With staunch US support, Pakistan’s unelected “imported government” is trying to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan, the most popular politician in the country, to prevent him from running in elections. But protesters are protecting him.
“There is great chaos under heaven; [hence] the situation is excellent.”
If 2022 was the year of popular uprisings in Pakistan, raising hope for protesters fed up with a thoroughly corrupt and repressive civil-military regime, 2023 seems to be the year when the government is trying every dirty trick in the book to kill that hope.
After a US-backed regime change operation removed elected Prime Minister Imran Khan from power in April 2022, Pakistan witnessed an unprecedented phenomenon in the nation’s history: For the first time, a civilian politician who was ousted from power didn’t simply end up in the dustbin of history, alongside interchangeable corrupt politicians who for decades played musical chairs, competing to plunder the country.
On the contrary, what occurred were massive outpourings of support for Khan and widespread opposition to the ancien régime put in power by Washington’s mercenaries in the military high command.
The enormous popular rejection of the current “imported government”, as Khan calls it, has made Pakistan’s elites increasingly desperate. They want him eliminated.
Assassination was their first method of choice – but they fumbled. At a rally in November, a gunman shot Khan in the leg, injuring but failing to kill him.
In the meantime, Plan B is being implemented: Arrest Khan on bogus charges and disqualify him from politics forever.
The former prime minister has been relentlessly holding peaceful demonstrations, demanding elections. The government knows that Khan would easily win, so it wants to prevent him from running.
A Gallup poll in March found that Khan is by far the most popular politician in Pakistan, with a 61% approval rating, compared to 37% disapproval.
The current, unelected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has the complete opposite: a 32% approval rating, compared to 65% disapproval.
The figures are clear: Nearly two-thirds of Pakistanis support Khan and oppose the unelected government.
Pakistan’s “imported government” orders the arrest of Imran Khan
Faced with its deep unpopularity, on March 8, Pakistan’s regime initiated Plan B.
Khan was leading a peaceful protest – one of the countless rallies he has organized since the April 2022 regime-change operation.
This time, massive state security forces went on a rampage and tried to arrest Khan. But they could not do it. Standing between them and Khan were tens of thousands of his supporters.
The only way to get to Khan would have been a bloodbath. This was avoided – although one Khan supporter was killed.
Then again, on March 13, Khan called for a rally in the city considered to be the heart of Pakistan: Lahore.
Despite the entire state security machinery targeting him and his supporters, the rally in Lahore was one of the biggest the city has seen.
Khan and the protesters marched confidently and peacefully in every corner of the city, where they seemed unstoppable, greeted with joy by ordinary Pakistanis of all walks of life.
The former prime minister was undeterred, committed to holding demonstrations in the provinces of the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), in the lead-up to what he hopes will be national elections.
On March 14, the regime escalated its crackdown. Police surrounded Khan’s house in Lahore and tried to arrest him.
In response, thousands of supporters gathered at Khan’s home, protecting him.
The police responded with extreme violence, wounding dozens of protesters.
From his house, Khan symbolically delivered a speech via video stream, sitting with the tear gas canisters that had been fired outside.
The regime tries to ban Khan from public life
Khan’s determination to relentlessly participate in mass mobilizations has led the regime to try to ban him from public life.
Even Western organizations that are often biased, such as Amnesty International, have condemned the unelected Pakistani government’s authoritarian tactics, which have included prohibiting all speeches and rallies by Khan, as well arresting people who criticize the military on Twitter.
There are two main factors preventing an all-out assault to arrest Khan: the wrath of the population that would ensue, and fear that significant ranks within the armed forces would revolt and turn their guns on their superiors, à la Vietnam.
Indeed, it has been because of Khan’s popularity not just among ordinary Pakistani civilians but within the military ranks as well that the former prime minister has survived so far.
Khan’s popularity among some parts of the army is easy to explain. Rank-and-file soldiers and the majority of the junior and mid-rank officer corps are not keen on Washington dictating a War on Terror 2.0. They have always appreciated Khan’s principled opposition, since day one, to any military solution to the militancy in Afghanistan and the northwest of Pakistan.
Throughout 2022, Khan’s political party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, the “Movement for Justice”), exponentially rose in popularity, in contrast to the all-too-visible political shenanigans of the coalition of feudal family dynasties and other corrupt forces in power.
If it is true that Khan mismanaged both political and economic governance while in power, then the current lot has engendered a virtual implosion and collapse in the country.
Khan challenges Pakistan’s pro-Western elites
It is difficult to overstate how incensed ordinary Pakistanis are with the political mafias, significant sections of the military top brass, and the chief mafia don: Washington.
One of the most disturbing aspects of what has been happening is the virtual connivance of liberal-left forces and the Pakistani deep state in attempting to eliminate Khan from the Pakistani political scene.