Imran Khan, a former prime minister of Pakistan, has failed to win over his political rivals with his threat to “quit the corrupt political system” and leave all of the assemblies where his Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party is in power.
After failing to persuade the government to agree to his demand for early elections, they interpret Imran’s threat as an effort to “stay politically relevant.”
Instead of speaking to the current civilian government, he is directing his remarks at the new military leadership, an organization he has been criticized in recent months.
Observers believe Imran is attempting to convince the new army chief that they can cooperate.
The leader of the PTI party wants the military to persuade the government to hold elections before October of next year in order to prevent a protracted period of political instability and social unrest in the nation.
However, the majority of Imran’s political adversaries think he won’t let go of the Assemblies he controls because doing so could cause a rift among PTI lawmakers.
In Punjab, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan, his party is in charge.
A bluffing game?
Speaking at a well-attended rally in Rehmanabad, Rawalpindi, on Friday, Imran declared that his party would no longer be a part of the “corrupt political system,” where those accused of committing billions in corruption were allowed to escape punishment.
He did not specify a deadline to leave the Assemblies, however, leaving the matter open.
After consulting with the chief ministers of his party in these four provinces, he said he would make a final decision on the matter.
Imran also made the decision to halt his lengthy march and asked his supporters not to enter the nation’s capital, Islamabad, as he had originally planned to do because he did not want unrest in the nation.
However, the majority of observers believe that his attempt to play the statesman was made from a weak political position after he was unable to pressure the government into calling early elections.
When he was unable to have an impact on the selection of the new army chief, Imran lost a significant amount of political momentum.
As the head of the opposition in parliament, he had made an effort to put pressure on the government to consult him before making the crucial choice.
Asim Munir will take over as the new army chief, replacing Gen. Qamar Javad Bajwa, whose term is set to expire on November 29. This was announced on Thursday by the Shehbaz Sharif-led Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government.
Since 2016, Bajwa has been in charge of the army.
Because of Imran Khan’s tenacious campaign against the army and its propensity to meddle in domestic politics, there was a lot of speculation regarding the selection of the new army chief in Pakistani political circles.
Imran, who was ousted as prime minister in April after losing a vote of confidence in parliament, claimed that the army and the US government were behind the plot to remove him due to his outspoken opposition to US meddling in Pakistan’s internal affairs.
Particularly among the nation’s younger generation, Imran’s campaign against dishonest politicians, US involvement, and the army had been gaining a lot of traction lately.
On October 28, he started his “long march” from Lahore to Islamabad in an effort to pressure the Sharif administration into granting his demand for early elections.
In October 2023, Pakistan will hold parliamentary elections.
However, Imran seems to have lost a lot of momentum as a result of the Sharif government’s choice to name Munir as the new army chief.
Munir served as Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) director general for just eight months, one of the shortest periods in the agency’s history. When Imran was prime minister, Faiz Hamid, a favorite of Imran, took Munir’s place.
Pakistan’s puppet master
Bajwa had previously spoken out against the army getting involved in domestic politics.
He had admitted that this was the main cause of the public’s negative perception of the army in Pakistan.
In Pakistan, where the military has ruled for 50 of the country’s 75 years, the army chief has traditionally held more power than the prime minister.
Since each one of them was ousted from office by the army, no Pakistani prime minister has yet been able to serve out the full five-year term.
The Pakistan People’s Party of the Bhuttos and the Pakistani Muslim League of the Sharifs were the two main political parties at the time, and the army was searching for a third option when it brought Imran to power.
Nevertheless, the highest echelons of the military establishment began looking for a new prime minister when he failed to revive the economy and improve Pakistan’s tense relations with the US while at odds with the army over important appointments.
Why Imran wants elections now
The most well-liked leader in Pakistan right now, however, is Imran. If elections were held right now, he would win hands down.
In the same vein, the PDM coalition, led by Sharif, is hesitant to call early elections.
Accepting the IMF’s requirements to end subsidies in order to revive the ailing economy has made it quite unpopular with the general public.
The government will have some breathing room to boost the economy and announce new subsidies to lessen pressure on the general public if elections are held as planned — only in October of next year.