The dramatic arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan on May 9 in the premises of Islamabad High Court has plunged Pakistan into another vortex of crisis with his supporters laying siege to military stations and headquarters from Islamabad to Lahore.
The court has been quick to term the arrest `legal` and the government has come out with a story of Imran Khan being involved in a Rs 60 billion trust scam.
The sequence of events clearly shows that it was a preplanned move by the government with the active support of the military leadership. The army leadership has been miffed with Khan, once its protege, for long, ever since he has been on a tirade against the leadership, including the chief, General Asim Munir.
The last straw on the camel’s back was the former Prime Minister’s allegation that the Deputy Director General of Counter Intelligence, ISI, Major General Faisal Naseer, was behind the failed assassination attempts on him. The military, as well as the civilian leadership, retorted strongly to the allegations two days back calling Khan’s statement “deplorable and unacceptable“, harsh terms indicating that inevitable action against him was imminent.
General Naseer is close to the Army chief and has been actively involved in managing the political parties. He was promoted from Brigadier to Major General in July 2022 and given the key position in ISI by General Bajwa with the principle task of managing the army’s former `blue eyed` boy, Imran Khan, who went `rogue` after his forced removal.
General Asim Munir has been less patient with Imran Khan than his predecessor, Bajwa. In his address at the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, he made it clear that the army would not tolerate any attempt to create divisions between the army and people. He specifically pointed at social media campaigns against the army. Imran Khan, his party, PTI, and his supporters have been spearheading a malicious but popular social media campaign against Bajwa, Munir, Naseer and other senior Army leaders. He said there was a dire need to identify the exposed and hidden enemies…We think the talks on social media against the army, institutions and their officeholders are not only irresponsible and unwise but unconstitutional.”
The military wrath, as Munir’s statement indicates, stems from an increasingly clear fact that Imran Khan has managed to create widespread scepticism, if not antagonism, against the army and its role in controlling and managing the political landscape of the country.
The army leadership has been raring to rein in Imran Khan for multiple reasons besides the social media campaign. His support within the army has remained strong and a significant percentage of his supporters come from military families in Punjab and other provinces. His relations with former senior Generals like retired Lt. General Faiz Hameed and others have caused serious problems for Munir. Early this year, Hameed and his cohorts tried to elicit information about Munir’s financial status from records at Nadra.
Khan has also managed to increase his public support across Punjab, a cause of worry for the army which is desperate to install an `amenable` government in Islamabad.
As events unfold rapidly in Pakistan, General Asim Munir’s role would become critical to the immediate future of Pakistan, a position the army was keen to assume ever since Imran Khan became the `enemy`.