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The Media Line: Political Instability in Pakistan Could Lead to Anarchy, Experts Warn

Political Instability in Pakistan Could Lead to Anarchy, Experts Warn

Former PM Imran Khan rejected police report on failed assassination attempt, willresume march to capital to demand early elections

By Arshad Mehmood/The Media Line

[Islamabad] Pakistans former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party have rejected thepolice report about the failed assassination attempt on Khan during a protest marchdemanding early elections last Thursday.

On Monday evening, police in Wazirabad, where the incident took place, filed anindictment known as a first information report (FIR) against Muhammad Naveed,who was arrested on the spot, according to the police. Naveed allegedly fired on the container truck Khan was riding in, wounding him and some of his close aides, and killing one party worker.

He has been charged with terrorism, murder, attempted murder and plotting to murder.

Khan has rejected the report, however. He and the leadership of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have alleged that Naveed was only a puppet who executed the shootingplot devised by three powerful figures in the country.

The former prime minister has accused Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, federal Interior Minister Rana Sana Ullah, and a senior military officer, Maj. Gen. Faisal Naseer, of orchestrating last week’s attack days after Khan and hundreds of thousands of his supporters set off on a march from the city of Lahore, Punjab’s provincial capital, to Islamabad. He has not provided any concrete evidence to back the claim, however.

The current political chaos could lead to anarchy, as well as dire economic consequencesfor Pakistan, experts say.

Zubair Niazi, general secretary of PTI Lahore, lodged a written complaint to register acase against the three national figures that Khan has identified as ordering the attack.

The FIR against Naveed was registered after Pakistans Supreme Court ordered theinspector general of the Punjab police to file an incident report within 24 hours.

On Monday, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial condemned the assassination attempt onKhan and said, An attempt has been made to kill the national leader; the sensitivity ofthe matter should be understood.”

Faisal Shahkar, the police inspector general, told the high court that the Punjab provincialChief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, an ally of PTI, was not letting him register thePTIs case against the national figures.

The delay in the registration of the case was due to the fact that the provincial chiefminister does not want to register a case against Pakistan Armys serving general. Meanwhile, Khan is repeatedly refusing to withdraw the name of Maj. Gen. FaisalNaseer,” a senior official from Pakistans Home Department told The Media Line.

Khan, in a series of tweets on Tuesday, said: On the issue of the farcical FIR, mylawyers will give my position. All my life I dreamt of seeing my country as a prosperingwelfare state and my struggle throughout has been to make this dream a reality for mynation. Today the nation has awakened, understood and risen.”

Khan further wrote: I have stood in support of my message of justice, freedom andnational sovereignty. Now that we are so close to our goal, no fear or threat of death canstop my struggle. The focus of our peaceful protests and dialogue is only for Pakistanstrue freedom.

Raja Tanveer Akhter, a senior lawyer at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, told The Media Line that, at the high court’s direction, “the Punjab Police has registered the case but, acting cleverly, left out the names of Khan’s suspects.”

He added, As per the state constitution, nobody is above the law. After the registrationof the case, if the investigating officer does not find any evidence during the inquiry, thenhe can declare the suspected person innocent.

Fawad Chaudhry, PTI’s senior leader and a former federal minister, told The Media Line that the party rejects the FIR unless the names of the suspected officials are included in it.

“We would deem the FIR just a piece of paper and will not accept any distortion in thenames,” he said.

He said that, due to the Supreme Courts ultimatum, a flimsy case has been registeredwhich has nothing to do with the facts and events.

He added that Khan has directed his attorneys to continue to work to register the report ofthe attack as it was written and said that the way the police have lost evidence underunknown pressure is a cognizable crime. We will initiate a separate legal action againstthem.

Chaudhry said the partys leadership and workers are standing by the side of their greatleader Imran Khan with full determination, and “those who defected from the partyduring the recent regime change were humiliatingly rejected by the people in the by-elections.”

He announced that the long march to Islamabad will resume on Thursday from the site ofthe attack on Khan.

Khan was discharged from Shaukat Khanum Hospital on Sunday and moved to his homein Lahore, where he has been holding daily meetings with members of his party todiscuss the way forward.

Dr. Javaid Hayat, a seasoned political analyst and author based in Calgary, Canada whohas an interest in the political situation in Pakistan and the region, told The Media Linethat Khan had consistently defended his political narrative.

“The narrative is a discursive feature of any political movement. The success and failure of any people’s resistance movement for political or social change or regime change profoundly depend on a well-articulated narrative. For the last decade, Imran Khan has defended his political narrative against all odds,” Hayat said.

“Imran Khan is changing the landscape of Pakistani politics through his confrontationalapproach. The mafia, which considers itself above the law, now seems scared of Khansideology,” Hayat added.

Hayat also said, “The political demonstrations will create political instability, which can lead to anarchy and dire economic consequences as inflation reaches an all-time high and, as a result, consumer buying power significantly decreases.”

Hayat noted that some powerbrokers in Pakistan do not believe that the currentgovernment is legitimate.

“There is resentment in the corridors of power resulting from how Khans governmentwas toppled, and a cosmetic government was imposed, which lacks legitimacy andsupport from the people of Pakistan,” he said, adding that “therefore, it is in the interestof Pakistan to call for fresh elections, and only a government with a new mandate andlegitimacy may bring stability to the country.”

Hayat said that PTI continues to be united behind Khan.

While there are some political differences and segmentation in the party, by and large, itappears that PTI is united and standing behind Khan. The key source for PTI to stayunited is Khans popularity, which was recently proven in the by-elections through whichPTI has won more than 75% of seats.”

Umar Karim, a former visiting fellow at the Royal United Services Institute for Defenseand Security Studies in London whose research focuses on Pakistans politics, told TheMedia Line that Khan had greater political capital and leverage thanks to his populistrhetoric, even if still he is not as powerful as the countrys establishment.”

With every passing day, the crisis in Pakistan is becoming intense and may eventuallyresult in more violence and bloodshed. But with doubts now raised over the militarysinternal cohesion, its difficult to say which stakeholder will come out as a winner,” hesaid.

Dr. Azeem Khalid, an Islamabad-based political scientist and an expert in internationalrelations, told The Media Line that an assassination attempt on a former prime minister“cannot be taken lightly. The state of affairs is so abysmal that the high court had tointervene to register a case to formally open an investigation.”

“Undeniably, Imran Khan has emerged as a challenge to all three poles of the status quopowers in Pakistan, but as a prime minister he failed to make a good impression on thedomestic political stage and eventually he was ousted through a well-managed politicaland democratic process,” Khalid said.

“The failed attempt on Khans life has worsened the existing political polarization in thecountry and deepened the economic and security crises in the country,” he added.

Khalid told The Media Line that more anti-government protests will follow, leading to a more “chaotic” situation. “However, the country can get back to normalcy only after the appointment of a new army chief and early elections as demanded by Imran Khan,” he said.

“It is the dilemma of almost all the developing states, that democratic institutions are notfully independent to operate. In Pakistan, in the longer run, democracy can be the onlycure for the long-standing disorders,” he added.

Brig. Gen. (ret.) Asif Haroon Raja is a Rawalpindibased political and defense analyst.

Contrary to other analysts, he told The Media Line, Imran Khan has been playing onenarrative after another since he was ousted from office.”

“Khan first played the US diplomatic cable conspiracy narrative to save his regime. Oncehe failed, he added the military establishment in his narrative by declaring the army chiefan accomplice in the conspiracy and the new coalition regime as an importedgovernment. It helped him, reversing his declining popularity and charging the emotionsof his followers, Raja said.

Raja also told The Media Line, After his assassination attempt, seeing the volatilereaction of the people, a new but dangerous narrative was played up and the primeminister, interior minister and a senior military officer were named as possible suspects.”

“All narratives failed to achieve any of the objectives except for fomenting chaos andcreating conditions for possible anarchy,” he concluded.

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