Imran Khan faces ‘end of the road’ as Pakistan army cracks down – Times of India

ISLAMABAD: Holed up at his fortified home in Lahore’s upmarket Zaman Park, Imran Khan is looking increasingly besieged and isolated as Pakistan’s military instigates a sweeping crackdown against the former prime minister’s political party.
Following unprecedented attacks against military-owned properties and widespread protests after Khan was briefly jailed earlier this month, more than 10,000 people linked to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek—e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice, have been arrested in police raids. Several prominent leaders are now in jail and more than two dozen PTI stalwarts have quit the party this week.
Publicly the army and the government say they are holding accountable anyone who attacked state-owned property. Behind the scenes, however, there’s a recognition that Khan’s popularity is unmatched and his party must be cut down to size ahead of elections due in October at the latest, according to two people familiar with the military’s thinking.
Khan now risks meeting a similar fate as previous prime ministers who have been jailed, exiled or executed following power struggles with Pakistan’s generals. Although army support was widely credited in bringing Khan to office in the last national election in 2018, his current predicament stems from his attempts to mess with military hierarchy — a red line for Pakistan’s most powerful institution, which has directly controlled the nuclear-armed nation for much of its post-independence history.
For now, “this is the end of the road for Imran Khan,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a senior fellow at King’s College London and expert on Pakistan’s military. “The question is will they be able to take away his support base?”
Khan’s ability to connect with the outside world and marshal support is already being eroded. On Wednesday, the internet at his Lahore residence was abruptly cut off before a scheduled call with British lawmakers concerned about Pakistan’s deteriorating political, economic and security situation. Police have also compounded most of his armored cars, limiting his movements, Zulfi Bukhari, a close aide to Khan, told Bloomberg News.
On Friday, a news report said Khan and his wife had been placed on a no-fly list and were barred from leaving the country. The former premier survived an assassination attempt late last year.
Pakistan’s military didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Since his ousting as prime minister last year following a parliamentary no-confidence vote, Khan has campaigned relentlessly for fresh elections. He has blasted the unwieldy coalition headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif — who is seen as more amenable to the army even though his brother was once ousted in a coup — as a corrupt force of self-serving dynastic parties.
Khan’s charismatic, everyman quality, past cricketing victories and more recent embrace of pious religion — despite his elite upbringing and earlier playboy lifestyle — has seen his popularity soar across Pakistani society, including many of the army’s rank-and-file. An opinion poll published by Gallup earlier this year found that Khan’s approval rating jumped to 61% in February from 36% in January last year, while Sharif’s fell to 32% from 51% in that time.
That poses a major dilemma for the military brass. Khan would win an election by a landslide with no “credible alternative” for the army to back, according to Tim Willasey-Wilsey, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London.
With Pakistan’s more than 240 million people grappling with record inflation and the country on the verge of default thanks to stalled bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund, the military is unlikely to boot out the elected government and take direct control. Pakistan’s last coup leader, General Pervez Musharraf, stepped down as a deeply unpopular and diminished figure fifteen years ago.
Pakistan’s rupee slid to a record-low 299 per dollar this month while dollar bonds are trading at distressed levels. The currency has lost about 20% this year, among the worst performers in the world.
“The army’s problem is that every measure against Imran will add to his popularity,” said Willasey-Wilsey. “It could also lead to divisions amongst the Corps Commanders who will be anxious about alienating the army from the people — the army will doubtless contemplate intervention options short of a coup, including delaying elections.”
Khan’s relationship with the military wasn’t always so fractious. After coming to power he openly conceded that the forces, which enjoy an over-sized defense budget and wide-ranging business interests across Pakistan, had a role to play in governing the country. But that relationship began unraveling in 2021 as Khan’s anti-American rhetoric pushed the country further away from the US as the economy deteriorated, drawing Islamabad closer to Russia and China.
Eventually it was Khan’s attempt to control military promotions that escalated tensions. He publicly opposed then Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa’s choice for the head of Pakistan’s feared spy agency, voicing support for one of his own allies to stay in the role. Bajwa eventually got his way, but the incident sowed the seeds for Khan’s ouster.
Fraught relations
“He miscalculated by seeking once again to intervene and interfere in the business of military appointments — of course that, as in the past, is the one area that the military guards jealously as its prerogative,” said Farzana Shaikh, an associate fellow at London’s Chatham House research institute. “It’s a familiar routine, we’ve been here before. Other parties have also splintered and fragmented under pressure from the military establishment.”
His relationship with Bajwa’s successor, General Asim Munir, was also fraught. As prime minister, Khan had removed Munir from the role of intelligence chief. Khan more recently inflamed matters by personally blaming the recent turmoil on Munir’s desire for power, and on Monday he likened the situation in Pakistan to Adolf Hitler’s rise in the 1930s.
Hours after the government said this week it was considering a ban on his PTI over the attacks on military offices and buildings, Khan struck a more conciliatory tone. He offered to hold talks with Sharif’s administration and the military, saying he is ready to form a committee to talk with “anyone who is in power today.”
“What’s important is there to be a political dialog between everybody,” said Khan’s aide Bukhari. “Then also at some stage, the two most powerful people in the country, the chief of army staff and Imran Khan, have to sit down and discuss a way forward.”
Any such negotiation for Khan will likely now come from a position of relative weakness. Public sympathy for the military has also risen since the attacks on army property and officer’s homes.
In the port city of Karachi, Pakistan’s business hub, massive banners and posters — some covering the entire length of multistory buildings — declare “Long Live Pakistan” and “Long Live the Soldier.” Others feature Munir flanked by his officers. Trade associations have conducted rallies in support of the armed forces, while television and film stars have taken to social media to declare their love and support for the military.
Sixteen people accused of taking part in the violence that targeted army buildings have been handed over to military courts, according to a document shared by the PTI.
The tactics against Khan are “a page out of the military’s usual playbook” in dealing with dissenting politicians and parties, according to Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“If this is history repeating itself with the military’s assertiveness,” she said, “it’s not looking good for Imran Khan, his party, or for Pakistan’s democracy.”

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Imran Khan Says Party Leaders Being Forced To Quit Amid Standoff With Army

The standoff between Imran Khan’s party and Pak army intensified following May 9 violence in the country.


Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan said Wednesday that senior leaders were being pressured into resigning from his party amid a crackdown, as a former cabinet minister became the latest to quit.

Rights monitors said authorities have detained thousands of supporters of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party since days of street violence erupted over his brief arrest earlier this month.

Party spokesman Fawad Chaudhry, who served as information minister in Khan’s government, quit the party while general secretary Asad Umar, the former finance minister, said he would step down from his position but remain with PTI.

It came after senior vice-president Shireen Mazari parted ways with Khan on Tuesday.

All three made their announcements after being released from custody on allegations of instigating street violence after Khan’s arrest.

“This is a crackdown that I have never seen in the history of Pakistan before,” Khan said in a video address on Wednesday night.

If you say that you are part of PTI, then you will face oppression and violence, you will be locked up,” he said.

“If you say the magic words, ‘We are no longer in PTI’, then you will be released.”

Khan claimed the suppression was being targeted at grassroots supporters, as well as officials.

“They have put everyone in jail, I don’t even know who to contact anymore,” he said from his home in the eastern city of Lahore.

Chaudhry announced his resignation on Twitter, denouncing the civil unrest and saying he would “take a break from politics”.  

Umar meanwhile held a press conference, saying he had not been pressured into the decision to step down as general secretary.

Amnesty International on Tuesday said “a pall of fear hangs over Khan’s supporters following the arbitrary arrests of many opposition leaders”.

“Authorities must stop clamping down on the political opposition” they said in a joint statement with other organisations, accusing the government of using “vague anti-terrorism laws” to justify detentions.

Since he was ousted from office, 70-year-old Khan has waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the powerful military establishment, long regarded as Pakistan’s powerbrokers.

He accuses the top brass of orchestrating his downfall and even plotting a November assassination attempt in which he was shot in the leg, allegations that the army denies.

His arrest on graft charges at the Islamabad High Court came just hours after he repeated the claim and was seen by his party as a bid to quash support ahead of elections due no later than October.

People rampaged through cities, setting fire to buildings, blocking roads and clashing with police outside military installations during unrest in which nine people were killed.

Khan walked free from three days of custody after the Supreme Court declared the arrest illegal.

The military has denied claims by Khan that “agencies” planned the violence to smear his party.

Meanwhile Islamabad has pledged to try in military courts those accused of violence against army installations.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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No Talks With ‘Fraud’ Imran Khan Unless He Apologises: Shehbaz Sharif

Islamabad: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ruled out any talks between the government and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan unless the former premier admits his wrongdoings and issues a public apology. While addressing the National Assembly on Tuesday, prime minister Sharif criticised Khan by calling him a “fraud” and said it is impossible to talk to someone who “looted the country, attacked the judiciary and did not believe in the Constitution and justice”, Geo News reported. The joint session of parliament was summoned last week to discuss the key issues confronting Pakistan and provide guidelines to deal with those issues.

“I believe no discussions can be held with a person who consistently and condescendingly rejects invitations for talks on everything – be it COVID-19, the state of terrorism in the country, the apex committee meeting, or the Kashmir conference,” Sharif was quoted as saying.

Referring to the recent fiasco witnessed during the court proceeding of the PTI chief, Sharif said that a certain “favourite” does not appear before any court, no matter how many notices have been issued to him, it said.

“He gets an extension in different courts in the dark of the night and makes a mockery of the judiciary,” Sharif said, criticising Khan for his remarks against a sitting woman judge and the fact that no action has been taken in this case so far.

“Khan made false cases against the opposition when he was in government and signed an agreement with the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and violated it,” the premier said while listing the wrongdoings of the former PTI government.

Calling out Khan for pushing the country towards bankruptcy, the prime minister reiterated that the current coalition headed by the Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz (PML-N) government “saved the country”.

“Today, the IMF is taking guarantees from us at every step. We have fulfilled all the conditions of the IMF. Congratulations to the finance minister who finalised the terms of the deal with the Fund,” Sharif said.

Cash-strapped Pakistan is awaiting a much-needed USD 1.1 billion tranche of funding from the Washington-based global money lender, which was originally due to be disbursed in November last year.

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More Trouble For Imran Khan? Pakistan Government Mulling Legal Options To Ban PTI

LAHORE: Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah hinted that legal proceedings could be initiated to declare former prime minister Imran Khan`s political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) a banned outfit, Tribune reported. Speaking at a press conference in Lahore on Saturday, Rana said that the legal team of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was examining the matter in light of several revelations that could lead to a reference being filed against the party. He however clarified that it is ultimately up to the courts to officially ban a political party.

According to him, Punjab Police along with other law enforcement agencies conducted an operation against the “no-go area” in Lahore where a purported political leader had allegedly created an “atmosphere of fear”. Sanaullah said that the action was taken after resistance was encountered during the execution of court orders, leading to concerns about a possible terrorist organisation`s presence, Tribune reported.

“The operation resulted in the clearance of the no-go area in Zaman Park. Despite having a search warrant, officials did not enter the residential area,” he added. The interior minister said that 65 people have been arrested from the outer part of the building, most of them do not belong to Punjab and their role is suspicious.

He further said that guns, petrol bomb-making equipment, slingshots and other weapons were recovered from Zaman Park. Earlier on Saturday, the Punjab police launched a surprise search operation at Imran`s residence, hours after he left to appear before a local court in Islamabad, and arrested several party workers.

Former Punjab chief minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf president Chaudhry Parvez Elahi termed police raid at Zaman Park a grave violation of the Lahore High court orders and said that the police operation in Zaman Park was carried out on the direction of Maryam Nawaz and Rana Sanaullah. The PTI lead!ership has strongly condemned the “state terrorism” launched at the residence of party chairman Imran Khan which they said was “part of a London Plan to eliminate him”, the Dawn reported. Tribune reported that the Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore himself monitored the operation as the police used heavy machinery to break down the gate of PTI chief Imran Khan`s residence.

Police were accompanied by water cannons, bulldozers, and a prisoner van. They soon demolished PTI camps in the area with the help of cranes and removed barriers and containers.Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr Usman Anwar said that weapons were recovered during today`s search operation.

“We have recovered weapons from Imran Khan`s house. There are more arms present there. An impression was being given that it is a no-go area but we have cleared it,” the Punjab IGP said during a press conference, flanked by Caretaker Punjab Minister for Information Amir Mir.

He said that there were also some bunkers constructed at Zaman Park whereas some bullet-proof equipment was also found. He added that all illegal encroachments have also been removed, Tribune reported.

Legal proceedings against Imran Khan began after he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote early last year. The 70-year-old politician has been demanding a snap election and holding protests across the country.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has rejected Khan`s demands, saying an election would be held as scheduled later this year. Political infighting comes as the country struggles with an economic crisis, awaiting a bailout package of USD1.1 billion from the IMF.

The case before the Islamabad High Court accuses Imran Khan of selling luxury watches and other items that were given to the state during his 2018-2022 term as prime minister.

The Election Commission of Pakistan found him guilty and barred him from holding public office for one parliamentary term. Imran says he is avoiding the hearings because he fears for his safety.

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Pakistan: Vehicle In Imran Khan’s Convoy Overturns On Way To Islamabad Court

Islamabad: A vehicle in Imran Khan`s convoy overturned on Saturday while the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief was on his way to Islamabad to appear in court in the Toshakhana case, ARY News reported. Earlier today, Imran Khan departed for Islamabad from his Zaman Park residence in Lahore.The region is reportedly placed under heavy security in advance of Imran Khan`s visit to Islamabad`s Judiciary Complex in order to maintain peace and order and prevent anything unpleasant from happening.

On Friday the Pakistan government shifted the Toshakhana case hearing venue from the additional sessions court to a comparatively safer Judicial Complex over security concerns of Imran Khan, Pakistan-based Dawn newspaper reported. Khan will appear before Additional Session Judge Zafar Iqbal in the case after he issued the former prime minister`s non-bailable arrest warrants after he had frequently skipped court dates, alleging “security threats” from his attorney.

On March 14, when the Islamabad police travelled to Lahore to arrest Khan in accordance with the court`s instructions, they encountered resistance; as a result, more than 60 police officers from Islamabad and Punjab were hurt, and several PTI workers were also hurt, Geo News reported.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan also received protective bail in nine cases by Lahore High Court (LHC). The protective bail was approved for five cases in Islamabad and three cases in Lahore. Imran Khan secured bail in the cases filed in Lahore till March 27, whereas, the protective bail in five cases in Islamabad was approved till March 24

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Big political drama soon in Pak! Nawaz Sharif likely to RETURN. Read details

Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said on Friday that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan before the end of the year, according to a media report. While addressing the National Assembly, the minister also said that protests by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have violated people`s rights, adding that everyone has the right to protest but the limits of the Constitution and law should not be crossed, Express Tribune reported.

He said that no development work was done during the past four years under the PTI government, and the incumbent government has explained these circumstances to the people, the report said. Asif also said that the government withdrew money from other sectors and gave it to the flood victims who were undergoing great difficulties due to cold winter nights.

The minister maintained that the federal and provincial governments should provide assistance to disaster victims without discrimination and that the government is not acting on political priorities.

Earlier this week, Asif said that former premier Imran Khan should not “target” the institutions that “supported him unconditionally” during the last four years, adding that the chief of the former ruling party could not deliver despite the assistance extended to him.

“After 75 years, we are at a point where we can say that all the institutions are playing their constitutional role. These institutions extended `unconditional support` to Imran Khan,” he said, Express Tribune reported.

“He (Imran) should not attack these institutions but rather should be ashamed of himself that despite their assistance he could not perform.”

(The above article is sourced from news agency IANS. has made no editorial changes to the article. News agency IANS is solely responsible for the contents of the article)

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