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Updates on the Pakistan's soap opera
  • Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar
    Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar
Summary of previous episodes: on April 10, 2022, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was challenged by Parliament and Shahbaz Sharif was appointed prime minister in his place, at the head of a broad-based government. Before the no-confidence vote, and for weeks after the vote, Khan cried conspiracy against him orchestrated by the Americans and threatened to produce evidence of it. After a few months, however, the good Imran denied the conspiracy thesis, instead invoking Washington's help in foiling the web of lies against him and against Pakistani democracy set up by the generals. In the months that followed, Imran found himself with a hundred or so prosecutions against him, prosecutions ranging from ordinary corruption to terrorism. He was finally arrested last May 9 for selling, pocketing the proceeds from, gifts received in his role as prime minister and for favoring, for a hefty fee, a billionaire businessman being investigated for money laundering by British authorities: his arrest was followed by riots throughout the country, complete with an assault on military residences and posts and public buildings. Imran was released, but newspapers were banned from even mentioning his name, while the army arrested thousands of people and had arrested civilians tried by military courts. Meanwhile, Sharif, who headed a transitional government that was in theory only supposed to proclaim new elections, was more or less being forced to resign a few days ago: to appoint a new interim premier, a 'neutral and high-level' figure who would finally set the date for the much-desired elections. Premier who has not yet been elected, as Shahbaz though resigned still remains in office, and elections that still seem doubtful as the Election Commission has put forward a whole series of exceptions that need to be scrutinized. Imran, after a tour de force on every possible international media channel, recorded a video (yet another) in which he incited his followers to peaceful and civil protest and was arrested again on August 4. A few days after his arrest, the long-awaited proof of the U.S. plot appeared in the online magazine The Intercept: a diplomatic cable describing a meeting between former Pakistani Ambassador to Washington Asad Majeed and Donald Lu of the U.S. State Department. According to the cable, the U.S. was reportedly irritated by Khan's 'aggressive neutrality' toward the Ukrainian conflict, and advocated a change of guard in the government. To his supporters, Imran is a hero: fighting not only against the generals, guilty of wanting to take him out both figuratively and literally, but also against the colonialist and imperialist West. All clear? Not quite. Imran has instigated a feud within the ranks of the military that had supported him, but he continues to declare his unconditional love for the uniforms that protect the homeland. And he thunders against the corrupt and treacherous West, except to turn to the West to protect democracy in the country and loosen the purse strings. He is politically obtuse, but he is a genius of the most boorish populism. He can unleash the masses, and if voted on tomorrow his party would win with an overwhelming majority. The three years he would have to serve would disqualify him for five years from any public office. But if a vote were taken tomorrow, no alternative candidate would be found: Shahbaz and his brother Nawaz are elderly and corrupt, and the military will never forgive him the ignominious treason conviction of former General Musharraf. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (son of Benazir's good soul) and Maryam Sharif (Nawaz's daughter) are currently no viable alternatives. Or, so it seems. The truth is that, in Islamabad, prime ministers are interchangeable and remain in power only as long as they follow the directives of the general on duty. It is the army that holds the country's economy, it is the army that is in charge. And since history teaches that in Pakistan, fantasy-politics falls short of reality every time, it is also possible that all this theater will serve to bring Imran himself back to power: the hero of democracy and freedom, free this time from the stigma of being a puppet of the military. Democracy, at last genuine, triumphs, while the generals sleep soundly finally free of the accusations that they are de facto running the country. The End.
Francesca Marino