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Rana Banerji: Is Imran Khan’s PTI party imploding?

Rana Banerji: Is Imran Khan’s PTI party imploding?


These are obviously not “organic” desertions, but provoked by intense military pressure, after the arrests of September 5. It seemed that the party was dismantled the same way it had come to power!, notes Rana Banerji, who headed the Pakistan office. to RA&W, India’s foreign intelligence agency.

IMAGE: Imran Khan speaks to the media at his residence in Lahore, May 18, 2023. Photograph: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

Statements by Defense Minister Khwaja Asif to the media that the Pakistan Democratic Movement government may be considering banning Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf party after the May 9, 2023 violence by its cadres, have intensified speculation about its imminent implosion and the possible disqualification of its members and leader before the next general elections.

Dozens of PTI leaders resigned after the May 9 protests, including former ministers Shireen Mazari and Fawad Chaudry, who said they were taking a political break.

The “eligible” gathered earlier in the party in favor of the Pakistani army – people like Faiz Ullah Kamoka, Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain, Aftab Siddiqui, Dost Muhammad Mazari, Hisham Inamullah Khan, Syed Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Usman Khan Tarakai, Mahmood Moulvi needed no second urging to abandon the sinking ship.

The prominent scion of ex-military Asad Umar (son of the late General Umar of 1971 purge notoriety) has announced that he is leaving his post as general secretary without leaving the party (yet).

These were obviously not “organic” desertions, but caused by intense military pressure after the September 5 arrests. It was as if the party was dismantled the same way it had been brought to power!

Founded in April 1996, Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistani Justice Movement) sought “a third way”, aiming to create a welfare state, “Riyasat e Madina”, where the state would be responsible for education , health and employability of citizens.

It would promote freedom of thought, abolish personal income tax and dismantle religious discrimination.

He promised to crack down on police brutality, restructure the civil service, reform the electoral system, enable a truly independent judiciary and decentralize state power.

The PTI claimed to be Pakistan’s only non-family party in mainstream politics. He had limited initial success, failing to win a single seat in the 1997 and 2002 general elections.

Only Imran Khan himself was able to win a seat in 2002.

It was not until 2011, as disgust at Pakistan’s powerful military establishment and high judiciary intensified against the Zardaris and Sharifs, that Imran Khan and his PTI emerged as a possible option for ” organize” a “King’s Party” in power.

The PTI boycotted the 2008 elections, but in the 2013 elections it won over 7.5 million votes, making it second in terms of number of votes and third in number of seats won (35 ).

His protracted sit-ins in 2014-w015 had the blessing of ISI spymasters Lieutenant Generals Shuja Pasha and Zahir ul Islam.

So the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, was barely keeping the scales of bias in balance.

Panama’s taints then emerged, allowing the kudiciary to spring into action, disqualifying Nawaz Sharif.

In the 2018 elections, the “hybrid build” of the military came into effect, with the declaration of results being rendered insensitive to poll watchers at the last minute.

The PTI came to power with 149 seats (out of 272) in the National Assembly.

Of course, Imran has become the master of policy “turnarounds”, at one point voicing his support for the Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik e Taliban.

He has rarely shied away from criticizing the “war on terror” or US policy and approach to relations with Pakistan.

Despite being the creation of the military, Imran Khan spoke cautiously about civilian control of the Pakistani military, suggesting that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) should report directly to the prime minister.

Imran has also pledged to step down in the event of terrorism on Pakistani soil.

He would dither from these positions whenever politically expedient.

Article 17(2) of Pakistan’s 1973 constitution guarantees the right to form political parties.

The federal government can ban a party if it has reason to believe that it is “acting in a manner detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan”.

Section 15 of the Political Parties (PPO) Ordinance 2002 further adds the charge of ‘foreign aid’.

The government is required to formalize this step with a notification to the official gazette, which must be returned to the Supreme Court within 15 days for a final decision.

Under Section 16 of the PPO, members of the banned party would be disqualified as lawmakers for the remainder of their term and barred from standing for election for four years thereafter.

IMAGE: The remains of a burnt-out vehicle following a protest by Imran Khan’s supporters against his arrest in Peshawar, May 11, 2023. Photograph: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

It may be difficult to build consensus among allies of the Pakistan Democratic Movement government to ban the PTI.

The Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, may not endorse such a decision.

Nonetheless, actions against those of its officials who were directly involved in instigating the May 9 violence will likely continue under the Maintenance of Public Ordinance, 1960 or the Army Act, 1952.

There is talk of a new faction of former PTI politicians emerging under the aegis of Jehangir Tareen, the sugar baron and industrialist who helped provide a bridge to Imran in 2017-2018.

He later fell out with Imran and distanced himself for health reasons. He is still on a good wicket with the military establishment.

This “rump” may not enjoy great popularity compared to Imran Khan, but it could serve to maintain the credibility of the elections, whenever they take place.

Describing the latest events as threats against his party’s men “at gunpoint”, an increasingly isolated Imran said (May 24) he was ready to form a 10-member committee (without naming any members). ) to dialogue with the government, “for the good of democracy and Pakistan”.

Knowing well that his personal charisma has not diminished, this could be part of Imran’s new “minus one” strategy, to step back and avoid future disqualification and arrest.

Alas, that strategy hinges on the September 23 deadline fast approaching, if not sooner as rumors of resignations resurface, which will see his benefactors, President Arif Alvi and Chief Justice Bandial crumble.

Feature overview: Aslam Hunani/




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