherwise unstoppable Imran Khan juggernaut in its tracks, the army oligarchy in Pakistan are pulling no punches to ensure that Imran Khan and his party are completely ruled out of reckoning from the political chessboard of Pakistan, never mind a resort to the most devious dirty tricks in the book to break and disintegrate what is currently the most popular and potent political party of Pakistan- the PTI led by Imran Khan. These dirty shenanigans by the army include but are not limited to custodial torture and deaths or forced disappearances of those sympathetic to Imran Khan and his cause.
That is exactly how, following the (pretext of the) May 9th mayhem at the core commanders headquarters in Lahore, the top leadership of Imran Khan’s PTI which had been on the receiving end of state brutalities right since April 2022 have been picked up enmasse and holed up in jails across the country on laughable grounds, released on bail by the courts but picked up again on similar and equally frivolous charges outside the court premises and then subjected to inhuman torture and ignominy of the worst kind. If by good luck someone happens to emerge alive before finally being let off by their captors, that’s not before getting that person to sign on the dotted line, read a few lines from a pre-prepared text while extracting a forced undertaking from them to part ways with Imran Khan, and in some cases to bid good bye to politics. How paradoxical that those who are masterminding this skulduggery are doing so while secure in the knowledge that they have the divine right to dabble in politics as if it’s they who had presided over the creation of their country rather than looking at that development having come about purely as a political act. What is more, in a brazen defiance of the court order granting bail to the captive, the entire drama is enacted from the podium of a hurriedly arranged ridiculously choreographed press conference outside the court premises immediately upon their ‘conditional’ release from captivity. The result has been that the top leadership including many stalwarts have been forced to disassociate themselves from the party and from the important positions they were holding in the party. Right now, the party leadership stands depleted at the top.
In the light of these circumstances, a couple of very obvious but urgent questions beg answers. The first one is that if indeed the top PTI leadership had been involved in the May 9 conspiracy as is being made out to be the case by their tormentors and then arrested for that offence, why release them from detention, first under directions from the court and then picked up again, and again by the police on the flimsiest of grounds till the release happens as a quid pro quo, if you like for agreeing to sever ties with IK? It takes no rocket science to conclude that the drama is being enacted only and exclusively to demoralise and disintegrate the PTI from within.
Even worse has been the plight of a section of the Pak media who are seen to be sympathetic to the cause of Imran Khan, some of whom have either been killed or tortured and some who continue to remain untraced even weeks after their captivity including the irrepressible Imran Riaz Khan whose whereabouts continue to remain unknown even three weeks after he was abducted by unknown abductors. Despite repeated pleas by the high court, he has not been produced in the court as yet, lending substance to the fear that he may have been killed.
Apart from such dirty tricks, the impunity with which the army and its agencies continue to wreak havoc on Imran Khan and the PTI is to be seen in the light of how the May 9 drama was enacted well in advance by the agent provocateurs. The spark for the conflagration that had happened on May 9th was provided when as a carefully calculated move and in gross violation of the sanctity of the judiciary, Imran Khan was arrested from inside the court premises during a hearing in the Islamabad high court. This was done in brazen violation of the SOP laid out for the purpose and in a manner most foul, where he was hit in his bullet-hit leg with a baton while being dragged out of the room by the scruff of his neck by the police who had literally gate-crashed into the court chamber to nab him. This was done in spite of the court having already granted him pre-emptive bail from arrest while anticipating violence by the diehard IK-supporters to go on a rampage to damage public property and government installations, a ruse that would be used to frame and try Imran Khan for as serious an offence as sedition. As part of a pre-planned conspiracy by the scheming minds acting as if on a cue from the agencies, the idea has simply been to invent and propagate a narrative that following his arrest, “Imran Khan’s supporters had gone berserk that had led to massive damage being caused to public property/military installations, a subterfuge that was to be used to arrest and then try him in an military court with the intention to ban his political party PTI from contesting elections”.
However, there is a sting in the tail! There is credible evidence suggesting that the air tight security that is the hallmark of such vital installations around the country was found to have gone completely missing on that fateful day. That lends credence to the suspicion that a situation was created to make it possible for the surging crowds to unobtrusively push their way through the otherwise unassailable precincts of the Core Commanders Headquarters in Lahore (CCL) and cause damage to whatever would come their way! On the other hand, there is also the possibility of the ‘undercover agents’ having done the mischief after mixing with the angry crowds to cause damage to the GHQ and the CCL. But how upon earth does it make sense to place the burden of violence on the PTI leadership, or on Imran Khan who was in jail at that point in time, unless those involved in it were on explicit instructions from agent provocateurs!
In any case, it’s intriguing why such hullabaloo is being raised about an event that is curiously being made out as the equivalent of the 9/11 attacks, but actually happens to be no more than a flash in the pan, an event that hardly compares in intensity and insanity with dozens of far more serious cases of mayhem on military installations in Pakistan having come about in the past, including the 2011 deadly attack by the TTP on the Mehran Naval Base in Karachi that had claimed several casualties including as many as eleven naval officers stationed at the base. That makes a strong case for initiating a genuinely impartial probe into the issue to help tell the innocent from the instigator and thus put an end to the ongoing blame game of the warring groups accusing each other of complicity and connivance in the grisly spectacle at the CCL on May 9th, 2023.
The question arises: why this overkill by the army which is using its awesome might, firepower and resources to silence, suppress and oppress its own unarmed, unequipped, helpless, powerless and deprived people of Pakistan who constitute as much as 80% of the country’s population, only to intimidate them from supporting and steadfastly standing by Imran Khan and the movement for ‘Haqiqui Azadi’ (genuine freedom) spearheaded by Khan and his PTI. That’s so because the rise of Imran Khan is being seen by the army as a challenge to its authority and its insatiable lust for political power that it has monopolised since the birth of that country. The frequent resort to manipulations, manoeuvrings and underhand dealings through their department of dirty tricks to silence their critics has already cost the Pak army much including its fabled valour and bravery. On the contrary, its recent actions against its own people betray an utter lack of spine in its ranks, what with these timid, pusillanimous army generals who should have known better how the self-same formidable Pak army was made to eat dust by their hostile neighbours, not once but on as many occasions as hostilities had broken out on the battlefield!
Getting back to the previous question, the simple answer to it is three-fold! One that the army’s bête noire Imran Khan stands tall, is known for his fearlessness and has no qualms calling a spade a bloody shovel. He happens to be the first politician-leader of that country who has called the army’s bluff in no uncertain terms involving the latter’s unjustified, unethical and unconstitutional role throughout that country’s independent history in meddling into the political affairs of the country including in the making and breaking of democratically elected governments at will, and by implication, destroying the society and its institutions. That’s an important component of IK’s political philosophy that’s clearly unacceptable to the army, used as it’s to a lavish, larger than life style of living and functioning, unbridled political power and by virtue of that to the vast resources of that country that they have all along exploited to fatten their personal coffers they simply can’t expect themselves to part with.
Secondly, and there is unimpeachable evidence to this effect, that in the ongoing saga of death and destruction in Pakistan, the present COAS of the Pak army is seen bending over backwards to oblige and propitiate the PDM-led ‘imported government’ and the fugitive, thoroughly corrupt businessman-politician Nawaz Shareef who has a huge stake in eliminating Imran Khan from the political scene, and even physically, if possible. Grapevine has it that Nawaz Shareef and his wily, unscrupulous daughter Maryam Nawaz are privy to certain dark secrets surrounding Asif Muneer and his close comrades that the latter are readily willing to do their bidding, lest they are blackmailed by the Shareefs and the skeletons begin to tumble down their closet.
Thirdly, in the ongoing saga of repression and persecution of its own people, especially of those owing allegiance to Imran Khan, the Pak army enjoys the full and tacit support and blessings of the Almighty Americans. This is so because, as is their wont, the Americans are known to be loath to accept someone as the head of a client state who wish to deal and be dealt with on ‘equal terms’! Which is precisely the reason why the Americans had baulked at the idea of Imran Khan having undertaken an official visit to Russia in April 2022 that had not gone down well with the Americans purely for reasons of American hegemonic aspirations in the region being challenged while ignoring the compelling but completely understandable reasons for Pakistan to buy cheap oil and wheat from Russia as India had done earlier. However, what indeed had complicated matters for Imran Khan was the sudden breaking of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine that had led to the Russia-Ukraine war at a time when the Khan had arrived in Moscow barely a day ago. As if that was not enough for the woebegone Khan, his country’s increasing partnership with China involving especially the CPEC as part of BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) that’s expected to come up as a game changer both for China and Pakistan, is being seen as the biggest threat yet to the US hegemony in the region and so is viewed with deep concern by the US and hence completely unacceptable to them. And true to their credo as protagonists of despotic regimes in many parts of the world, the Americans would not blink if Khan was removed from reckoning by means fair or foul, considering that they have a long history of making – and publicly acknowledging – a ‘horrible example’ of those who have the temerity to go their own way and to stand up to their arm-twisting tactics in doing their bidding.
Right now, there are portentous signs of Imran Khan going the Z. A. Bhutto way who was framed in a false case of ordering the assassination of his adversary and then executed by their lackey Gen. Ziaul Haq who was pitchforked into power with the blessings of Americans in 1979. More recently, after the ignominious fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, using their heft combined with skulduggery, Morsi was removed from power in Egypt, then incarcerated and finally done to death in his prison cell through their henchman Gen Sisi in 2018. These latter leaders had to pay through their lives only because they had the audacity to stand up, chart a new, independent course of action for governance and development in their countries, unencumbered by the ubiquitous presence of uncle Sam in running the affairs of their countries. It’s not surprising that the top judiciary of the country also stands compromised as it has been dragged into the picture under the threat of harm being caused to them and their families by the army and its secret agencies. Here it should help to recall how the same chief justice of the Pakistan supreme court had, in a suo motto action, decreed in favour of the dissolution of the parliament (PNA) on April 2022 when the then prime minister Imran Khan was made to lose majority in the 342-member national assembly through a cocktail of fraud, deception and stratagem involving humongous amounts of money having changed hands to engineer defections in the PTI-led government. As the mastermind of this murky deal who had, in an open and flagrant violation of the Book, offered money to buy loyalties from the Imran Khan camp, Asif Zardari continues to have a field day to this day and no suo motto action has ever been contemplated by the same CJP against those who are behind the ongoing reign of terror against the people of Pakistan.
In these circumstances, what mystifies me more than anything else is the awe and thrall in which the people of Pakistan continue to hold their army, even as they now know that it’s chiefly the army that has brought their country unmitigated shame on the one hand and the utterly ruinous state of affairs on other fronts that it’s in right now, on the other. Here, it ought to be conceded that part of the reason why large sections of the people of Pakistan continue to look at the army with hope and optimism has to do with how, in spite of its questionable role in the politics of the country, the army has held the country together, at times against heavy odds. However, the dire state of that country’s politics and democratic institutions made worse by the shambolic state of its economy has to be largely traced to how it has consciously chosen to turn a blind eye to corruption in high places in the government, only to ensure that the institution of army itself remained beyond the pale of law while feting itself on the sweat and blood of its toiling masses. On the other hand, it redounds to Imran Khan’s immense credit how his defiant stance against the top brass of the army for the latter’s role in the country’s politics has helped lay bare the underbelly of Pakistan’s politics which has touched a nadir in depravity in recent months. That’s only to be expected in view of army’s entirely illegal, illegitimate and larger-than-life role in politics in cahoots with the most incompetent and corrupt politicians who have been propped up and used as their lapdogs to run the affairs of that unfortunate country right since the inception of that country. In their own interest and in the larger interest of their country, the Pak army generals would do well to understand the simple lesson that their persistence with the desire to continue with the status quo involving their presence in the politics of the country shall spell doom to that country from which it would be impossibly difficult to emerge. Equally ominously, their continued stubborn refusal to recognise the elephant in the room in the shape of Imran Khan who still remains the best option among politicians in Pakistan to run the country, coupled with an inexplicable death wish to somehow remove him from the scene would plunge the nation in a state of anarchy that would result in the scale and magnitude of the ensuing crisis being too huge to handle over a reasonable period of time.
The main takeaway from this longish, but frank assessment of the current situation in Pakistan is this: the earlier the army woke up to learn its lessons from history, course corrected itself and stuck to its bounden duty of securing the borders while reining in the propensity to throw its weight around in politics, the better it would be for it, the country it represents and the people it’s supposed to protect. The need is for the country to be at peace with itself where people would live in mutual co-existence with themselves and with the institutions of which the Pak army is surely the most vital that could well be also the most vibrant one. Apart from peace and security, that would ensure a climate where justice would prevail and people would enjoy the fundamental rights such as the freedom of expression and speech and the basic amenities of life including food, shelter and the means of livelihood.