Chaos is perhaps a mild word to describe what is happening in Pakistan. A state that is working hard to destroy itself is far beyond the description of chaos.
Many Pakistani and foreign commentators are using the word chaos as a euphemism to highlight the turbulent times in the country.
In reality, Pakistan is courting catastrophe and the day is not far when it will sink in the swampland which it has created for itself in the recent years, particularly 2022.
This is given, but more striking question for the region is, can it remain immune to the virus of destabilisation that has hit Pakistan. No, is the emphatic answer.
The most serious concern is that with the turmoil; churning in Pakistan all around, what’s the safety of the nuclear weapons that it has. The command and control system of the nuclear assets is now open to many vulnerabilities.
The dissensions in the political system, threatening to pull the nuclear-nation apart, and military-political parties’ war of words, deepening uncertainties, make the things more difficult for the nation, and the region has a lot to worry about.
Pakistan had reacted sharply to the US President Joe Biden’s observations last month about Pakistan being one of the most dangerous nations in the world, where nuclear weapons were “without any cohesion.”
Islamabad condemned the remarks and asserted that it is well in control of its nuclear weapons. That was three weeks ago. Much has changed in Pakistan since October 15 when these remarks were made and reacted to.
Today, Pakistan is not in a position to repeat the same reaction because it is imploding. Its institutions are at loggerheads with one another. Their implosion can be catastrophic. The world needs to take note of it.
A look at the events in the past one week reveal that how Pakistan is at a crossroads.
There is a big dilemma in Pakistan of today, whether PTI chairman and former Prime Minister Imran Khan is a culprit or victim. He is a culprit because he refuses to recognise importance of any of the individuals and institutions other than himself.
He believes, and no one can question what his self-beliefs are, that he is born to rule Pakistan. There is something divine in him, that’s what he trusts.
Guided by this belief, he has ruined all the institutions when he was the prime minister for four years from August 2018 to April 2022, his unpredictability has weakened Pakistan, as a state, both internally and externally.
He is a victim. He was injured in an attack in Wazirabad, near Gujranwala, on November 3. This, by all accounts an assassination attempt. First, because of the nature of the assault and the intent of the attacker. This attempt could have been fatal. Second, it is also clear that there was some kind of plot behind the whole thing.
It is unbelievable that a single man, in possession of deadly AK-47 can reach the rally spot and started firing at the PTI leaders, without any support from any quarter.
If it is to be trusted that this self-proclaimed would-be assassin was on a mission to “eliminate Imran Khan because the PTI leader’s rallies were blaring music at the time of the prayers,” supplementary explanations are missing.
Did he decide at the spur of the moment to get the weapons and shoot at Imran Khan, without any preparations having gone into it. This makes the whole thing more mysterious. Only a fair probe can bring the real things out in public. That is necessary for the political health of Pakistan.
The current turmoil in Pakistan doesn’t allow the kind of probe that the people expect in the assassination bid on Imran Khan, who by far is the most popular leader in the country at the moment.
Khan’s insistence to name Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, interior minister Rana Sanaullah and Major General Faisal in the FIR, has already created hurdles for the police. Khan is sticking to his guns.
That’s part of his long-term political strategy to humiliate his opponents in politics and teach a lesson to establishment.
He holds the establishment responsible for his ouster from power in April this year, as part of the larger conspiracy that he has incessantly attributed to the United States and his political rivals, with a clear blessing of the establishment.
Now he has brought the matters to head after an attempt on his life, which, he is using for his political objectives.
As was expected, the establishment has made it clear that it would not allow any of its officers or soldiers to be named and prosecuted. The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), the public face of the armed forces in Pakistan has not only termed Imran’s allegations as “baseless” but also demanded legal action against Imran Khan.
There is a stalemate, and it will hurt Pakistan no end. In a country where millions are still reeling from the effects of the devastating floods, the boiling political rivalry cauldron is bound to make matters worse.
This will bring in two unpalatable scenarios – ( a) their loss of trust in the political parties and their leaders can sway them to the more radical forces that wanted to usher in rule of puritan Islam similar to the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, where girls’ education and other liberties are curbed with ruthlessness.
Or, there would be military intervention and Pakistan would be again under the military rule. The country has witnessed several such spasms, which have left it in a state of chaos. Now it is worse than the past situations. Today’s Pakistan is not in as much awe of the army, as it used to be decades ago.
The Military was seen as a stabilising force, but now, in the common perception of the masses, the army has lost its sheen. But that cannot stop military from doing what it might be thinking of doing in the national interest.
It will cite what is evident to all Pakistanis that politicians of all hues were incapable of running the country, and therefore a force that can help the nation to come out of this quagmire is a national necessity. The trueness of such a possibility cannot be undermined, as the people may think the army as lesser evil. Such move is not without pitfalls.
The people have known that the army has its own weaknesses, its penchant to rule the country, directly or behind the scene, is its original sin.
It took them few years to reconcile to accept the army and its boisterousness after the split of Pakistan in 1971- when east Pakistan got wiped out, and new nation Bangladesh appeared on the world map.
Now with virtual revolt in the streets against it, following the assassination bid on Imran Khan, the things are different and challenging for Pakistan army as well, which has its own divisions.
Such pulls and pressures make Pakistan vulnerable to further destabilisation. That’s bad for Pakistan and also the region.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.