Pakistan’s Military And Not US Now Imran Khan’s Main Target: Scribe
18:22 11.05.2023 (Updated: 18:39 11.05.2023)
© AP Photo / Muhammad SajjadA supporter of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan throws stones using a slingshot toward police officers during a protest against the arrest of their leader in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 10, 2023.
© AP Photo / Muhammad Sajjad
In a strong-worded statement on Wednesday, the Pakistan Army said that by targeting military installations, protestors have done what the “eternal enemy” couldn’t do in 75 years.
Former Prime Minister Imran Khan's arrest this week against the backdrop of his spat with the powerful military leadership reflects that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party chief has “shifted his targets," the founder-editor of Pakistan Daily Hamza Azhar Salam has told Sputnik.
“Instead of accusing the US, or calling for agitation or protests against foreign involvement in Pakistan, Khan is now directly accusing Pakistan's military leadership,” the Lahore-based scribe underscored.
The writer recalled that Khan blamed Washington for orchestrating a parliamentary no-confidence motion last year which led to his removal from power.
Salam said that, subsequently, Khan’s PTI party reached out to Washington, with several of PTI leaders even calling upon the US ambassador in Islamabad.
“Khan has justified his shift in his narrative, saying that he was not aware that the conspiracy (to oust him from power) started from within,” he stated.
In the lead-up to his arrest, Khan said that Major-General Faisal Naseer, senior official from Pakistan’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was behind his assassination bid last year.
The allegation triggered a strong statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the publicity wing of the Pakistani military. The ISPR termed the charges as “highly irresponsible” and “unacceptable”, adding that the military “reserves the right to take further course of action."
A day later, Khan was arrested by Pakistan’s paramilitary Rangers as he was due to make an appearance at the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
Khan has been arrested for a case in which the ex-Pakistan leader and his wife received a parcel of land from a property tycoon to run the Al-Qadir University.
The arrest has been approved by the IHC and the Islamabad Police, per official statements.
PTI Supporters' Wrath Against Pakistan's Army
Salam said that ongoing protests by the PTI supporters show that they are no longer upset even with the civilian government of Shehbaz Sharif.
“For them, the primary target is the Pakistani military, not even the civilian government, which is currently in power in Pakistan or any other foreign power for that matter,” he said.
Salam noted that never before have military installations been targeted by protestors in Pakistan, a country with a history of “military dominance”.
Khan’s supporters ransacked and burnt down the residence of Corp Commander in Lahore hours after Khan’s arrest. They have also targeted the General Headquarters (GHQ), the head office of the Pakistan Army.
“These scenes have never been witnessed in Pakistan. So, many people are saying that last night was Pakistan's spooky moment, which still continues as protests persist across the country,” Salam said.
Khan is the ‘Only Uniting Factor’ in Pakistan
Salam said that Pakistan’s current economic crisis has spurred a “crisis of leadership” in the country, and that Khan was the only “uniting factor”.
He reckoned that even Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chose to “stay away” from Pakistan as Khan was being arrested. Sharif was on an official visit to London to attend Charles’ coronation in the lead-up to Khan’s arrest.
“And even though the coronation ceremony was over, our prime minister thought it was wise to stay in the UK and away from the scenes in Pakistan,” opined the scribe.
He further said that it was “quite possible” for Khan to be convicted in any of the cases brought against him, which would pave the way for him being disqualified from holding a public office in the future.
Salam said that if worst comes to worst, even Khan’s PTI could be barred from contesting elections in view of the “violent protests” which have rocked the country this week.