Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, was ousted from office in April 2022, embroiled in a purported conspiracy led by the then military chief, Gen Bajwa, and his alleged US conspirators. Notably, Khan’s critical stance on US foreign policy since the inception of his political journey and his decision to deny airspace to the US airforce during an interview with an American channel placed him in the crosshairs. The US establishment exhibited an evident aversion to Khan, which eventually set the stage for a conspiracy that had long been speculated in Pakistan. This conjecture gained global credence following the classified cable leak published by The Intercept, attributed to Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, Asad Majeed.
Khan’s removal from office, executed via a planned vote of no confidence, triggered a palpable sigh of relief within Pakistan’s establishment. However, the aftermath of his ousting revealed a deeper current of sentiment among the Pakistani populace. Thousands took to the streets in an unprecedented show of support for Khan, who subsequently launched a campaign dubbed “Haqeeqi Azadi” (Real Freedom). This campaign aimed to enlighten the people about Pakistan’s vulnerabilities as a sovereign state, emphasizing the potential for foreign powers, particularly Western ones, to influence the nation’s political landscape through its own establishment.
Understanding the matter better
“Haqeeqi Azadi” struck a resonant chord with the masses, embedding within their hearts a profound appreciation for the concept of national freedom. While the campaign garnered immense success, it concurrently fomented unease within the military establishment. Khan’s popularity swelled, and he astoundingly secured victory in 30 out of 36 by-elections, triumphing despite the government and military’s strenuous attempts at manipulation.
The government and the military establishment launched an unrelenting campaign to eradicate the PTI from the political landscape. Their approach grew progressively severe and inhumane. Their desperate measures even extended to an assassination attempt on PTI chief, Imran Khan, during a public rally. Although Khan survived the attempt, he sustained a serious leg injury. Unfazed by the ordeal, Khan persevered with his political endeavors. The authorities then resorted to extortion, leveling baseless charges of corruption, violence, and other unsubstantiated allegations against him, all of which proved ineffective.
The journalists aligning with Imran Khan’s “Haqeeqi Azadi” ideology faced dire consequences. Some were silenced through death, torture, or forced exile. Renowned journalists such as Arshad Shareef, Dr. Moeed Pirzada, and Imran Riaz Khan found themselves in the establishment’s crosshairs. They were initially subjected to blackmail, and upon their refusal to comply, they were unjustly accused of mutiny. The lengths to which the establishment went to silence these voices became tragically evident with the assassination of Arshad Shareef in Kenya. An intelligent Prominent journalist Dr. Moeed Pirzada, Sabir Shakir, and several others were compelled into enforced exile. Imran Riaz Khan’s situation remained dire; abducted by the police, he continues to be missing, despite court orders demanding his presentation.
This distressing state of affairs paints a grim picture
The nation grapples with a conspicuous absence of law and constitution, with the military wielding control over the courts. Perturbingly, the silence of prominent global entities, including the US, EU, and various human rights organizations, in the face of these events, has been deafening. Yet, even these challenges have failed to deter the resolute support for Imran Khan, underscoring the strength of his following amid these tumultuous times.
The military establishment resorted to a last-ditch effort to dismantle the PTI, and their strategy was anything but subtle. Imran Khan was arrested right within the courtroom’s walls, a dramatic and clearly illegal maneuver that sparked a massive wave of protests across the nation on May 9. This meticulously planned operation included the infiltration of trained personnel among peaceful protestors, inciting them to target military installations and even setting fire to the Core commander’s residence in Lahore. Their orchestrated success triggered a nationwide operation against PTI protestors, tragically resulting in the loss of nearly 7 lives, injuring over 500 individuals, and leading to the arrest of thousands, including the entire PTI leadership.
However, in an unexpected twist, a flood of evidence emerged within mere hours and days of the protests. Video recordings surfaced, unequivocally demonstrating that the attack on military installations had been meticulously planned and executed from within. Perhaps most unsettling, the arrested PTI leadership, including prominent women leaders, faced a deeply disturbing form of coercion. They were reportedly blackmailed into compromising situations, with threats of releasing intimate videos to social media platforms. The case of a senior PTI women leader allegedly being warned about potential harm to her young daughter was particularly egregious. This manipulative approach, devised by the military junta, aimed to discredit and demean the PTI. As a consequence, several senior PTI leaders not only distanced themselves from the party but also withdrew from politics entirely.
The atmosphere is rife with apprehension among both workers and leaders. The looming fear of arrest and torture at the hands of the police is palpable, given the military junta and government’s apparent disregard for court orders. Disturbingly, instances abound where leaders were granted court-ordered freedom only to be promptly re-arrested upon exiting the courtroom premises. This dire situation has pushed most PTI leadership figures behind bars or into the shadows, fostering an atmosphere of secrecy and caution.
Curiously, the decision to apprehend and disqualify Imran Khan coincided with a demand made by Nawaz Sharif, the chief of PML-N. Sharif, currently living in London’s Avenfield apartments as an absconder, had once been denied the ownership of these apartments by his family.
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Imran Khan faced disqualification and arrest on the basis of what many consider a fabricated case linked to Tosha Khana. Intriguingly, the presiding judge who delivered the verdict promptly fled the country for London the very next day, enrolling in a short course at Hull University. The timing and subsequent actions painted a puzzling picture.
Notably, the arrest of the PTI chief did not ignite a massive protest, which was received as a relief by the PDM’s 14 parties and their perceived handlers, the military junta. However, this temporary respite was short-lived. Determined to break Imran Khan’s resolve and force him into exile, the authorities faced unexpected resistance. The 72-year-old leader stood firm, defying their attempts and publicly declaring his unwavering commitment to his homeland. His defiant stance shook the establishment.
Adding to the mounting tension, Independence Day witnessed an unexpected surge of PTI supporters taking to the streets, brandishing PTI flags in a powerful display of solidarity with Imran Khan. This overwhelming show of allegiance highlighted the enduring strength of the PTI’s voter base. It unequivocally conveyed that should free and fair elections transpire, nothing could impede Imran Khan’s potential return to power.
In a narrative that defies expectations, the story unfolds not as an ending but rather an intermission. The events of this period underscore the complex interplay between political forces, public sentiment, and the unwavering determination of a leader whose resilience continues to shape the course of Pakistan’s political landscape.
About the Author: Dr. Inayat Ali holds a Ph.D. in Science and Technology and resides in South Korea. Presently, he is employed as a researcher at a national institute in South Korea. Dr. Ali takes a keen interest in Pakistan’s politics and internal relations.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.