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Tuesday, April 05, 2022

‘Game changer’ Imran Khan is not out yet!


Pakistan’s cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan did not hesitate to admit that the “establishment” (the Pakistan military) gave him three options.

The first option was to face a no-confidence vote in parliament. The second one was to dissolve parliament and hold snap elections and the third one was to resign as prime minister and forget about patronage of the military.

Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) swept into power in 2018, albeit with the blessings of the military, pulling strings to ensure that PTI has 121 seats in the assembly, thus making it a minority government.

The military denied the claims of giving Khan three options and backing him in the election, but he successfully dodged the ouster by following one of the three pieces of advice after consulting his cronies and advisers.

Pakistan’s former celebrity cricketer Wasim Akram wrote on Twitter: “The Game Changer #ImranKhan #Skipper #NotOutYet #Surprise”.

The tweet of the former captain and international sports commentator has earned 72.3K likes and 10.2K Retweets in a day.

What Akram and other supporters of Khan have not mentioned is that Khan remained loyal to “His Master’s Voice” – the military bigwigs who continued to interfere in foreign policy, civil administration and political affairs.

For nearly half of the 75 years of Pakistan’s birth, the country was ruled by the military which caused immense harm to the national economy, and sustainable development goals, blocking the capacity building of democratic institutions and freedom of expression.

As a result, the news organisations that were critical of the PTI government fell prey to Inter-Services Intelligence, the military’s spy agency. The dreaded agency has long been accused of enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture of journalists in custody, especially in restive Balochistan and Waziristan of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Several prominent journalists were killed. Journalists critical of the military establishment were forced to go into exile. The owners of several private news organisations were stopped by the ISI from employing these journalists.

The opposition moved to oust Khan accusing him of failing to revive the economy and crackdown on corruption. Now he is blamed for “burning down democratic order” as the minority government dissolved parliament to avoid the vote of no-confidence that he claims is backed by the United States because he visited Moscow on the day Russia launched the invasion of Ukraine.

After the chaos in parliament before its dissolution, Pakistan’s independent newspaper Dawn in an editorial wrote: “The nation is stunned. Ahead of the vote of no-confidence, the prime minister had repeatedly hinted that he had a ‘trump card’ up his sleeve. There were indications all along that something might be amiss: even as political pundits and the media confidently predicted Mr Imran Khan’s defeat in the vote of no-confidence, he seemed unperturbed. No one could have guessed that his last ploy would involve having the democratic order burnt down by a democratically empowered party.”

Maleeha Lodhi, a Pakistani diplomat and political scientist wrote in the Dawn: “The Imran Khan government’s denouement raises the question of how he ended up facing a vote of no-confidence. Although that parliamentary process was subverted and a constitutional crisis ensued it will still mark an end to his rule. Few governments in Pakistan’s recent history began their term with Khan’s advantages. He had unqualified support from the military, widespread public goodwill, control of Punjab, a divided and demoralised opposition and a popular yearning for change.”

The country’s political landscape has recently been abuzz with political activity as parties and individuals changed alliances and the PTI and the opposition were seen trading barbs and allegations alongside intensifying efforts to ensure their success in the no-confidence contest.

Zaigham Khan, a leading political analyst told Al Jazeera: “[The dissolution is] a blatant violation of the constitution and can lead to a very serious crisis.” If the apex court of Pakistan orders the speaker to go ahead with the no-confidence motion, the dissolution of parliament will become invalid, the analyst said.

Former prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo appealed to the Supreme Court in 1988 after the assembly had been dissolved by former president General Zia-ul-Haq, who had taken power in a military coup years earlier.

The court agreed his government had been dissolved unconstitutionally but ruled that since elections had been announced anyway it was best to move on.

The fate of Khan’s political future now rests upon the Supreme Court’s decision. Although opposition leaders seemed confident to win a vote of no-confidence against Khan, chances are weak to get a proactive verdict. It’s highly unlikely the Supreme Court will overrule the decision to hold the vote at all.

First published in the news portal bdnews24, 5 April 2022

Saleem Samad is an independent journalist, defender of media rights, and the recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award

Monday, April 04, 2022

Time’s Up For Imran Khan


When Imran Khan was in the opposition, he told journalist Hamid Mir on a live talkshow on Pakistan’s popular channel Geo TV that Pakistan should seek an apology for war crimes during the bloody war of independence of Bangladesh in 1971.

Since he came to power backed by military hawks in Rawalpindi GHQ on 18 August 2018 he never bothered to warm the relationship with Bangladesh despite several hiccups.

Bangladesh was blasted several times in the Pakistan parliament. When a war criminal was indicted and the war crimes tribunal in Dhaka handed down maximum punishment, the parliament in Islamabadrebuked Bangladesh for eliminating Islamic scholars and leaders and said their only crime was that they were loyal to Pakistan. Islamabad also officially blamed Dhaka for purging opposition, blah, blah, blah!

Bangladesh has hanged several high profile suspects for committing crimes against humanity and mostly belonged to Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, Muslim League, Jatiya Party and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).

Such unwarranted remarks and resolutions angered the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Her regime decided to lower the status of diplomatic relationships. Bangladesh High Commission in Islamabad and Karachi suspended issuing visas to Pakistan nationals from travelling to Bangladesh.

Imran Khan did little to thaw the relationship between the two countries and of course forgot the pledge to seek an apology for genocide and war crimes by marauding Pakistan forces in 1971.

Now the flamboyant cricketer turned politician seems to have dug his own grave.  He is facing a vote of no confidence which is expected to force him from office.

His ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) coalition with minority parties has fallen apart for hundred and one reasons. Most of the PTI lawmakers and regional leaders point their fingers at Khan for the debacle.

Pakistan’s premier independent newspaper the Dawn writes: Out of a total of 342 seats, the opposition parties have managed to cross the magical figure of 172 and enjoy the support of 177 members in the NA [National Assembly], even without nearly over a dozen dissidents of the ruling PTI, who have already publicly declared the withdrawal of their support to the prime minister.

In the days to follow, the country’s political landscape had been abuzz with political activity as parties and individuals changed alliances and the PTI and opposition were seen trading barbs and allegations alongside intensifying efforts to ensure their success in the no-confidence contest.

The opposition includes Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Pakistan Peoples Party, MuttahidaMajlis–e–Amal, MuttahidaQaumi Movement (Pakistan), Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), Balochistan National Party (Mengal), Awami National Party, JamhooriWattan Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Quad) hold the magic number.

Khan told a private TV channel that the country’s ‘establishment’ [the Pakistan military] gave him three options facing the no-confidence motion in parliament. To face the no-confidence motion in parliament, hold fresh elections in the country, or resign from the post of prime minister, to end the ongoing political turmoil.

He blamed the West for hatching a conspiracy against Khan’s government after he visited Moscow just days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Khan when he mentions the west means the United States and blames Washington for leaning his shoulder toward Russia at the crucial juncture of the second phase of the cold war era in Europe.

Pakistan had always been a trusted ally of the United States, during the ‘War on Terror" campaign when US troops invaded Afghanistan and also an all-weather friend of China. Despite the tension, the USA wants Pakistan to play its role in Afghanistan.

Khan said he has credible information that his life is in danger but asserted that he is not afraid and will continue his fight for an independent and democratic Pakistan.

First published in The News Times, 4 April 2022

Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad