Since the ouster of the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, in a vote of no-confidence on 9 April, his fervent supporters have vehemently expressed their anger over Pakistan’s army for abandoning their protégé at the eleventh hour. Weeks before his unceremonious ousting, Khan was fomenting the theory that the United States had conspired with the local politicians to dethrone him. After several unconstitutional manoeuvres and Trumpian tactics, Khan lost the vote of no-confidence and his tenure came to an end. Even though his days are over, Khan is not done – he has not taken to indirectly criticising the country’s powerful army for his ouster. His supporters have joined the call and the anti-army sentiment has grown so strong that the establishment felt the need to break the silence and “clear the confusion.” But the strategy has failed – instead of silencing the crowd, the army has fired up the anti-establishment sentiment once again and found itself embroiled in a political turmoil.
Since his ousting, Imran Khan has taken to organizing thousands-strong rallies in different cities of Pakistan. He addressed a rally in Peshawar where bashed his political adversaries – current PM Shehbaz Sharif and the group – for colluding with the United States for his removal from the office. Khan believes that the US is punishing him for pursuing an “independent foreign policy.” He says his trip to Russia on the day Kremlin launched an attack on Ukraine has riled up the west and the US against him, and they resorted to conspiring with local politicians to remove him from the office.
The day after Khan’s removal from office, his supporters gathered on streets and public places in thousands and blocked them in protest, chanting slogans against Khan’s political adversaries, the United States and, surprisingly, Pakistan’s army. The anti-establishment sentiment was strong: videos of the crowds circulating on social media show a large number of protestors chanting “Death to the Pak Army” among other slogans.
Khan’s aides have also taken to social media to vent their anger over their removal from the office. They have bashed not only the newly elected government and the United States and also the Pakistani army. Sensing the rising anger directed towards them, the army responded by saying that a “malicious propaganda campaign” has been targeting the institution. The army also arrested several social media users that were running anti-army campaigns on social media. The house of Arslan Khalid, the head of PTI’s social media cell, was also raided and his laptops and mobiles were confiscated.
Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General (DG) Iftikhar Babar held a press conference where he categorically denied the allegations made by Imran Khan. He said that the word “conspiracy” was not even mentioned in the report prepared by the National Security Council after analyzing the so-called “threatening letter” that Khan had received from the US. Babar also denied that the establishment had given any options to Imran Khan – he said that Khan had sought help from the military during the political turmoil and the options had been presented by Khan, not the other way around.
Shireen Mazari, Khan’s former Minister of Human Rights, bashed the army after the press conference. She said reiterated that Khan had not approached army, but the army had approached Khan with the three options, namely that he should either resign, hold fresh elections or let the vote of no-confidence go as planned.
“let me be clear — I am stating on record PM did not call mly for help on “breaking pol deadlock”. The mly sought the mtg thru then Def Minister Khattak & they put forward the 3 proposals of either PM resigning or taking part in VNC or fresh elections!” she said in a tweet.
“Why wld IK give option of resigning when he had already stated categorically & repeatedly he wld never resign. Makes no sense! Also IK had categorically rejected VNC as foreign regime change conspiracy. So why wld he suggest these options.Absurd!”