Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Photo: Economic Times
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Photo: Economic Times

The arrest of former Pakistani prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi did not come as a surprise to many analysts. Abbasi, who served as the 21st prime minister of Pakistan from August 2017 to May 2018, has been hailed as a loyalist of ex-PM Nawaz Sharif, and after Sharif was disqualified he was replaced by Abbasi, a stalwart of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Abbasi was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau on a charge of taking a commission on the import of liquefied natural gas from Qatar and for not coordinating with the accountability authority. On the contrary, many international publications including previously reported that Abbasi saved the country US$600 million in the LNG deal with Qatar. Abbasi is also included in the list of those prime ministers who never took advantage of government perks, and while traveling abroad in an official capacity he always used public transport instead of luxurious vehicles.

Since the current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is trying to silence every form of dissent, it was always expected that Abbasi would be arrested at some point. He is not the first Pakistani leader to be humiliated with arrested at the behest of the invisible forces.

From Huseyn Shaheed Suharwardy to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and from Benazir Bhutto to Nawaz Sharif, every single prime minister who refused to take dictation from the deep state was put behind bars and his or her image tarnished in the public through the media. Right now two previous prime ministers and one former president, Asif Ali Zardari, are behind bars under dubious accountability and controversial judicial processes. It has always been very easy to dethrone and arrest the elected prime ministers of Pakistan, and jailing them, or even hanging them, has never been a big problem. So Abbasi’s arrest is not a new thing.

But the question arises whether his arrest will make it easier for the military establishment and Prime Minister Imran Khan to keep the current political discourse intact. Khan is being fully backed by the powerful establishment, and despite inflicting grave economic turmoil on Pakistan, which is a result of an engineered political process and the wish to eliminate Sharif’s PML-N and Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, the establishment somehow believes that if it can dismantle those parties and crush the dissenting voices in the media, and still prevail.

The opposition right now is in a state of confusion, not ready to go all out against the current civil martial law in the disguise of democracy. Not one opposition party, not even the PML-N or PPP, has called for a massive protest to challenge the fascist rule of the current regime. Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz remains the only mainstream leader who has announced countrywide rallies against the PTI government and the invisible forces, but many expect her too to be arrested soon.

Meanwhile, the upcoming trip by Imran Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa to Washington is an indication that the administration of US President Donald Trump needs the Pakistani establishment to finalize a deal with the Afghan Taliban and the US. This means that along with Riyadh, Washington can give the nod to the establishment and Khan and can turn a blind eye toward the atrocities and violations of human and political rights violations in Pakistan. This means that the opposition will face the music for a longer time, and the rumors in the power corridors suggest that Bajwa will get an extension of his job tenure.

So the picture looks gloomy as far as the opposition is concerned, but it is not only the opposition that will face the music. If the whistleblowers in the power corridors are right, then within a month or two a massive crackdown on journalists and activists will also be started, and both the PTI government and the establishment will make sure that no dissenting voice should prevail.

However, on the other side, the bleeding economy, high interest rates and rising inflation and unemployment will pose a great threat to the nexus of Khan and establishment as the middle class will find it impossible to survive in these circumstances. Many analysts in Pakistan believe that the establishment will prevail as in the past, as it enjoys immense power and the status of a sacred cow.

The problem remains, however, that arresting members of the opposition, convicting elected prime ministers and silencing dissent is the only and last weapon of any dictatorial regime. This means that the invisible forces and the government both are feeling the heat, as they know that even if the whole opposition is sent behind bars and all the dissenting voices are silenced, still they cannot change the reality that the adventure of throwing elected prime ministers out of office and imposing a populist and pro-Taliban-style leader through rigged elections have put Pakistan on the path of economic meltdown and political instability.

People unimpressed by the state propaganda are showing dissatisfaction over the uncivilized treatment given to Abbasi and other previously elected prime ministers. Washington can back the establishment for its own vested interests, but the world is watching silently how brutally the judicial system of Pakistan has been used to victimize Sharif’s PML-N, and Abbasi’s arrest has added more substance to this. While former dictator General Pervez Musharraf remains in exile and other retired generals enjoy perks and privileges in foreign countries like the United Arab Emirates, the US and Saudi Arabia, the elected prime ministers of Pakistan are humiliated, arrested and accused of corruption and treason.

The establishment remains in the delusion that the world does not know that Pakistan is going through an undeclared coup while Prime Minister Khan in his euphoria wants the masses to buy this delusion, and the economic, political and social crisis is growing with each passing day. On the contrary, Pakistan is being seen by the global community as a country that is ruled by the deep state and driven by its vested interests instead of those of the masses.

It can be said that Pakistan remains a graveyard for elected prime ministers and a haven for the deep state and its selected puppets on the political chessboard.

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