For the last seven decades, Pakistan’s military establishment has sought a civilian puppet who would be the civilian front and allow them to run the country as they sought. In Imran Khan, the establishment believed they had found that puppet. However, his inability to stabilize the country’s economy and politics and his hurting foreign relations with every other country led the army to withdraw support. The result, their puppet is threatening to become their nemesis and the military is using all its might to save itself from Khan’s wrath.
In a recent column, well-known author Muhammad Hanif writes, “It’s almost a rite of passage for every prime minister to fall out with the Pakistan army. The country’s first elected Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged, his daughter Benazir Bhutto was dismissed twice as a prime minister and her assassination, by a teenage suicide bomber, was never fully investigated. Nawaz Sharif was dismissed, jailed, exiled – now again in exile, he rules by proxy via his younger brother Shehbaz, but still can’t return to the country.” In Imran Khan’s case, Hanif notes, “Imran Khan was first loved by the army, then shunned by them, now his supporters were settling their scores. It was less of a revolution and more of a lovers’ spat.”
As Hanif points out, “After Imran Khan’s arrest his supporters did what no mainstream political force has done before. Instead of taking to the streets in protest, they invaded the cantonment areas and showed the citizens how Pakistani generals live: in huge mansions with swimming pools and acres of lawns where peacocks roam.”
Further, while “Many Pakistani politicians in the past have named and shamed the army as an institution but Pakistanis are not used to seeing the images of a Corps Commander’s house on fire, women protesters rattling the gates of GHQ, and the statues of decorated soldiers being toppled.”
Hanif asks the question many do” “In the past, reprisals against politicians who have taken on the army have been swift. So how come Imran Khan, despite facing dozens of charges, is still roaming free?”
In conclusion Hanif points out, Imran Khan, “might have ushered in a new kind of populist politics in Pakistan, but the army is using the same playbook to bring him down that it has used against his predecessors. Dozens of corruption cases, mass arrests and a clear message that by attacking the army, it is Khan who has crossed the red line. The army has also tried to win hearts and minds by releasing a song saluting army martyrs – and celebrating a “respect for martyrs” day in response to the attacks on military installations on 9 May (critics point out that no soldiers were martyred that day, just a posh mansion ransacked by an angry crowd).”