Is Imran Khan Really Challenging Pakistan's Military Establishment?

Is Imran Khan Really Challenging Pakistan's Military Establishment?
On May 9th 2023, Imran Khan was arrested without a court order as he presented himself to the Islamabad high court to get bail on multiple charges ranging from terrorism to corruption. The former prime minister was detained using a NAB arrest order. While the 'masters' - the powers that be - clearly endorse his arrest the legality of it is questionable and is a subject of debate among the masses.

It is alleged by Imran Khan's political opposition that he and his wife Bushra Bibi, the beneficiaries of the Al-Qadir University Trust, along with her friend Farhat Jabeen (alias Farah Gogi), received a property said to be 458 kanals, which puts its worth around Rs 500 million, and another Rs 5 billion for helping Malik Riaz, a real estate developer, in his UK "dirty money" case settlement in December 2019.

The story is quite interesting. It started when the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) froze Malik Riaz's accounts in 2018 and 2019, totalling 140 million pounds sterling, during an investigation of Riaz’s accounts and their links to bribery and corruption.

In December 2019, Shehzad Akbar, Imran Khan's special assistant heading the Pakistan government's Asset Recovery Unit (ARU), flew to England to ensure a "confidentiality agreement" between the Pakistan government, UK's NCA and Malik Riaz. This agreement was "signed and approved" by the PTI's federal cabinet; its own leaders initially objected to it, as they quite rightly felt that they should not vote on something they were not privy to. However, the majority complied, and so the agreement was approved and implemented.

There is yet another twist in the story. Part of the total money that was being returned to the Government of Pakistan (so essentially the people of Pakistan) came from the funds frozen in Malik Riaz account and part from a property - 1 Hyde Park, a piece of prime real estate in London.

This real estate was bought by Hasan Nawaz, Nawaz Sharif's son, in 2007 and sold to Malik Riaz in 2016 for 42 million pounds sterling.

As soon as the "confidentiality agreement" was signed, Malik Riaz, without any shame, tweeted that this settlement of 190 million pounds would be paid towards the fine that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had imposed on his Bahria Town corporation. Let us remember here that this money did not belong to Malik Riaz to put towards its fine of a separate case with the Supreme Court. Rather, it already belonged to the people of Pakistan. The money Malik Riaz owed in the Bahria Town case should have been given separately.

What is the Bahria Town Case? The Sindh goverment, controlled by PPP, had given 16,896 acre to Malir Development Authority to develop low-income housing. Malik Riaz acquired this land and, after litigation settled in March 2019, ended up being 'fined' by the Supreme Court to the tune of Rs 460 billion (equivalent to $3 billion at that time).

The settlement money was transferred to the Supreme Court to pay part of Malik Riaz’s fine in the Bahria Town case. Why did the Pakistan Government agree to such an egregious flaunting of power by Mr. Riaz? As the money was being paid back to Pakistan, it already belonged to the people of Pakistan. Why did it then apply towards a separate settlement between the Supreme Court and Riaz?

Real estate tycoon Malik Riaz connects Imran Khan, the Nawaz Sharif family & Sindh's ruling elite in the Al-Qadir University and Al-Qadir Trust saga.

Imran Khan was, until relatively recently, the Pakistan military's blue-eyed boy. Elected in 2018 after the proverbial "umpire's finger" tipped the scales in his favour. Imran Khan was an obedient servant at the start. He fully supported the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, stating that the Taliban had broken "the chains of slavery". He fully supported General Bajwa in a deal with Taliban by accepting hundreds of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants held captive in Afghanistan by the earlier regime. The havoc that TTP have created in KPK can be judged by more than 300 police officers being killed in multiple terror attacks since August 2022.

Intoxicated by the power given to him as he remained in the eye of a benevolent master, Imran Khan made a fatal mistake in October 2021. He resisted the appointment of a new ISI chief, forgetting that even for blue-eyed boys, benevolence had its limits. He wanted his close confidante and then-ISI chief General Faiz Hameed not to be removed. The Pakistan military guards its 'autonomy' passionately, as it is through this independence of agency that it ensures the status quo for the ruling elites.

Imran Khan paid for this "intransigence" by being removed in April 2022 through a vote of no-confidence. Burdened by inflation and completely dissatisfied by the ruling elite and the bureaucratic military oligarchy (BMO), the masses chanelled their anger by supporting the one who was at the receiving end of the cabal's ire.

Imran Khan’s popularity soared further after he escaped an assasination attempt in November 2022. Had it been successful, this assasination, like others, would have remained an unsolved mystery. Imran Khan, empowered by people's support, overplayed his cards and risked all by critiquing the very hand that protects the class whose interests he had diligently served since 2018.

What happens next to Imran Khan is anyone's guess, but what is certain is that Malik Riaz will continue to dispossess workers and farmers from their land for developing mega housing projects well-protected by the BMO and the ruling elite. All propertied class will benefit from low real estate taxes, and utilise land as the perfect vehicle to store their wealth.

It is imperative that the people of the country realize their own interests and reject completely the ruling elites. Hamza Alavi, Jinnah confidant, has eloquently identified and articulated the bureaucratic military oligarchy (BMO), its interest and responsibility. The BMO is required to maintain status quo so that the interest of landed and industrial elite is protected. His seminal work in 1972, 6 months after fall of Dhaka, identifies BMO and the different ruling elites and their interests.

Pakistan’s generals come from the same class of landed elites that are closely connected to other elites, educated mostly at premier schools in Pakistan like Aitchison College. They all protect the interests of the landed elite, ensuring free water and tax breaks are implemented on their agricultural produce. For the indigenous industrialists, it is ensured that lucrative contracts and cheap capital is available, not on merit, but for "obedience". NAB is used so that corruption remains an effective tool to keep elites in line. If everything fails, courts play their role to maintain the required order.

This BMO, primarily from Punjab, uses religion or patriotism, to quieten any dissent from smaller provinces. Frantz Fanon articulated the importance of identifying this structure in his seminal work on colonialism, and has also pointed out that the existence of this structure is based on lies. When faced with the truth, this whole structure falls like a house of cards. His theory was used in Algeria to fight France, and inspired the civil rights movement of the 1960s that produced leaders like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

Imran Khan is part of the same elite system, not the "voice of change" that Frantz referred to. It is the revolutionary peoples movements that bring the real change, as the "voice of truth" becomes more discernible.