homeviews News

View | Pakistan Election: Will Imran Khan's changed tack from long march to resignations to snap poll work?

View | Pakistan Election: Will Imran Khan's changed tack from long march to resignations to snap poll work?

5 Min(s) Read

By KV Prasad  Dec 2, 2022 10:23:34 AM IST (Updated)

Pakistan's cricketer-turned-politician is attempting to force the pace of political events by demanding snap polls in the country. Ever since he lost the vote of confidence in the National Assembly, the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaaf party is at work to unsettle the PML-N and PPP coalition government. Having survived an attack and calling off the 'long march' Imran Khan hopes to set the field by withdrawing his party's elected representatives from state assemblies. Will his game plan work?

Politics in Pakistan is going through a swirl of events with former Prime Minister Imran Khan working to stir it up. During the last two days itself, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e- Insaaf Party, Khan announced cancellation of his ‘long march” and decided to pull out from legislative bodies in the country.

Recommended Articles

View All

The bottom  line for Khan, the iconic cricketer-turned-politician, is to force early elections in the country. The “long march” from  Lahore was to terminate at the capital city  of Islamabad this month. The avowed intention was to stage a sit-in there with his supporters.
Since losing the April vote of confidence in the National Assembly, Khan has been raising the demand for snap polls and the protest was to force the Shehbaz Sharif coalition government to accept the demand. Khan also claimed his ouster was orchestrated by former Premier Nawaz Sharif, now in exile, and Washington, a charge rejected by both.
The decision to terminate the march came around the time the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced the appointment of new Army Chief, General Asim Munir who assumed office on November 29. 
 The decision ended  weeks of speculation over the successor to General Qamar Javed Bajwa. The General remained in office for six years, two consecutive three-year terms, and handed over the reins of the powerful Pakistan Army to General Munir.
As the ‘long march’ got underway analysts in Pakistan were speculating whether the intention of PTI Chairman Khan was to stall the process of selection of the new Chief by the incumbent government. Now that did not happen and in calling off the march, Imran Khan reasoned the event would have resulted in chaos and the loss would be that of Pakistan. 
The decision came soon after Khan addressed a rally after he was injured in an attack on November 3 during one of his meetings during the march.  Khan’s political aim was to tap public resentment over the economic crisis the country was facing with high inflation which began to occur during his tenure. 
The economic situation accentuated and in order to avoid a default, Pakistan had to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund. The conditionalities by the body led to taking measures causing further distress as the country’s rupee went south. 
 Now having abandoned the idea of forcing the pace of events through the march, Khan changed tacks. Last Saturday, making his first public appearance after the attack at Rawalpindi, he declared the intention to withdraw the party's elected representatives. 
PTI members had already resigned from the National Assembly soon after Khan lost support in the National Assembly and legislators are expected to follow suit from the state assemblies of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The party also controls two local bodies in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. The move to come out from the elected bodies is clearly aimed to exert pressure on the Sharif government, whose intention is to hold elections around autumn next year, when these are due.
In view of the changed scenario much would depend on how Khan and his PTI would tap the public's resentment and create conditions that would dictate terms to the government without any support from the powerful army.
When Khan became the Prime Minister four years ago, it was interpreted that the former cricket captain had the support of the army as a fresh face in the country’s politics,  otherwise dominated by two family-held parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of the Sharifs and Pakistan Peoples Party controlled by Bhutto-Zardari family. The PPP observes its 55th Foundation Day on November 30.
However, during his tenure Imran Khan’s government showed signs of moving away from being tied to the coat-tails of the army. During his days in office, Khan removed General Munir who was heading the Inter-Services Intelligence
The shrillness of criticism by Khan grew over time and following the death of a Pakistan journalist known for his critical comments on the army, Khan  remarked that the murder was part of ongoing targeting of anyone who dares to criticise or question those in power. Following this the ISI held an unprecedented press conference to set the record straight.
Ahead of demitting office, General Bajwa suggested that keeping the army ‘apolitical’ was to insulate it from political pulls. He said “unconstitutional” interference in politics during the last 70 years, was the reason behind attracting criticism from the people and politicians alike of the country.  This was not the first time that a Pakistan Army General made such an observation. Around the late 2000s, General Ashraf Kiyani made a case for the Army’s to return to the  barracks and prepare the country for a civilian-to-civilian transfer of power. General Munir has to work to repair the image of the army which came under strain and restore confidence of the people of neutrality of the men in uniform.
In view of the changed scenario much would depend on how Khan and his PTI would tap the public's resentment and create conditions that would dictate terms to the government without support from the army. PTI  enjoys support from the country’s young, middle-class and others and reports suggest the party’ rallies have been drawing large crowds during the march. Months after he lost power, PTI recorded major wins during be-elections in July and October including in Punjab Assembly, a stronghold of the Sharifs.  Point of interest is whether Imran Khan can maintain the momentum, even if the elections are held as per schedule.
— KV Prasad is a senior journalist and has earlier worked with The Hindu and The Tribune. Views expressed are personal.
Read his previous articles here
Check out our in-depth Market Coverage, Business News & get real-time Stock Market Updates on CNBC-TV18. Also, Watch our channels CNBC-TV18, CNBC Awaaz and CNBC Bajar Live on-the-go!