Delhi: Has Imran Khan won round one in his struggle against the Pakistan Army as it got the preventive bail order from the Supreme Court? Will he be able to rein in the Army and slash its political clout in the long run? Will it help Pakistan get its roots of democracy further deeper? Or is it a part of the bigger game plan of the ubiquitous institution that has ruled the Islamic Republic for a bigger part of its history since its inception?
The Islamabad High Court gave a major relief to the Ex-Pakistan Prime Minister by giving him preventive bail in the Al Qadir Trust case and prohibiting the authorities from arresting him till May. It also ruled that Khan cannot be arrested in any case filed till May 9 and until May 17.
Many analysts believe that the cricketer-turned-politician has proved that he is ready to take on the Army and he has challenged this institution.
It appeared to be evident when a day earlier supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Pakistan barged into the General Headquarters and ransacked the residence of the Corp Commander.
It was perhaps for the first time in decades that the public, maybe a handful of them, expressed their anger against the Army. It was historic that the people were seen damaging the Army properties and looting whatever they could lay their hands on.
Media reports also suggest that some family members of army men joined the crowd in protesting against the Army.
The people came out on the streets after the Pakistan Army forcibly picked Imran Khan from the Islamabad High Court when he was completing the biometrics procedure in a separate case. Pakistan’s paramilitary force Rangers lifted Khan from his wheelchair, dragged him holding him by his collar and pushed the former Prime Minister inside a waiting vehicle.
Khan told the media persons a day later on the court premises that he was beaten by the police.
When the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won the National Assembly Election in 2018, many attributed it to the Army’s support. Some of the opposition politicians went to the extent of accusing the forces of rigging the polls.
Khan, too, said on many occasions that he and the Army were on the same page. The cricketer turned politician mentioned several times that Pakistan needs a stronger army.
The Army drafted many of PTI’s policies, including increased terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
But PTI chief lost the favour of the army after he interfered in the affairs of the armed forces and tried to install the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief of his choice.
They also quarrelled on the issue of foreign policy as Khan wanted to break away from the United States.
The Army supported the policy of throwing its hat on the side of China but wanted to go slow in the process.
The Imran Khan government failed miserably in controlling the economy which brought the country to the brink of collapse and bankruptcy.
He bungled the IMF negotiations and received no relief from the world body.
The worst came when he visited Moscow on the day Russia invaded Ukraine last year. He kept silent on the attack and defended his decision to visit Russia.
It is not that the Pakistan army was aghast with Imran Khan’s decision on all fronts. It did not go down well with the establishment that the man they installed became rogue and took independent decisions.
The Army that has ruled the country for most of the years after independence can not be kept aside and it hit back with a vengeance.
Imran Khan was replaced after a no-confidence motion. He came down heavily upon the army and the US and blamed them for his ouster. The former PM declared war against the US and the Army.
It is naive to suggest that the Pakistan army can be pushed aside so easily.
The Al Qadir Trust case may be just the beginning and many more cases dug up to put the yesteryear’s cricketing hero behind bars.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is expected to take up these cases. It has always been controlled by a retired army officer so far. Considering how the Army operates it can be easily imagined how fair the NAB would be.
It is also interesting to note that no important leader of the PTI has joined the supporters and members creating mayhem on the roads. There is no one to lead them and the entire leadership is completely silent.
Are the important leaders of the party waiting for an indictment of the ex-Prime Minister?
If found guilty, the founder of PTI is most likely to be banned from contesting elections for life.
Khan is systematically being hauled out of political and electoral life.
The irony is that Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif is silently enjoying the moment forgetting that his brother Nawaz Sharif too was thrown out of politics in a way not much different.
The ruling party may be happy at the plight of its political opponent and exploit the situation for its benefit in the national assembly polls, expected next year.
If such a situation arises, keep aside the ruling party, many PTI leaders may come forward and replace Imran Khan as the next stooge of the Army.
It will further erode the position and prestige of the state and the democratic institutions that have never been exceptionally robust.
So, Pakistan has come to a bizarre crossroad. And the Army enjoys the position of ‘tail you lose, head I win,’ situation.