Almost two years ago, I had written the highly successful but controversial article — “Is Pakistan Heading For Another Dictatorship.” Many people, including Pakistanis, objected to the articles’ findings, stating that in modern-day Pakistan, there is no place for a coup. I had explained to them how this modern-day dictatorship would play out.
The present-day reality is that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is being challenged to prove his majority in the National Assembly. What I wrote about two years ago is going to unfold in front of us as a well-calibrated, and step-by-step plan.
In the Pakistan National Assembly, out of 342 seats Imran Khan needs 172 seats to prove his majority and remain in power. He has 155 Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and rest of the shortfall was being made up by support from the allies. Khan has been challenged in the past and sailed through without any hitch.
For a long period, Pakistan’s opposition parties were divided and bitter enemies; however, with Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) they are putting a united opposition to Imran Khan’s government. The situation has been exacerbated by defection of over a dozen party members and withdrawal of support by the allies. The opposition parties had submitted a no-trust motion in the National Assembly secretariat on 8th March. However, speaker of Pakistan’s parliament has been using delay tactics to stall the no-confidence motion.
Under The Surface
Now all this is happening above the surface; what is happening behind closed doors and under the surface is the reality. The Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is called a ‘selected’, rather than an elected Prime Minister. There is a truth to it. To explore that, we have to go a couple of years back.
Imran Khan came to power in 2018. He may keep thinking that he came to power on his own, but the reality is that the Pakistani Army created him. It was a genius ploy by Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa. Bajwa’s term was coming to an end in 2020. He wasn’t powerful enough to carry out a coup, but smart enough to create a puppet government and extend his military life.
The creation of a puppet government had two advantages. Firstly, the Army would steer clear of the blame for the precarious economic condition that Pakistan was in. Secondly, the extension of Bajwa’s tenure would be a legitimate one.
Imran Khan was brought to power without sufficient numbers so that he is never comfortable, and at any point if he was not playing ball, he could be dislodged. Imran played along most of the time. As promised, he gave extension to General Bajwa as Chief of Army Staff. But of late he had developed a mind of his own, and this was not part of the script.
The Unstable Prime Minister
Imran Khan was known to go on a tangent on regular basis. It was okay with the Army and Bajwa till the time it wasn’t affecting them. To start with, for no rhyme or reason, he created a parallel-group with Turkey and Malaysia. The move had no particular benefits for Pakistan, instead, it damaged its relationship with Saudi Arabia. It also resulted in decreased remittance and stoppage of loans/aid from the Gulf nations.
The Army had no problems if Khan was calling Germany and Japan neighbours who share a border, or addressed nurses as ‘Hoors’ (Islamic angels), or called Osama bin Laden a ‘Shaheed’ (martyr), or describing Indian population as 1 billion and 300 crores, instead of 136 crores or 1.3 billion.
The Army couldn’t care less about any of it, however, when he grew wings and started challenging the Army, the Army brass and especially Bajwa got worried. The first challenge from Imran came when he dragged his feet on the selection of the all-powerful Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) Chief. The Army Chief generally selects the Director-General ISI, and the Prime Minister is merely a rubber stamp. The Army had proposed the name of Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum. However, Khan delayed the selection for weeks and relented only after immense pressure from Bajwa.
For some time now, Khan has become even more vocal against the Army. In one of the rallies, he said that even an Army general has to prove his competence to get promoted. In the recent past when the Army stated that they are neutral in the present political turmoil, Khan said, “Only animals are neutral.”
General Bajwa may swallow all this, but it looks like Khan is not ready to give him another extension as Chief of Army Staff. I had written two years ago that if that situation arises then there would be chaos in Pakistan. Bajwa is due for retirement in November 2022, and turmoil is knocking at Pakistan’s door.
The American Angle
In addition to rubbing Army the wrong way, Khan challenged the United States and its hegemony in the region on many occasions. Under his leadership, Pakistan denied assistance to Americans in Afghanistan. After the embarrassing exit of the United States from Afghanistan, the Pakistani establishment poked fun at the Americans and went on to say that Afghanistan has “broken the shackles of slavery”. Imran Khan and his coterie promoted the cause of the Taliban mindlessly.
All said and done, the United States is still the most powerful nation globally. Even China thinks twice before challenging the US. In addition, the Pakistani generals have personal interests in the western countries. Their families live and work in those countries and not in China, Turkey or Russia. Their ill-gotten wealth from illegal land grab to drug smuggling is also stashed in western countries, and Pakistani generals are not going to part with this wealth for the sake of Imran Khan. They rather connive with the US and replace Imran Khan with a more suitable candidate, than lose all that.
The Chinese Interest
Even China can smell the change in the air. Deputy Head of Mission of the Chinese Embassy, Pang Chunxue met with the Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) leaders. She conveyed to them that China wants a “politically and economically stable” Pakistan. China could be lobbying ever harder behind closed doors.
Once again, China couldn’t care less if Pakistan is stable or not. In fact, a poor Pakistan would remain under the Chinese thumb much more readily. Therefore, their only worry is recovery of billions of dollars given as loan to Pakistan, mostly related to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Rising militancy or political instability in Pakistan jeopardizes those investments. The Pakistani generals and their families are also well entrenched in many of these projects. Any setback to these projects would affect their wealth too. They would sacrifice many Imran Khans for the continuity of businesses.
Has Imran Khan Got An Ace Up His Sleeve
Khan on 23rd March stated that he would not tender his resignation rather shake the opposition on the eve of the no-trust motion. He said, “I will spring a surprise on the opposition one day before voting. One day before the election, I will lay my card out. While the opposition has already shown all of its cards, it will be known who resigns.”
So, what has Khan got up his sleeve? One contentious issue is that Bajwa may not go out graciously. If he installs another puppet Prime Minister to further his agenda, then one of the following officers would miss the chance to be next Army Chief, Corps Commander Rawalpindi Lt. Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza, Lt. Gen. Azhar Abbas, Lt. Gen. Nauman Mahmood Raja, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, Lt. Gen. Muhammad Aamer, Lt. Gen. Chiragh Haider Baloch. and Lt. Gen. Nadeem Ahmad Anjum Sheikh.
Has Imran Khan taken one of them in confidence to stage a counter-coup? Is it Lt. Gen. Mirza or Khan’s confidante Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed? Is he banking on his 27th March, ‘million-man’ rally which is being compared to Donald Trump’s 6th January Capitol Riots. Only the time would tell.
All said and done, by early April, it would be evident, whose ambition got better of him. However, one thing is clear that the biggest problem with Imran Khan was that he got ambitious beyond his reach. He could not decide whether he wanted to be a Pakistani messiah and resurrect Pakistan’s economy or be a world-class statesman and shake up the world order. Most say he was none.
“Ambition without intelligence is a quagmire, faster one wants to run, deeper one gets bogged down” ~ Insightful Geopolitics
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.
We work round the clock to bring you the finest articles and updates from around the world. There is a team that works tirelessly to ensure that you have a seamless reading experience. But all this costs money. Please support us so that we keep doing what we do best. Happy ReadingSupport Us