Pakistan Army Chief Supports Imran Khan’s Arrest To “End His Political Career”: Report
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Syed Asim Munir has supported Imran Khan’s arrest in the Toshakhana case as a means to end his political career, reported Dawn.
Importantly, Khan has directly accused General Munir of the ongoing crackdown against him by the police and Pakistan Rangers, a pair of paramilitary federal law enforcement corps.
The intensifying “pro-Imran Khan” protests across Pakistan are pushing the country towards a complete breakdown of law and order. Some analysts are even fearful of a civil war-like situation or, at worst, an emergency military rule to restore stability in the country.
The ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition and the military establishment are working together to apprehend Imran Khan from his Lahore residence in Zaman Park.
According to a report in Dawn, on March 14, Imran Khan issued a call to his supporters and workers of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party to gather outside his Zaman Park residence in Lahore to thwart the police’s attempt to arrest him. Several prominent Pakistani celebrities, lawyers, and activists joined his supporters, expressed their indignation on social media.
It has been reported that the law enforcement agencies did not anticipate such violent resistance from the PTI supporters outside Khan’s residence.
Recent developments have made two things clear: firstly, Imran Khan remains the most popular political leader in Pakistan, and would likely regain power if “free and fair” elections were conducted in the country.
Secondly, the military establishment has decided to either incarcerate Khan or prevent him from contesting future elections. Importantly, the Pakistan Army believes that Khan has damaged their institutional reputation after the public spat between the PTI chairman and former COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and hence, cannot be trusted any longer.
Since his ouster from power in April 2022, Khan has successfully built an “anti-Army” narrative in Pakistan through his well-executed social media strategy, which he continues to employ even amidst the ongoing protests.
Expectedly, Imran Khan has been using various social media platforms to release videos, photos, and messages, aiming to attract both domestic and international attention to his predicament by playing the ‘victim card’.
Foreign media outlets have also been featuring his interviews to highlight the ongoing political turmoil and street violence in Pakistan.
Through his robust narrative building against his impending arrest and his social media appeals, Khan has been able to achieve significant success thus far. The PDM government and its military backers are facing immense backlash on the internet against their “draconian” actions. More importantly, Khan directly confronted the military establishment by questioning their “neutrality” for sending Pakistan Rangers to target “unarmed” PTI protestors.
Following a day-long violent confrontation between PTI supporters and law enforcement agencies outside Imran Khan’s residence, the Lahore High Court (LHC) intervened on March 15, ordering a “one-day” halt to the police operation at Zaman Park. This move has possibly given Khan and his supporters some breathing room before the final assault by the law enforcement agencies to arrest the PTI chairman. Seizing an opportunity, the President of Pakistan and PTI leader, Arif Alvi, made a renewed offer to mediate among the warring political factions to resolve the situation peacefully, reported Dawn.
In an unexpected tweet from the country’s President, Alvi said: “I am deeply saddened by today’s events. Unhealthy revenge politics. Poor priorities of govt of a country that should focus on the economic misery of the people. Are we destroying the political landscape? Am concerned about safety & dignity of @ImranKhanPTI like that of all politicians.”
Alvi’s reaction came after Imran Khan posted several photos and videos on Twitter claiming that his “arrest” was mere “drama because real intent is to abduct & assassinate.”
Furthermore, in a purported leaked audio call, PTI leader Yasmin Rashid allegedly requested President Arif Alvi to “intervene” in the police operation against Khan. In his capacity as the President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi has the authority to investigate the possibility of invoking constitutional emergency provisions in the country. These provisions are laid out in Part 10 of the Pakistani Constitution, which contains six articles ranging from Article 232 to Article 237, Dawn reported.
Under Article 232, the President is empowered to declare a state of emergency in the event of internal disturbances that exceed the control of any given province.
In such a case, the proclamation must be presented to Parliament for approval within ten days by both Houses.
Article 234 addresses the President’s power to impose an emergency in the event of a “breakdown of the constitutional machinery” in any given province.
In a worst-case scenario, Alvi could have considered invoking this article in Punjab, but he would have faced opposition from the Governor of the province, who happens to be a leader of the rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party. Overall, Alvi has the constitutional authority to explore the implementation of emergency provisions in Pakistan. However, such a decision cannot be taken without the approval of the powerful military establishment and without calculating long-term political consequences for the PTI.
In conclusion, the violent confrontation between Imran Khan and the state authorities will intensify, creating a civil war-type situation in Pakistan.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)