Pakistan: Dissecting The Worst Crisis In History – OpEd


Since the ouster of cricketer turned politician Imran khan from the office, Pakistan has been in an unprecedented economic and political turmoil. Pakistan’s politics is mainly dominated by two families; Sharifs and Bhuttos, but the powerful military has been directly in power for half of the country’s history and calling shots from behind for the rest.

The two party system faced the first major challenge when Imran Khan, former cricket captain rose to political realm in 2011. Khan’s widespread popularity is linked to his close connection with then DG ISI, Pasha. Khan ultimately swarmed in the Premier office in 2018 with milt-establishment easing his way into power through adding the electables in his party. Meanwhile his opponents faced the wrath of the military through politically motivated corruption cases, that later proved to be a bargain tool for the infamous Army Chief Bajwa to expand his power and get extensions. Khan crossed the lines with military when he refused to accept the new DG ISI appointed by army chief while it was the prerogative of the Prime minister. Even though Khan later approved the appointment but the crisis proved to be the beginning of the end for Khan’s rule.

As all the Khan’s opponents rallied together forming the alliance called Pakistan Democratic Movement, with support of the military, to oust Khan through a no confidence motion. Khan wisely played the card of foreign intervention which gained widespread support in the nation motivated by hyper nationalism. It was the first time in Pakistan’s 70 years of history that the all powerful military saw things getting out of hands, even in its backyard province Punjab, the economic hub. No surprise the military responded with coercive measures, calling the youth misinformed and Khan a national security risk. But to a surprise to political analysts in Pakistan Khan started regaining the territory as he won 16 out of 20 by-elections in Punjab and formed the provincial government again meanwhile propagating a anti establishment narrative. To push the country into general elections Khan dissolved his governments in 2 of Pakistan’s 4 provinces. The military installed a hybrid system in the name of caretaker governments through the highly controversial election commission. Even though Pakistan’s constitution bars the caretaker government from exceeding 90 days and orders the EC to hold elections in 3 months the hybrid system refused to hold elections overseeing multiple decisions and order from the Supreme Court. By all means it was a soft coup in Pakistan. The military used its old tactics of dividing the house to pressurized Chief Justice as Gen Musharraf did to legitimize his Marshal Law in 2001. 

9th may and unleashed terror

On 9th may 2023 Khan was arrested from inside the premises of a high court by para-military commandos, later declared illegal by the SC. The visuals of ex premier dragged out of the court triggered widespread protests mostly outside military installations. To everyone’s surprise the leaderless crowds were allowed to enter sensitive military headquarters and even residential areas were the unidentifiable individuals were seen instigating people to set buildings on fire while the Quick response forces of the sixth largest military in the world waited for hours to take action. But when the military and police retaliated it was a brutal use of force on unarmed civilians, killing at least 20 protestors while no forces personnel was even seriously injured. 

Khan was released in couple of days but the country saw the start of its darkest times. In only 2 days around 20 thousand political workers including women and minors were arrested and taken into the worst jails in the country. The military despite being a party to the conflict announced to carry out military trials of civilians, contrary to international humanitarian law. All the media channels were taken into control and used as a propaganda tool for the military and taking khan’s name on national television was prohibited. Violating courts’ orders and bails all the PTI, khan’s political party, leadership was arrested and kept in B class jails in the humid summers of Pakistan. These times created unimaginable stories of tyranny in one of which Ammar, a PTI ticket holder’s son lost his senses and ended up dying after staying in comma for days as he was traumatized by witnessing regular police and security agencies raids and mistreatment of his father, non political mother and grandma. 

Top journalists in Pakistan were subject to censorship and state brutality. Arshad Sharif leading investigative journalist and lately critical of the military generals, was forced into exile and murdered in Kenya despite being from an army martyr’s family. Imran Riaz, the journalist with highest viewership on YouTube has been forcefully disappeared since more than 100 days while Reporters Without Borders  fears him dead.

In Pakistan after recent amendments serving military officers are appointed as heads of civilian institutions as the nation strives to preserves its society and democracy. The nation of more than 250 million people lives under siege, media censorship and continuous human rights violations waiting for the international community to withdraw its tacit support for the hybrid system and step forward to ensure the right of self rule for the people of Pakistan.

Ahmad Ali

Ahmad Ali is a student of Conflict studies at National Defence University, Islamabad.

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