The process of dismantling PTI and ending “Project Imran” appears to be getting underway.
The Islamabad High Court judge Miangul Aurangzeb, who is a close relative of Omar Ayub, PTI leader and grandson of Pakistan's first military dictator Ayub Khan, has been giving bail to every arrested PTI leader.Despite this relief from the courts, PTI is under siege. The proverbial Empire (in Pakistan it is called the ‘Establishment’, a euphemism for the military) is striking back. The treatment being meted out to PTI is quite similar to what was done to the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) after its supreme leader Altaf Husain made a controversial speech from his perch in London. Simply put, just like the MQM was dismantled, the process of dismantling PTI and ending “Project Imran” appears to be getting underway. Already some senior leaders are distancing themselves from the events of May 9. One member of the National Assembly, Mehmood Maulvi from Karachi, has quit the party; Senator Walid Iqbal, the grandson of Pakistan's national poet Mohammad Iqbal, has endorsed the prosecution under the Army Act of people involved in the vandalism and arson on May 9. Even Fawad Chaudhry seems to have had his ‘software updated’ after a couple of days in prison and has issued a statement condemning the violence against military installations. It is expected that other prominent faces will also desert the party in the coming days as the crackdown intensifies and the military’s sledgehammer comes down on PTI members and cadres. The civilian government which has made common cause with the military in crushing Imran Khan and PTI has rubberstamped the decision of the real government—Corps Commanders of the Pakistan Army—to try civilians in military courts. This was done after the meeting of the National Security Committee. All the non-PTI political parties are ganging up to eliminate Imran Khan from the political arena, and are endorsing, even celebrating, the Army turning on its own creation. But if court martials of civilians becomes the norm, the current political dispensation will regret at leisure their decision to endorse this move of the Army. While the PTI is in the crosshairs today, in not too distant a future, it will be the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), led by Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and coalition partner Pakistan People’s Party that will face the wrath and vengeance of the Pakistan Army. This has—led by Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari—happened in the past. The laws that the Sharif brothers, Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, passed to fix their opponents came back to haunt them when they were no longer in power. But for now, it is Imran Khan and PTI that are in the firing line.
All the non-PTI political parties are ganging up to eliminate Imran Khan from the political arena, and are endorsing, even celebrating, the Army turning on its own creation.That the government and military are in no mood to spare Imran Khan is clear from the warning issued by the caretaker Information Minister of Punjab accusing Imran Khan of harbouring 30-40 terrorists involved in May 9 attacks in his Zaman Park house in Lahore. Imran has been given a 24-hour deadline to hand over these ‘terrorists’ or else action will be taken. Reports coming in speak of the Punjab Police getting all ready to raid Imran Khan’s house after the 24-hour deadline passes. Interestingly, Amir Mir, the Punjab Information Minister, is the younger brother of the celebrity journalist Hamid Mir. Both brothers have often pretended to be great defenders of democracy, civil liberties, and freedom of speech in Pakistan. Other ‘bleeding hearts’ of democracy in Pakistan are not shedding many tears over the comeuppance that Imran Khan and PTI are receiving at the hands of the Pakistan Army. Regardless of who wins this fight for survival between Imran Khan and judiciary on one side and the Pakistan Army and the government on the other side—the smart money is on the Pakistan Army—democracy in Pakistan will lose.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.
Sushant Sareen is Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation. His published works include: Balochistan: Forgotten War, Forsaken People (Monograph, 2017) Corridor Calculus: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor & China’s comprador ...Read More +