Imran Khan’s actions to stay in power resembled a civilian coup

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who became the first premier
to be ousted through a no-trust motion, had said he would fight “till the last
ball”. Now, the new revelations are suggesting that Khan tried every trick —
no matter how unethical and undemocratic– to cling on to power. Now the
new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is expected to take an oath. But Khan is
not agreeing to accept the new reality. Khan’s Pakistan Teheek-e-Insaf (PTI)
had opposed Sharif’s candidature citing court cases against him and
threatened to resign en masse from the National Assembly if the demand was
not met.1 Khan also incited his followers to protest and rebellion, which
resembled a civilian coup.
The desperate attempts by Khan to stay in power, followed by his
unceremonious exit suggested he followed the former US President Donald
Trump’s playbook. Even today, Trump is not ready to accept his defeat to the
current US President Joe Biden. Khan too refused to accept his trouncing as
he is still alleging the collusion between his political opponents and the US for
his ouster. Citing the protests by his followers, Khan claimed that the people
of Pakistan rejected the new government and has vowed to fight against the
“foreign conspiracy” and the “imported government led by crooks”. 2
While Khan has spoken about defending Pakistan’s “sovereignty and
democracy”, the steps and decisions he took to retain the power appear to be
quite contradictory. The cricketer-turned-politician has always been criticised
by his opponents as “Select Prime Minister”– chosen by Pakistan’s powerful
Army. After Khan fell out of Army’s favour and was subsequently asked to
leave, he made several desperate attempts to sail through the political
challenge. According to the latest revelation, he even planned to sack the
current Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.3 However, the conspiracy
failed since the information about Khan’s plan was intercepted by intelligence
Khan was getting ready to take on Pakistan’s powerful Army as Bajwa provided
no relief to discontented Khan. Sensing another trouble, Khan could create a
scene as he did earlier by dissolving the Assembly; a lawyer approached the
court to nix the possibility of such a move, which could pave the way for
aggravated conflict between civilian establishment and armed forces.4
It may
have led the Army to get involved in the political turmoil directly and take over
the government. There had been repeated attempts by the Khan-led PTI
government to obstruct the no-trust motion. When it could not stop the motion
from being tabled in the Assembly, it colluded with the President of Pakistan
and the Speaker to dissolve the house. The Supreme Court however undid
Khan’s move to dissolve Pakistan’s National Assembly. As voting on the motion
was inevitable, Khan had mulled the idea of imposing martial law in the
country, which would have led to the suspension of important institutions
including courts. But he could not succeed in it as well.
After all weapons in his arsenal proved ineffective, Khan read the writing on
the wall and indicated he would exit after voting on the no-trust motion. Khan
held his opponents responsible for the political turmoil in the country as he
alleged their connivance with the US for the regime change.5
He praised
Pakistan’s arch-rival India as a “self-respecting nation” to suggest that the
neighbouring country would not fall for a foreign influence. However, Khan
does not appear to practise what he preaches. He should have followed former
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had to leave peacefully twice
when he fell short of a required strength in the country’s Parliament.6 Vajpayee
later returned to power with the majority. Khan however, could not show the
statesmanship shown by Vajpayee.
Khan rather chose the path of Trump. He refused to accept the defeat and
threatened to have his supporters out on the streets. “I will not accept this
imported government, I will take to street. Only people can bring me to power
and I will come back with the help of the people,” he had said before voting
on the no-confidence motion.7 A military coup is no stranger to Pakistan as
the country had been under Army rule for over three decades. But Imran
Khan’s desperate attempts to remain in power led Pakistan to see a civilian
coup, which was shot down by the courts of Pakistan and a united front of
opposition parties.

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