Script: Dr. ZAINAB AKHTER, Analyst on Pakistan
Amid the various internal crises, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has also been clashing and criticising his country’s national institutions that do not give a decision in the favour of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government. Post the by-polls and Senate elections, the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan and Election Commission (ECP) have come under his fire apparently for not conducting free and fair elections. It has to be noted that the Pak SC had rejected a Presidential ordinance in favour of an open ballot in the Senate elections held on 03 March supported by the PTI; as a result of which the opposition Pakistan Democracy Movement (PDM) joint candidate won the seat from Islamabad causing humiliation to the government.
Of late, Imran Khan and his party are seen criticizing the Pak Election Commission on many occasions. They are demanding the resignation of the Chief Election Commissioner and his team and argued that the Commission should be reconstituted for failing to hold a fair and transparent Senate election. It has to be noted that the ECP ordered fresh polls in Daska-Sialkot (due to alleged rigging by PTI). This will take place on 10 April and the opinion polls show that Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz PPML-N) is ahead of PTI.
The PTI government recently got a major dressing down from the Supreme Court. Pakistan’s apex court questioned the Imran Khan government’s capacity to run the affairs of the country. Justice Faez Isa pointed out that “the government was either incapable of running the country or taking decisions”. It has to be noted that Justice Faez Isa came under fire from the government after the landmark “Faizabad sit in judgment-2019” which had questioned the role of the establishment and the Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) in the 2017 Faizabad sit-in protests staged by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The judgment had also questioned the army & ISI’s interference in politics and underlined that the country’s armed forces should not be concerned with politics.
Amid the mounting internal pressure and his tug of war with various institutions, Imran Khan has once again tried to divert attention by raking-up the Kashmir issue and putting the onus on India to resolve it. Inaugurating the first edition of the Islamabad Security Dialogue he said, “We are trying, but India would have to take the first step and unless it does that we cannot move ahead”. He also mentioned that the Kashmir issue was the lone irritant standing in the way of better ties between India and Pakistan.
It has to be noted that since the ceasefire that is effective from midnight 24 February, this is the first time the Prime Minister of Pakistan gave an official statement vis-à-vis India.
Analysts in Pakistan believe that the ceasefire from Pakistan’s side was choreographed by the Establishment and the Imran Khan government will stay in power till the time Pakistan’s military wants it. The opposition PDM has constantly criticized the Pak Army Chief for interfering in political matters of the country. Prior to the election of the Senate Chairman this month, Imran Khan had met the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa and the head of ISI Faiz Hameed. PTI won both Senate Chairman and Deputy Chairman Posts. It is said that the establishment helped PTI to break into the votes of the opposition; otherwise, they did not have the numbers to win. The civilian government is considered an extension of the establishment and is said to be taking orders from the Pak Army. Imran Khan’s statement on Kashmir is, therefore, usual obfuscation that the entire world knows.
Pakistan is run by the Pak army, which will keep calling the shots from behind the curtain; be it on internal or external issues. Although, Imran Khan’s clash with the institutions is bad news for democracy, it is good for the establishment. So far as India is concerned, New Delhi has made it clear that Kashmir is India’s internal matter and the onus is on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism first. Terror and talks do not go hand in hand. New Delhi’s position has been consistent, credible and cohesive.