Pakistan Reader# 563, 4 March 2023
Yesterday (03 March, Friday), while speaking to the media, Imran Khan mentioned that “in the best interest of the country,” he is ready to speak to the current chief of army staff Gen Asim Munir. After repeatedly parroting of “being on the same page” with the Establishment since his removal as the Prime Minister last year, he turned against the latter. In particular, Gen Bajwa became the primary target of Imran’s anger. Gen Bajwa was accused for not only his removal but even planning to assassinate him and impose a state of emergency ("Bajwa ‘wanted me dead’, alleges Imran," Dawn, 5 January 2023). Even in the interview yesterday, he was quoted to have stated: “Gen Bajwa, wanted to crush me.” Imran also said: “The establishment lacks an understanding of politics.”
The question for Imran will be: Is the Establishment interested in speaking with Imran Khan “in the best interest of the country”? The Establishment may have been the primary reason behind his rise in 2018. Gen Bajwa, in particular should be considered responsible for the rise Imran Khan; had it not been for the Establishment’s covert support, the PTI would not have won that many seats in Punjab in 2018 elections. Under Gen Bajwa’s tenure, the Establishment attempted political engineering in Punjab, Sindh (especially Karachi) and Balochistan and was successful in getting the result it wanted. The PTI was able to find its feet in Karachi in 2018 elections, and also win Punjab for itself. Even when the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was making efforts during late 2021 and early 2022 to remove Imran Khan from being the Prime Minister at the national level, and change the government in Punjab province, statements from the Chaudhrys of Gujrat hint that the Establishment wanted them to stay with the PTI.
For the Establishment, Imran Khan should be an ungrateful politician. Had it not been for its support, Imran Khan would have remained a limited political phenomenon in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He could mobilise support in Punjab, a PML-N bastion, because the Establishment wanted it that way. Similarly, he could win seats in Karachi, a MQM bastion, because the Establishment split the latter into multiple factions, thereby providing the much-needed space.
Besides, how does the Establishment looks Imran Khan’s angry remarks about Gen Bajwa? The Establishment would also not have ignored how Imran delayed the extension to Gen Bajwa, and also tried to politicise the appointment of the DG-ISI. The former army chief may have been silent, but the Establishment is not likely to ignore. Remember, how the Establishment backed Pervez Musharraf until the end?
Imran Khan may think that the Establishment would agree with his perspective, that he is only against Gen Bajwa and not the whole institution. Perhaps, it is Imran Khan who lacks an understanding of the Establishment.