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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Why’s the Pakistani establishment pressuring leading PTI members to defect?

Pakistan’s powerful military-intelligence structures detest this movement since it poses the greatest threat to their decades-long monopoly on power. They blame it for the unprecedented nationwide unrest that broke out earlier this month after former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s (IK) “arrest”.

The defection of several leading PTI members in recent days, whether to other parties or from politics in general, has prompted many to suspect that this was done under duress from The Establishment. Pakistan’s powerful military-intelligence structures detest this movement since it poses the greatest threat to their decades-long monopoly on power. They blame it for the unprecedented nationwide unrest that broke out earlier this month after former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s (IK) “arrest”.

The Establishment’s narrative is that his supporters staged a preplanned so-called “insurrection”, which included the targeting of military sites and the homes of senior staff. PTI, meanwhile, has claimed that those involved in these specific incidents weren’t its members and might have even been government provocateurs who wanted to create the “national security” pretext for banning the party. Whatever the truth may be, The Establishment used that event to brutally crack down on the PTI.

Read more: Asad Umar steps down as PTI’s Secretary General, Core Committee member

Understanding the matter better

They rounded up most of its leaders, many of whom subsequently defected after being jailed multiple times in a row, with some literally being rearrested right after leaving the courthouse. As for IK, his prior “arrest” was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court but there’s a chance that he might be jailed once again sometime soon since he’s facing over 100 charges, all of which he says are false and politicized. It’s within this context of undeclared martial law that the talk of banning PTI is gaining traction.

Going through with that move would send the message that nobody should ever dare to question The Establishment’s dominance lest they be treated as “terrorists” with all that entails, which in the Pakistani context could even lead to a death sentence. The subsequent strengthening of the country’s de facto feudalist system would please the fascist regime’s political supporters among the PMLN and PPP, which have oscillated between leading the country and were the public faces of its post-modern coup last April.

On the flip side, however, banning the PTI could radicalize some of its members. As IK has said, this is a movement whose time has come, which speaks to his confidence that it can’t be defeated. Furthermore, banning the most popular force in the country could prompt international condemnation among influential academic and media figures, though Western governments will likely ignore this or only share muted criticism owing to Pakistan’s importance to their New Cold War plans.

By pressuring leading PTI members to defect, however, The Establishment seems to be trying to avert the abovementioned consequences. They appear to be hoping that it’ll splinter into factions that’ll thus prevent IK from returning to power during the next elections scheduled for sometime this fall even if he’s allowed to run for the sake of international optics. Additionally, those defectors who join one of the two feudalist parties might then encourage their followers to support The Establishment’s next moves.

Read more: PDM trying to pin GHQ protest on me: PTI’s Kanwal Shauzab reacts to new audio leak

Last April’s post-modern coup against IK was just the first step of The Establishment’s larger plans in hindsight. He had to be removed in order to recapture control of his country’s previously multipolar foreign policy, which would return Pakistan to its traditional Western overlords’ “good graces” and thus lead to the restoration of personal perks for senior officials and their families. Upon the completion of this first step, the second one was then set into motion for politically neutralizing the PTI.

This phase failed to achieve its objective and actually backfired since The Establishment’s pressure campaign only resulted in making this party the most popular in Pakistan by far. Had early elections been held immediately after IK’s ouster, there’s a credible chance that the PTI might not have returned to power, which could have then led to its political neutralization with time. The Establishment didn’t want to leave anything to chance, however, hence their counterproductive pressure campaign instead.

The pressure put on leading PTI members to defect and the talk about banning this party represent the culmination of this second phase, which thus means that the third one regarding the strengthening of Pakistan’s de facto feudalist system is about to begin. To that end, PMLN head honcho Nawaz Sharif might be allowed to return from London to run in the next elections and/or the PPP’s Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (BBZ), who was appointed Foreign Minister after last year’s regime change, might run (too?).

The first’s victory in what would almost certainly be a manipulated election would represent a reward for his party leading the post-modern coup against IK, which couldn’t have succeeded without their parliamentarians’ support. His next tenure would then give BBZ more time to be groomed for the premiership, though it’s also possible that he might be chosen by The Establishment as the country’s next leader as part of their plan to restore its reputation abroad by pushing a so-called “soft image”.

BBZ is widely mocked across Pakistani society for being a “boy prince”, which refers to his “aristocratic” pedigree as the son and grandson of famous former leaders. He’s considered by his critics to be a bumbling fool who behaves snobbishly and condescendingly looks down on his compatriots. His appointment as Foreign Minister is suspected to be part of The Establishment’s plan to groom him for the premiership by introducing BBZ to the world ahead of his future selection by them as Prime Minister.

The way forward

It remains unclear when they plan to foist him upon the country as its next leader, but there’s little doubt that this will inevitably be attempted at some later time, though perhaps not during the next elections if they assess that he still needs more grooming. On the other hand, choosing him this fall could be spun by their perception managers as a “generational shift that represents the will of Pakistan’s majority-youthful people”, thus distracting from the past year’s crisis and rehabilitating the state’s image abroad.

Read more: Fayyaz ul Hassan Chohan quits PTI

Nawaz’s selection, meanwhile, would imply that BBZ still needs more grooming and that The Establishment prefers paying back its most important enemy-turned-ally for everything it did for them throughout the course of this crisis. It might also be the case that their political engineers don’t want to risk the PMLN once again becoming an enemy if its members feel betrayed by BBZ being chosen as the next premier over their head honcho since there’s no doubt that they’d see it as a serious snub.

With this insight in mind, The Establishment’s pressure on leading PTI members to defect represents the culmination of the second phase of their plan that was designed to restore Pakistan’s vassal hood status vis-à-vis its Western overlords in parallel with strengthening its feudal system. IK’s removal had to be followed by politically neutralizing the PTI in one way or another so as to pave the way for Nawaz’s return and/or BBZ’s election as Prime Minister, with the latter outcome being the end goal of this plot.