Desperate Khan

Desperate Khan
Imran Khan is flapping about desperately. He is setting up interviews and podcasts with lackeys who throw him soft balls that he can hit out of the park. Unfortunately, he is often inclined to put his foot in his mouth, the latest example of this being his claim of a “domestic conspiracy” to undo his government. Consider.

Khan now claims that he knew of the PDM’s plans to oust his government as early as July last year. That is why, he argues, he insisted on retaining DG-ISI Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed as his “eyes and ears” for as long as it took to nip this “conspiracy” in the bud. He admits that this decision created a wedge with GHQ which didn’t want any interference in the army’s internal affairs when postings and transfers were ordered.

Imran Khan’s reliance on Lt-Gen Faiz Hameed to bail him out and prop him up goes back to the 2018 general elections when the RT system mysteriously broke down during vote counting and the PTI inexplicably romped home in Islamabad. Subsequently, critical help was similarly needed to drive the Independents, PMLQ, GDA, MQM, BAP etc into the fold of the PTI so that it could make a government. Last year, when the army high command under COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa decided to become “neutral”– it would neither prop him up nor help the opposition drive him out – because it was being roundly discredited for siding with an incompetent and increasingly corrupt government, the die was cast. Since then, Imran khan has grudged General Bajwa’s decision and hinted at the army chief’s role in the demise of the PTI government.

Now the gloves have come off. The PTI’s social media network has gone into high gear to blast General Bajwa for deserting the Great Khan, accusing him of helping the opposition plan its vote of no confidence. In fact, the campaign to build internal military pressure on the COAS via serving and retired army officers is relentless. It aims to change General Bajwa’s neutral stance and help Khan climb back into power. Now Khan’s lackeys in the media have made two new accusations. They claim that GHQ became aware of the “cable” from Ambassador Asad Khan on March 8 (because it was also copied to DG-ISI, DG-MI, DG-MO, COS) but the foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, only read it on 12 March, implying that the matter was deliberately kept under the lid by GHQ so as to enable the vote of no confidence to succeed.

This is ridiculous. If the PDM’s conspiracy with GHQ started in July last year, why did it take nine months to succeed? Surely, all that was required was for GHQ to wink at the PTI’s allies to ditch the government so that a vote of confidence would fall short of the required numbers and there would be overnight regime change. Instead it took the Opposition nine grueling months in which to stitch up the Allies, get the numbers right and launch the vote of no-confidence in March.

Then there’s the question of the alleged US conspiracy to beget regime change. If the earliest manifestation of this is the 8th March cable, why did Imran Khan wait until 27th March to reveal it? If the PDM government has now conceded his demand to investigate the contents of the cable, why is he opposing an independent commission of inquiry? If GHQ and PDM had decided in July to oust Imran Khan, how did the US enter the scene nine months later? Indeed, where was the need for the US to trigger regime change? What drastic anti-US steps had Imran Khan taken to so annoy the White House to order regime change? When Pakistan carried out six nuclear tests in 1998 despite American exhortations to the contrary, did the US order regime change? When Pakistan refused to sign the CTBT in the 1990s, did the US order regime change? When Pakistan played a double game to protect its interests in Afghanistan in the 2000s, did the US order regime change? When Pakistan blocked NATO supply lines to and from Afghanistan, did the US order regime change? And so on. It is ridiculous to argue that Imran Khan’s refusal to grant military bases to the US led to regime change because the US has not asked for any such facility (conditional overflight rights under discussion do not constitute US bases). Nor does a one day trip to Moscow -- which didn’t lead to any Russian concessions for Pakistan that undermined the sanctions regime subsequently imposed on it by Western powers – constitute a valid enough reason to order regime change in Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s attempt to pin the conspiracy to oust him in July 2021 on GHQ+PDM has compelled a reference to the long-whispered “L’Affaire General Faiz Hameed” when Khan tried to delay the appointment of a new DG-ISI last year. By naming names and motives, Khan has put the spotlight squarely on General Faiz and severely embarrassed him. It has also revived speculation about what happened in the PM’s House on the fateful night of March 28 when, as reported by BBC, a couple of helicopters disgorged a couple of powerful persons who stopped Imran Khan from making any notification regarding any change in the army high command.

Now Imran Khan is pinning his hopes on a “long march of millions” to Islamabad in the near future to create a volatile situation that compels the army to step into the fray and order fresh elections. Khan thinks that if he can succeed in provoking an army intervention against the PDM, then it should logically follow that the same army will facilitate the PTI’s return to power. He wants this course of action as soon as possible so that he is back in the saddle before end-November when General Bajwa retires and a new COAS is to be appointed.

Imran Khan has plunged the economy into bankruptcy. He has targeted the army high command by playing favourites, sowing divisions and weakening its unity of command (provoking Indian commentators to praise him for doing their job). He has polarized civil society, degraded discourse and eroded the constitution. He has undermined the norms of diplomacy and isolated Pakistan internationally. The sooner the ubiquitous Miltablishment concludes that its latest experiment in hybrid politics is a dismal failure and Imran Khan’s hysterics cannot be tolerated any longer, the better it will be for national security.

Najam Aziz Sethi is a Pakistani journalist, businessman who is also the founder of The Friday Times and Vanguard Books. Previously, as an administrator, he served as Chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board, caretaker Federal Minister of Pakistan and Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan.