After filibustering attempts all evening, on the night of 9th April, the national assembly finally went through with the vote of no confidence against then PM Imran Khan. According to some reports, the deposed PM left his office only with a diary in his hand. The evening leading to the vote was quite eventful in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Islamabad High Court was opened to hear a petition about the possible removal of the Army Chief by the premier, prisoners’ vans came outside parliament, and a high alert was issued to international airports asking them to bar certain individuals from leaving the country, even Supreme Court was being opened to deal with a possible scenario of court contempt.
While this all was happening, there were a few journalists inside the PM’s house, interacting with the prime minister. On seeing the entire state machinery operative, Imran khan asked that one-liner question from the journalists which shook the consciousness of the entire nation when reported; “Is anyone left in this country, who is not against me?”
Understanding the matter better
The next day Imran Khan gave a call for nationwide protests, calling his removal from office a foreign conspiracy of regime change. People came out in unprecedented numbers in multiple cities of Pakistan. The gatherings in Karachi and Lahore were huge in numbers, people from all walks of life attended those rallies to express their anger and concern. Multiple videos of protestors went viral o social media in which they were asking Imran Khan the question referring to his question of April 9th, is anyone left who has not come out in your support?
Since that night Imran Khan has given multiple calls for protests and all of them have been well responded to. These protests have two identical characteristics; never in Pakistan’s history have people protested against the removal of government rather military coups were celebrated across the country, secondly, participants in protests are harshly criticizing the military establishment for its role in Imran Khan’s removal and what makes this criticism harsher is that no one is bothered with the masking word of the establishment rather people are openly name-calling the people at the helm of the affairs.
This display of anger towards the military establishment is not only limited to these rallies, social media users are using the digital space for bashing the military establishment. If you analyze the content you’ll find out that this phenomenon is not limited to some certain class but people from all social and economic classes are voicing their concerns. What is even more surprising is that be it the urban educated middle class or the rural working-class everyone thinks that it’s the military establishment who has removed Imran Khan to install this current regime that too on American wishes.
The urban educated class is the hub of commissioned officers in the military and the rural working-class biggest contributor to the soldiery, this reaction is surprising and unexpected because historically these people have always stood with the narrative of the military establishment. So what has pushed them so far that they are openly blaming a few individuals for conspiring with the US to overthrow Imran Khan?
Read more: Regime Change: The US’ favorite weapon?
The answer to this question lies in two parts
Since the tabling of the no-confidence motion Imran Khan and his party members have been vigorously building a narrative around a cipher that was sent by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US. It contained the information regarding the threat coming from US assistant secretary of state Donald Lu, who conveyed the Biden administration’s discontent of the Imran Khan Regime for certain foreign policy decisions.
Cypher also mentioned the vote of no confidence although it was not yet tabled. So using this Imran Khan and his party built the narrative of US conspiracy and Imran Khan being the chief executive of the state asked things to be probed but the military announced its neutrality in this crisis. So people believe that this mantra of neutrality was just a façade and military establishment actively helped the operation regime change, this claim is supported by the changing loyalties of Imran Khan’s government’s coalition partners and his own MPs. If you analyze the content being spread you’ll find that most of the criticism stems from the feeling of betrayal and abandonment.
For forever military establishment has championed itself as the guarantor and protector of not only Pakistan’s political and geographical sovereignty but also has a claim to protecting the ideological boundaries of Pakistan. Having believed in this, these people have always trusted military with the national sovereignty, and integrity and has held it as the only source of national pride. For them, it was only because of this strong military that they could hold their heads high among the comity of nations and could see a bully like India, in their eyes.
Conspiracy against Imran Khan
For them, abandoning the elected prime minister in the face of a foreign conspiracy was like losing character and honor, the only things, people in our part of the world hold dear, sometimes even dearer than life. It has hurt their expectations those made them believe that it is because of the military that we are respected among nations but now of what use is that military that collaborates for the removal of the country’s elected prime minister, who they believe is being punished for making sovereign foreign policy choices for his country and its people.
The second part of the answer is the regime that has been installed after removing Imran Khan. Prime Minister and his son have multi-billion rupee money laundering cases, and sixteen members of the cabinet are on bail. Pakistanis across the spectrum believe that the parties which make up the current regime are corrupt and it was none else than the military establishment who propagated the mantra of corruption by politicians and it was the establishment who used this corruption mantra as a tool to curate desirable political outcomes in Pakistan.
People are finding it hard to digest that now military establishment has enabled the very people to form a government that it has been accusing of being corrupt for the past 4 decades. People are wondering about this change of heart in which corruption is no more an issue for the military establishment. On the other hand, there is no allegation of corruption against the deposed prime minister, he has a clean slate. Removing an honest guy for those same people the establishment labeled as corrupt does not make sense for most of them.
This has created a clear trust deficit between the military and its largest support base. If not addressed timely, this has the potential to reshape the political landscape of Pakistan forever.
The writer is a Political Science Student at Forman Christian College University Lahore. The views expressed by the writers do not necessarily represent Global Village Space’s editorial policy.