Is Imran govt heading for meltdown?

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Getting the drift of new political currents that were brewing, the opposition parties were quick to hail the military establishment led by the Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa…writes Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha

After his “Naya Pakistan” venture embarrasingly bombed, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has coined a new slogan – “Mera Pakistan Mera Ghar” (My Pakistan is my home).

But his home may soon be engulfed and rocked by a perfect storm.

After riding with him for a few turbulent years, it appears that his comrades in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are unhappy. On Wednesday, the speaker of the Pakistani National Assembly had to adjourn the house when the PTI leader failed to muster a quorum to pass two important bills. Obviously Khan was left red faced. Even the Prime Minister’s key allies had deserted him. The episode has triggered internal speculation that the Pakistani army has finally decided to abandon its Project Imran Khan.

Getting the drift of new political currents that were brewing, the opposition parties were quick to hail the military establishment led by the Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. They praised the General for rigging the local government polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where eight party anti-Imran Khan alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) has defeated the ruling PTI in its stronghold.

“Imran Khan ruling was brought into power as a result of rigging in the 2018 but this time, the bureaucracy, MNAs, and MPAs were of the ruling party but when the “forces” withdrew, everyone saw the results in the local government elections,” said PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman referring to the military establishment.

Now the PDM has called for nation wide protest rallies to oust Imran Khan by March 23, Pakistan Day, “which will be the day of liberation from incompetent Imran Khan” and “People will come to Islamabad from all corners of the country to participate in the protest against inflation, unemployment, and poverty,” thundred Rehman.

According to Pakistani watchers, the situation is changing rapidly in the country. There are now strong indications that the military establishment has finally decided it can’t support Imran Khan any more without irrevocably alienating its own support base.

Citing various sources, Najam Sethi, the veteran editor in chief of The Friday Times wrote that the “military establishment’s negotiations with the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz Sharif have yielded positive results, with only one or two hurdles to cross before steps are jointly taken to get rid of Imran Khan and install a new government that can transition to general elections as soon as possible.”

On Thursday, the former PM and chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif, who is in London, hinted at returning to his country very soon. Taking the jibe at Imran Khan, he said, “In India, Imran Khan is called a “puppet” and in the United States it is said that he (Imran) has powers even less than that of a mayor. This is because the world knows how he has been brought to power. Imran has not come into power by the votes of the people but with help of (the) military establishment.”

According to Pakistani watchers, Nawaz Sharif is convicted and will be jailed once he returns. “He knows it but seems he might have got some kind of assurance from the Pakistani army chief,” observes Sethi.

Interestingly three days ago, the former President and co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari had claimed that he got “feelers” from the top (military establishment) asking for “help” to strategize a plan for the future of Pakistan without Imran Khan. According to Zardari, he told his “callers’ ‘ that no talks were possible till the Imran Khan government was sent packing.

The Imran Khan-led government which is facing a huge backlash from across the political spectrum over the surging inflation, increasing debt and purported misgovernance in Pakistan, is already in minority. His PTI party has only 156 members in the 342-member National Assembly and is dependent heavily on the support of other disgruntled smaller parties and the Pakistani military establishment. And in this present scenario, If Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N and Zardari’s PPP join hands and decide to table a no-confidence motion against the ruling party, that will be the end game for Imran Khan.

Can Imran Khan pre-empt this by trying to replace the Pakistani army chief General Bajwa with the help of his one or two favourite generals including former ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed, he should be “beware of the Ides of March”.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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