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This article was first published 1 year ago  » News » 'Imran Khan will win elections hands down'

'Imran Khan will win elections hands down'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Last updated on: May 17, 2023 00:39 IST
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'Therefore, these people want Imran Khan out of the elections whenever it is held.'
'For this, he will have to be disqualified from contesting on the basis of cases against him, declaring that he is not sadiq (honest) and ameen (righteous).'

IMAGE: Imran Khan's supporters celebrate in Peshawar after Pakistan's supreme court ruled that his arrest was illegal, May 11, 2023. Photograph: Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

Pakistan has been in turmoil after former prime minister Imran Khan was arrested in a corruption case by Pakistan's National Accountability Bureau on May 9.

At least eight people have died and hundreds injured after protestors clashed with the police and army over the last two days.

On Thursday, May 11, the nation's supreme court called Khan's arrest illegal and ordered his immediate release.

To know more about the situation in Pakistan and what implications it could have on India, Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ spoke to Tilak Devasher, former special secretary, Cabinet secretariat, Government of India, and author of many acclaimed books on Pakistan.

His book Pakistan: Courting the Abyss is a must read for everyone who wants to know how the country fell into the dangerous path of Islamisation leading to permanent chaos.

Among his other books are Pakistan: At the Helm; Pakistan: The Balochistan Conundrum; and The Pashtuns: A Contested History.

The first of a two-part interview:


Is this the first time that Pakistanis are targeting army facilities?

Yes, this is for the first time in the history of Pakistan. Earlier, under (then military dictators) Ayub Khan and Zia-ul Haq there were protests too, but not like the ones that took place on May 9.

It is the Shehbaz Sharif government that is targeting Imran Khan. Why then are people taking their anger out on the army?

Ever since Imran Khan was removed as prime minister last year in April after the no-confidence motion, his narrative has been it was the Pakistan army that had a hand in his removal. He especially blamed the then army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa for this.

He then targeted the ISI's Major General Faisal Naseer for an assassination attempt on him and carrying out attacks on members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

Therefore, naturally, the supporters of his party are taking out their anger on the Pakistan army.

Though Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's house was also a target of the mobs, it was more the Pakistan army because of the narrative set by Imran Khan.

Has the general public joined the protests? Or are the protests limited to PTI activists?

Very difficult to distinguish as they do not wear party badges, but the bulk of them would be PTI supporters. The public by and large would not participate in the violence directed at the Pakistan army.

One wonders why the Pakistan Rangers and not the Islamabad police that were sent to arrest Imran Khan from the Islamabad high court premises. Did the government fear that the Islamabad police would not follow its order?

Even the judge had asked this question (external link) to the inspector general, why were the Rangers used to arrest Imran Khan as they are a paramilitary force. He was informed that the government had asked for the assistance of the Rangers.

The Rangers are a stronger force than the police. You may recall that about a month ago, when the police went to arrest Imran Khan from his residence in Lahore, they were not allowed entry.

Therefore, the Rangers were called in this time as they are a stronger force because of their training. They picked him and whisked him away on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the National Accountability Bureau on May 1. He had not got bail in this case.

Does Imran Khan have any support in the Pakistani security establishments and if yes, do you see Pakistan heading towards a civil war?

Imran Khan has support among veterans and families of Pakistan army officers but having support is one thing and taking action against their brother officers is a totally different ball game.

You can be supportive of something, but that does not mean you will take out your gun and start shooting other army officers.

People are mistaking (by assuming) that support for Imran Khan in these families will lead to a civil war. I don't think so as so far it looks like the discipline of the Pakistan army is holding.

So long as the chain of command holds, the army chief's word would be followed. I don't see any brigadier or colonel staging a coup this time or even a general for that matter.

A lot of people say that by arresting Imran Khan the Pakistan army and its government crossed the red line and therefore this resulted in anger against the government.

For his supporters, the arrest of Imran Khan was crossing a red line. However, this will not lead to a civil war in the army. Such statements are all PTI propaganda.

Somebody tweeted stating that the chairman, joint chief of staff, should take over. They are trying to hurt the Pakistan army using social media by creating divisions in the army. This, however, does not seem to be the reality.

What problems does the Shehbaz Sharif government feel can be solved by removing Imran Khan from the picture? Is he destabilising the economy by organising regular protests?

One is human nature.

When Imran Khan was in power, Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam Sharif were all put behind bars besides a whole lot of other political leaders.

Pakistan politics is so polarised that revenge is the first thing that politicians seek when they come to power.

Secondly, if they go for elections Imran Khan will win hands down due to his popularity.

Therefore, these people want Imran Khan out of the elections whenever it is held. For this, he will have to be disqualified from contesting on the basis of cases against him, declaring that he is not sadiq (honest) and ameen (righteous).

They would also like to see him behind bars for a long time.

Who is this Major General Faisal Naseer whom Imran Khan is targeting in his video?

He is DG (director general) counter intelligence, ISI. All the internal shenanigans are done by him. This is the same post that the former ISI DG, Faiz Hameed, was holding. Hamid had manipulated the elections in which Imran Khan won. So, Imran Khan knows how important this post is and therefore he is targeting Faisal Naseer.

Why did Imran Khan fall out with the Pakistan army when he was so close to it five years ago?

Over a period of time then Pakistan army chief Bajwa realised that Imran Khan was not able to deliver on the economic front. In the three-and-a-half years that he was in power, Imran Khan ran the Pakistan economy to the ground.

Second, he started interfering in army postings. When Bajwa wanted to post Faiz Hameed as corps (army) commander at Peshawar, Imran Khan did not want to let him go as DG ISI.

Technically, the DG ISI reports to the prime minister, but to be in contention for the post of army chief, he has to command a corps. From here, the differences started arising between the army and Imran Khan.

What is the relationship between Imran Khan and current Pakistan army chief, General Asim Munir Ahmed, like?

Imran Khan had removed Asim Munir as DG ISI because he complained to him that his wife (Bushra Bibi) was making money. This was a red line for Imran Khan after which he removed him as DG ISI and made Faiz Hameed DG ISI. So Asim Munir possibly holds a grudge against Imran Khan.

The army had said it will not interfere in politics, but Imran Khan wants the army to interfere in politics, but on his side and not on the side of Opposition parties.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf /