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Jinnah’s Islamic Republic on verge of collapse

Lack of strong institutions in Pakistan, competing factional agendas, rampant corruption, Islamist terror, anti-India proclivity poses serious threat

Rahul Pawa

It’s a moment that will forever be etched in annals of history for chaos and audacity colliding in grim display. Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the country’s former Prime Minister was held by the collar.  Defying established norms, Pakistan Army rangers forcefully dragged him out of Islamabad High Court in the midst of hearing in Al-Qadir Trust case. Public humiliation of Imran Khan is culmination of over 100 cases filed against him across the country. In this particular case, Imran faced charges of swindling a staggering 190 million British pounds.


The ugly incident in court premises unfolded after Pakistan Army’s inter-services public relations issued a stern warning to Khan. The army’s Inter-services wing held him responsible for “highly irresponsible” and “baseless” allegations against a senior Pakistan intelligence and military officer. Imran had relentlessly accused Major General Faisal Naseer, whom he derogatorily labeled as “Dirty Harry,” for having orchestrated a plot to assassinate him.

Imran had shaped the narrative fostering perception that this ISI officer was involved in foiled assassination attempt against him by a suspected \”lone wolf\” in November, a year before. The day he was arrested and handed over to Pakistan\’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Khan made the controversial remarks just before heading to an Islamabad court. He had likened the country\’s army to a \”holy cow\” suggesting that the institution considers itself \”above the law,” accusing Pakistan Army and ISI of conspiring to assassinate him.

His arrest triggered a series of events leading to widespread violent protests in major cities and townships across Pakistan. Supporters and workers of PTI took to streets venting out their anger against the arrest of Imran Khan. Visuals of tear gas, bloodshed, and violence continuously poured in via social media before the Pakistani establishment initiated Internet blackouts to curb violent protests and military brutality that claimed 40 lives. This marked a significant moment in Pakistan\’s 75-years history after the British rulers partitioned India.

In unabated violence, Pakistani civilians had dared to attack the Pakistan Army General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi which housed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan\’s foreign intelligence agency. The GHQ, being the stronghold of Pakistan\’s military elite, had never imagined such a bold act from within the country. The protests took a violent turn, leading to destruction of Jinnah\’s house in Lahore that now serves as the Corps Commander House. Additionally, cantonments throughout the country were targeted, looted, and vandalized. Pakistanis who welcomed Army coups to ‘save the country’ from corrupt politicians came under intense attack.

In this long chain of events, Imran’s ability to deftly shape public opinion demolished the long-established perception about Pakistan Army and its deep state in shaping the political landscape, particularly the country’s conventional power dynamics. Imran’s success was possible after presenting himself as a symbol of honesty, religiosity, and righteousness thereby undermining the Pakistani Army and its deep state.  

Khan, a former cricket star who transitioned to an Islamist politician faced a no-confidence vote in Parliament last year leading to his removal from office. He strongly argued that his removal was both illegal and part of a larger Western conspiracy. Once regarded as a favourite of the Pakistan Army, Khan has now become a bone of contention for them. There is a widely held belief propagated by Imran and the PTI that the army backed a corrupt and ineffective government led by Shehbaz Sharif of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) unjustly sidelining Imran.

PDM has been accused of electoral fraud and failing to address significant inflation which actually took roots during PTM rule in Pakistan. Additionally, Imran propagated the idea that the government deliberately avoided holding elections as per usual procedures, out of fear of a potential victory for his party, the PTM. These circumstances, along with Imran\’s cultivated image as a staunch patriot of Pakistan, have bolstered his popularity and caused a dramatic shift in public sentiment in his favour. This challenges the traditional influence and absolute control of Pakistan Army over public sentiment and key narratives, resulting in a significant setback for them. This also shatters the long-held belief that the army holds “absolute power” in Pakistan.

Traditionally, nation-states have played a crucial role in promoting the well-being of their citizens and advancing national goals and values through people\’s participation and institutional reforms. Recent protests led by Imran Khan defied these principles of national progress and reconstruction. Instead of being rooted in meaningful reforms, these protests relied heavily on Imran\’s personal popularity, political maneuvering, inflammatory rhetoric, and divisive tactics that pushed a nation already grappling with extreme inflation closer to the brink of civil war.

Notably, despite facing serious corruption charges for reported deals clinched during his tenure as Prime Minister, Imran was able to amass excessive power, reminiscent of the rise of dictators such as Adolf Hitler in 1940s Germany. The entire country appeared to be held hostage by Imran and his supporters leading to street battles and chaos that not only posed a threat to civil order but pressured the country\’s judiciary and public institutions. These protests, violence and death undermined the independence of these institutions and eroded their salient fabric and credibility. As a consequence, both Imran and his wife got unprecedented blanket bails from a judiciary that seemed unfair and compromised.

Meanwhile, the elected government in Senate assumed a passive role, media faced censorship, military engaged in rights violations and the country’s executive seeking refuge from the turmoil. These developments exposed Pakistani state fragility, highlighted vulnerability to individual influence and the lack of a foundation in the country\’s institutions essential for a strong nation. This is also hallmark of a nation destined to fail.  

On the other hand, betrayed by Imran, Pakistan Army showcased its true nature as an unprofessional security establishment, violated norms, rules, and regulations of a civilized society. The Army detained, arrested, and attacked its own people resulting in loss of 40 lives in just few hours. Supported by China, the army perceived itself as a dangerous guardian of power in Pakistan and had been responsible for unimaginable human rights abuses, enforced disappearances, brutal suppression of dissent, inflicting immense suffering on its own population for decades. Furthermore, its influence extended beyond military control, infiltrating every aspect of Pakistan\’s political, economic, and governance spheres. Over above, the army is driven by a toxic combination of envy and deep-rooted hatred against Hindus and India.

This animosity, deeply ingrained in the military\’s core ideology, has fueled years of hostility, conflict and instability in the region. Rather than prioritizing the well-being of its own people, the army diverted significant resources to perpetuate this dangerous rivalry, intensifying tensions and hindering the prospects of peace. This relentless obsession with undermining India not only obstructed progress and development within Pakistan but also posed a serious threat to regional stability and harmonious international relations. The army\’s malicious influence extends well beyond Pakistan\’s borders, serving as a hub for terrorism that resonates internationally, fueling violence and jeopardizing global security. Pakistan Army\’s destructive influence disrupts peace, cooperation and prosperity for the country and the world.

Current tumultuous state of affairs in Pakistan served as a poignant reminder of the nation\’s profound failure to realize the aspirations set forth by its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah\’s vision encompassed the establishment of a resilient secular nation-state that transcended the barriers of ethnicity, religion and sect thereby uniting its diverse population under a common banner. However, the passage of time has revealed Pakistan\’s failure to construct robust institutions capable of safeguarding democracy, upholding rule of law, and safeguarding rights of its citizens.

Instead of nurturing accountable and responsive institutions, the country has been marred by a distressing display of coups, mounting debt, exploding inflation, power struggles, corruption, illiteracy and economic instability. Regrettably, the pursuit of short-term gains and personal interests by its leaders, coupled with an alarming prevalence of anti-Hindu bigotry has consistently taken precedence over national interests. This has perpetuated a climate of hostility and conflict, particularly in relation to India, hindering prospects for peace and regional stability.

This void in strong institutions has given rise to a disarrayed spectacle of competing factions and conflicting agendas, setting a precarious precedent for the faltering Islamic Republic. In light of the crumble that Pakistan finds itself, it is imperative to acknowledge and address these deep-rooted shortcomings before the nation declines further to an imminent collapse.

(author is an international criminal lawyer and Research Director at New Delhi-based think tank, Centre for Integrated and Holistic Studies)

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