The attempted assassination of Imran Khan followed by nationwide protests by the PTI has thrown Pakistan into more chaos. The economic situation remains grim, to which political turmoil is now added. On top is the internal security situation because of increasing attacks by the Baloch separatists and the large number of heavily armed cadres of TTP streaming into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Reacting to the assassination attempt on former Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif publicly asked why the post mortem had not been done – postmortem kyon nahin hua? This led to speculation that Shehbaz is unaware that postmortem is conducted on a dead body; which appeared absurd since Shehbaz did his Bachelor of Arts from Government College Lahore, unless the degree is fake or purchased. The other view is that Sharif is actually Badmash who wanted Imran killed and was misinformed that the “task” had been completed.
It may be recalled that Imran was ousted from office in April this year after a no-confidence vote in parliament. He has been blaming the US and Pakistani military for his removal as the Prime Minister and currently was leading the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) ‘Long March’ to Islamabad pressing for early elections. His convoy was fired upon by an unidentified individual using a AK-47 in Wazirabad (Punjab). Imran has blamed Shehbaz Sharif and the military or rather an Army General for the attack. Shehbaz’s Pakistan Muslim League (N) has pinned the blamed on ‘religious fanaticism’. Imran’s political opponents also opine that the attack was orchestrated by Imran himself.
It is unlikely that Imran organised the attack on himself to gain sympathy votes considering the size of his followers, including crowds in the long march. Moreover, the PTI won big in Punjab by-elections during October 2022, which upset the ruling coalition; the Imran Khan-led PTI contested in seven constituencies, including Peshawar, Faisalabad, and Nankana Sahib, where it won six out of eight seats - six National Assembly and two Punjab Assembly seats. Religious fanaticism also may not be the reason for the attack on Imran aka Talban Khan.
The truth will never come out but perhaps Shehbaz did seek help from the Army but maybe not at the highest level since the attack doesn’t appear by professional terrorist – unless the plan was to only injure and scare Imran
The truth will never come out but perhaps Shehbaz did seek help from the Army but maybe not at the highest level since the attack doesn’t appear by professional terrorist – unless the plan was to only injure and scare Imran. It may be recalled that for killing Benazir Bhutto, Pervez Musharraf, assisted by the ISI, had commissioned an Al Qaida assassin from Afghanistan through the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Earlier on October 3, 2022, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had assured the nation that the Pakistani military has distanced itself from politics and will continue to do so. Undergoing treatment after the attack, Imran Khan being treated for bullet injuries had said that his Long March will continue. Imran has urged Pakistan President Arif Alvi to define clear operational lines of Pakistan military’s Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) division and order a probe how the ISPR head along with the ISI chief held a political press conference to rebut him and try to create a false narrative.
Imran was referring to the October 27 news briefing in which Lt General Nadeem Ahmad Anjum, DG ISI and Lt General Babar Iftikhar, DGISPR criticised Imran’s accusations against the military. In his letter to Alvi, Imran wrote he was informed of the assassination bid hatched against him by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a senior military official. He has requested Alvi to take note of such serious wrongdoings that undermine Pakistan’s security.
There is speculation that all this will strengthen democracy in Pakistan. However, this is utopian because the military holds the jugular of Pakistan and will never let go its grip over power and finances – the zebra simply cannot change its stripes. We must also acknowledge that the US-NATO and China want it that way – preferring to deal with the military rather than Pakistani politicians whether they know the meaning of postmortem or not.
We must also acknowledge that the US-NATO and China want it that way – preferring to deal with the military rather than Pakistani politicians
The attempted assassination of Imran Khan followed by nationwide protests by the PTI has thrown Pakistan into more chaos. The economic situation remains grim, to which political turmoil is added since Shehbaz Sharif in not likely to agree to Imran’s demand for holding early elections. To add to this is the internal security situation because of increasing attacks by the Baloch separatists and the large number of heavily armed cadres of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) streaming into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). The TTP reportedly trained 500 suicide bombers in Afghanistan and majority of them have already entered Pakistan.
On November 1, Shehbaz Sharif led a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to China on invitation of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang. He was the first head of a foreign government visiting Beijing after the 20th Party Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He met Chinese President Xi Jinping, held talks with Li Keqiang and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress Li Zhanshu in addition to others.
Of late, China has been concerned about attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan, especially by Baloch organisations seeking independence and resisting plunder of mineral resources by China and the Pakistani establishment. Baloch grievances are also because of the continuing China-backed Pakistani genocide in Balochistan with China having gifted attack helicopters. In addition is the rising unemployment and livelihood being denied to the locals because the Pakistani establishment has awarded fishing rights to the Chinese nationals. China has also reduced funding for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
Pakistan’s worry is meeting the repayment schedule for the loans taken, particularly in the case of China. Pakistan owes 30 percent of its foreign debt to China; a total of $30 billion Pakistan owes to China. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Chinese assistance to Pakistan is three times greater than what it owes to the IMF and exceeds both World Bank and Asian Development Bank funds combined.
Xi Jinping did convey his concerns in no uncertain terms to Shehbaz Sharif about the safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan. At the same time, China pledged a $9 billion package to Pakistan saying it has done its utmost to stabilise the financial situation of its all-weather ally and will continue to do so. Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, said Xi Jinping in his meeting with Shehbaz Sharif told him “don’t worry, we will not let you down”. Pakistan is also getting a $4 billion loan from Saudi Arabia.
On November 1, Shehbaz Sharif led a high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari to China on invitation of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang where he also Chinese President Xi Jinping
India has said it is watching the situation in Pakistan. Of serious concern should also be how the third-time Presidency of Xi Jinping will boost the China-Pak anti-India alliance and Xi’s designs for India while the US gets more and more involved in Ukraine. Xi is buoyed by the fact that India has more or less accepted the loss of control over 1000 sq km of territory in Eastern Ladakh during the Chinese aggression in 2020 as fait accompli and China continues to gain financially more through bilateral trade than before 2020. Peripheral noises made by India about the border standoff are of no consequence to China when the Indian establishment terms PLA ‘intrusions’ as “friction points” and paints the picture of ongoing disengagement whereas China has refused to step back after initial disengagement in some areasafter India agreed to buffer zones in its own territory and vacated the Kailash Range.
Xi undoubtedly has aggressive designs on India, which is why China has announced plans to build a second highway through Aksai Chin by 2035 which according to foreign media will also run close to Galwan and Pangong Tso.