As if a scripted response was ready, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan, did not lose the opportunity to blame India for the attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi by Baloch separatists on June 29, 2020, which led to the death of about 13 persons including the four militants.
This is not surprising since blaming India for everything in Pakistan remains the favourite pastime of Pakistani leaders, especially when they fail to deliver.
In fact, Imran’s lieutenants in the party had started talking about ‘false flag operations’ by India, days before the attack, raising the pitch of anti-India rhetoric, possibly to prepare Pakistan for such kind of an attack. Didn’t Mr. Khan also say that agencies had prior information regarding the same? Why the Pakistan agencies did not avert it, remains the moot question.
Over the years, such tactics have been used by most Pakistani leaders to divert popular attention away from the failures of their governments. Imran Khan is no different. In fact, while making such unfounded and baseless allegation against India; the Pakistan Prime Minister must be thanking the Baloch rebels for having provided him with an alibi to turn public attention away from multiple crises that haunt Pakistan today, thanks to his government’s inept handing of public affairs ever since he assumed office as Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Imran Khan has started behaving like a man under siege. Often touted as the ‘selected’ Prime Minister, his powerbase is now limited to the goodwill of the GHQ, which seems to be weakening.
Mr. Khan’s style of handling politics and economy of Pakistan was hailed as ‘different’ by many commentators, when he came to power. However, they have now turned against him. Despite the (mis)use of NAB (National Accountability Bureau), he has failed to bring the corrupt to justice. Rather, he is surrounded by corrupt politicians, many of them serving as ministers in his cabinet. Many outspoken supporters of him have discovered in him the same old and familiar vices that afflicted his predecessors.
One of them, Arshad Bhatti, wrote a column in the Urdu media some time ago that Imran had failed ‘completely’, and that ‘Pakistan’s beloved Prime Minister’ owed an answer to the people for having wasted Pakistanis time for the last 22 months! Hassan Nissar, another popular commentator who backed him during the last elections, has also turned his back on him.
Fawad Chaudhry, one of the most well-known face of Imran’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), washed his party’s dirty linen in public in a recent interview, acknowledging that the government had failed to perform, and all was not well within the party.
Days before that, one of the alliance partners, Baloch Nationalist Party-Mengal, had called it quits. Its leader Akhtar Mengal had expressed his consternation about the government not fulfilling its commitments to work towards bettering the lot of the Baloch people. Like many Baloch leaders before him, Akhtar must have explored the limits of pursuing the genuine demands of his people through democratic means!
The Pakistan opposition is baying for Khan’s removal. His characterization of Osama Bin Laden as a martyr, which could be a ‘Freudian’ slip betraying his sympathies for jihadi radicals, was decried by the opposition leaders. Their criticism of the budget as an anti-poor, anti-people measure is supported by most people. The opposition is also demanding a trust vote against the Speaker of the National Assembly. In the coming days, the opposition is expected to consolidate its position and pose further challenges to him.
Amidst all this, Mr. Khan is also feeling uneasy about the Chinese offer to treat opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif, who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus.
There are rumours that the all-powerful military establishment, is looking at the situation on the ground. After all, they won’t like to be seen in public as co-authors of Imran’s failures.
Against this backdrop, the ‘minus Imran’ formula has hit media headlines in Pakistan. Mr. Khan’s retort in the Assembly that there is no alternative to him at the moment, might have been an exercise in self-assurance, but the dice seems to be loaded against him.
Script: Dr. Aahok Behuria, Senior Fellow & Coordinator South Asia Centre, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses