Pakistan’s Deepening Turmoil

THE shock arrest of former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on corruption charges has sparked nationwide protests, with his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) calling for his release and challenging the legality of his arrest. The charges against Imran Khan relate to the alleged gain of hundreds of canals of land in the name of Al Qadir University Trust, which his supporters . believe are trumped up to ensure his imprisonment. The protests that have followed his arrest have been widespread, with people even attacking houses of Army generals and the defence installations, something that was thought unimaginable in Pakistan.

Khan’s arrest has only further deepened the ongoing turmoil in the country. The reason for the arrest has become beside the point here. Truth is that Khan has become immensely popular in the country after he lost power in a vote of no-confidence last year. He has been claiming his government was toppled by the United States miffed with his growing closeness to Russia and China. He has been demanding the resignation of the  government and the holding of the fresh elections. Last year, soon after his ouster, Khan has held successive mass rallies to force the government out of power. While the Pakistan government, backed by the military establishment, is unlikely to resign anytime soon, Khan’s stubborn political  campaign has destabilized the country. At the same time, his popularity has skyrocketed and in case of an  election, he is expected to return to power with a landslide majority.

However, Pakistan is not only facing a political turmoil. Over the last two years, the country has careened from crisis to crisis: political, economic and on a security front. Pakistan economy is on the verge of a default with agreement with the International Monetary Fund far from being concluded. The IMF is putting stringent conditions before it advances loan to bail out the country.

On the other hand, after a relative peace for some years, Tehreek Taliban Pakistan has again become a major security challenge for Pakistan. In recent months, the TTP has mounted several daredevil attacks on Pakistan’s security installations.

So we have a situation where a cascade of crises are colliding in Pakistan and Khan’s arrest and the unfolding mass protests could push the country to the brink. The lingering turmoil in Pakistan, if not addressed in the near, could also have repercussions for regional stability. But it is only Pakistan that can save itself. Its coalition government composed of 16 parties,  the powerful military establishment and the judiciary have to work together to resolve the unsettling situation. Failure to do so will be catastrophic for the country.

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