India watching protests against Pak army, PM Imran Khan
India is watching with interest an “early start” to joint protests by nine opposition political parties in Pakistan which are against Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as, for the first time, Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.
Of particular interest was former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s video address from London on Friday in which he targeted not just Gen Bajwa but also ISI Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hameed as well as the judiciary.
Street unrest in Pakistan usually begins at the fag-end of the term as opposition parties try to whip up anti-incumbency sentiments. Protests in Pakistan that begin mid-term, as was the case during the early tenures of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, usually have the imprint of the Pakistan army. Sharif has so far indirectly accused the army but this is the first time he has named the army chief and the ISI DG for short-circuiting the last general election and ensuring the installation of Imran Khan as PM.
Sources say the unrest against Khan and the naming of the two Pakistan senior army generals comes at least two years before the next general elections are due in 2023. The country’s economic indicators have already deteriorated. There is double digit inflation and its marquee project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is not just making slow progress but its chief, an army official, has been accused of feathering his nest.
At the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)’s Gujranwala rally where scions of both PPP and PML (Nawaz), Bilawal Bhutto and Mariyam Nawaz, shared the stage, Sharif came over a video link to accuse Gen Bajwa and Gen Faiz for stealing the popular vote to install Imran Khan as PM.
While Sharif may have spoken against the army, sources pointed out that his party had joined hands with Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the National Assembly in approving an extension to Gen Bajwa as Pakistan army chief. “Is Sharif leaving the space for bargaining, especially after the current regime had allowed him to leave the country, aware that he won’t to return?” wondered the sources.
The Pakistan Supreme Court had removed Sharif from office on corruption charges and after a spell in jail. He had left for London last November for medical treatment.