Editorial

Unrest in Pakistan: On movement against Imran Khan government

Events in Pakistan’s Sindh province in the last few days indicate that the Imran Khan government is dealing with a serious political crisis, perhaps its biggest, since taking office in 2018. Eleven Opposition parties, which have now formed the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have held two mammoth rallies, part of a plan for nationwide agitations, calling for the resignation of the PTI government over law and order, food shortages, inflation and gas cuts. They have called the Prime Minister both a failure at governance and the military’s “puppet”. But what has surprised many is their solidarity as well as the sharpness of their attack: at the rally in Gujranwala, former PM and Pakistan Muslim League (N) chief Nawaz Sharif, speaking from London, named Army Chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa and ISI chief Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed for “rigging elections”, restrictions on the media, harassment of journalists, putting pressure on the judiciary and subverting other democratic institutions. While most Pakistani politicians, Mr. Khan included, have attacked Pakistan’s omnipotent military establishment when in opposition, and drop the rhetoric when they come to power, Mr. Sharif’s comments indicate a popular sentiment that is chafing at the curbs by the Pakistani establishment. The PTI government’s response is a well-worn script. For the past few months, government prosecutors, on Mr. Khan’s orders, have focused on preparing cases to send as many members of the Opposition to prison. The co-chairperson of the Pakistan’s People’s Party and former Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, is already in custody on money laundering charges, while the government has requested the U.K. many times to extradite Mr. Sharif so that he can be charged and tried again.

With the next generation of Bilawal Bhutto and Maryam Nawaz taking the stage at PDM rallies, the government swung into its next act: arresting Ms. Nawaz’s husband, Captain Safdar, after a midnight raid on their hotel in Karachi, charging him with disrespecting Jinnah’s mausoleum by raising anti-government slogans there. What made matters erupt was the arrest that had reportedly been carried out after Army rangers surrounded the Sindh Inspector General’s home and forced him to sign the FIR against Mr. Safdar. Top echelons of Sindh’s police force, backed by the Provincial PPP government, rose in outrage, applying en masse for leave after expressing their distress over the humiliation meted out to their chief. This was an unprecedented response which could have seen a more serious stand-off between the police and the Army. Matters are under control for the moment after Gen. Bajwa has promised an inquiry report on the controversial arrest within the next 10 days. However, with politics on the boil again and the PDM planning at least four more rallies this year, it is clear that Pakistan’s ruling party will find its feet held to the fire more frequently.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2020 5:49:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/unrest-in-pakistan-the-hindu-editorial-on-movement-against-imran-khan-government/article32922008.ece

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