Imran’s tactical turn as Pakistan gets new Army chief

The former cricketer’s second announcement that lawmakers of his party in all provincial assemblies would quit en masse to force snap polls was another jumla.

Published: 28th November 2022 12:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2022 12:27 AM   |  A+A-

Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan,(C), addresses to his supporters at a rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Friday, Oct. 28 2022. (Photo|AP)

Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan made a virtue of necessity when he announced the truncation of his party’s long march to Islamabad, saying he wanted to prevent chaos, anarchy and political instability in the country. The march was essentially meant to poke the establishment (read Army) that had opened the door for a new government after withdrawing support to him over seven months ago when their hybrid governance experiment failed.

With Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announcing Lt Gen Asim Munir as the new Army chief to replace incumbent Gen Bajwa, the latter was no longer the point of friction, and Imran had no reason to continue his agitation. It also confirmed the back-channel talks Imran had before Gen Munir’s appointment was finalised. Imran first clamoured for selection on merit to lobby for his favourite Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, but when he realised he was getting nowhere, he changed tack and hammered away on seniority as the yardstick. The government jumped at the latter idea as Gen Munir was the senior most in the pecking order. The wily Sharif—the exiled Nawaz that is—won that round. Shehbaz had gone all the way to London to seek brother Nawaz’s counsel. Imran then got his rubber stamp President Arif Alvi to fly to Lahore from Islamabad, to publicly establish that he was being consulted before the head of the state signed off on the file.

The former cricketer’s second announcement that lawmakers of his party in all provincial assemblies would quit en masse to force snap polls was another jumla. Yet, it could end up giving the Sharifs a window of opportunity to take back control of their Punjab turf wrested by Imran’s hybrid government.
From India’s perspective, a seasoned Sharif government is any day better than Imran at the helm. As for Gen Munir, he is known as a gutsy officer whose dossier on the corrupt practices of Imran’s wife, Bushra, led to his abrupt transfer when he was ISI chief. While analysts claim he would not disturb the ceasefire along the Line of Control and possibly pursue Gen Bajwa’s geo-economic policy, India would have a wary eye on his next steps, as he was heading Pakistan’s deep state when the Pulwama attack happened. Gen Munir would arguably be the most watched person in the subcontinent when he takes charge this week and starts building his legacy.


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