Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses lawmakers after being elected by the National Assembly in Islamabad on August 17, 2018. Photo: AFP/ handout
Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses lawmakers after being elected by the National Assembly in Islamabad on August 17, 2018. Photo: AFP/ handout

Pakistan is going through the worst period of economic and political uncertainty in ages as far as the dispensation of justice and marginalizing of political opponents are concerned. The first year of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s administration saw the highest-ever deficit of 3.444 trillion rupees (more than US$21.5 billion), and that certainly has pushed the country’s economy into the abyss. However, instead of solving the economic crisis created by the inexperienced and opportunistic members of the cabinet, PTI’s focus remains solely on victimizing its political opponents.

It seems PTI believes that by the gimmicks of accountability and charisma it will be able to turn the tables in its favor. Sadly, in the world of economics, such gimmicks never work. PTI has not only sunk the economy but has also doomed the credibility of the judiciary and other state institutions by using them to crush dissenting political leaders.

The judiciary, which lost its credibility under former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who was instrumental in ousting prime minister Nawaz Sharif at the behest of the military establishment and PTI, is still not ready to learn any lessons or to rectify its errors. On Wednesday, the judge in the anti-narcotics court who was hearing a case against Rana Sanaullah, a member of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), was asked to leave in the middle of hearing the case. His only fault was that he questioned the Anti-Narcotics Force about the evidence against Sanaullah and the ANF was not able to provide any. The ANF’s lawyers asked the judge to give them more time, upon which the judge said he would only give them one hour. During that one hour, the judge received a notification from the Law and Justice Ministry that his service was no longer required in the case and that he should report to another courtroom.

If this was not enough, the judges hearing cases against Shahbaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and Hamza Shahbaz were also changed through notifications from the Law Ministry. The minister for law and justice, Farogh Naseem, met with the Lahore High Court chief justice a few days back and after that meeting all of a sudden these judges were removed.

This clearly shows that the weak and exploitative judicial system of Pakistan is dictated by the powers that be and used to marginalize the ruling regime’s political opponents and dissenting voices. The question remains when the higher judiciary will understand that by aligning with the establishment and its puppet government it is only playing the role of a facilitator in the destruction of the economy and the political and social discourse of the country.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to divert the attention of the masses from his failures in the political, governance, foreign-policy and economic domains, and perhaps he thinks that by further pushing the opposition to the wall he will be able to save his premiership. A complete surrender on Kashmir, global isolation in the diplomatic community and the deteriorating economy amid political instability, however, are more than enough to doom Khan’s political career.

The history of Pakistan is evidence that whenever debacles happened on the foreign front or the economic front, there was always a “fall guy” who was blamed for all the mishaps and woes. After the East Pakistan debacle in 1971, General Yahya Khan was made the fall guy. After Kargil, Nawaz Sharif was the scapegoat. General Pervez Musharraf after rendering flawless services to US interests in the “war on terror,” once he became useless and a liability for both the local and international establishment, was sent packing disgracefully. Sharif again was made the scapegoat when he pointed out that the global isolation of Pakistan was due to the security establishment’s nurturing extremist organizations.

Fast-forward to today, and after Islamabad’s inability to pre-empt Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s annexation of Kashmir, there will be another fall guy, and history tells us that the establishment only sacrifices its own people when the international establishment stops backing them. So this means that Imran Khan will be the guy who bears the blame for the global isolation of Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.

Perhaps Khan does not understand that he is not indispensable and the failures on the economic and foreign-policy fronts are making it difficult for his sympathizers in the military establishment to keep him in the office. This probably is the reason that in his desperation Khan is attempting to play with the lives of his political opponents Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif.

Both Zardari and Sharif are in poor health while in jail, and doctors have advised that they both be sent to a hospital for treatment, but Khan’s government is not allowing this and is trying to convince the masses that the two men are lying, that they are well and only asking for a deal to get out of jail. Perhaps this gimmick can convince his blind fan club, but anyone with a little knowledge of the power corridors can see the truth. The reason is simply that the PTI government has been brought to power by the establishment, and hence it is only a puppet government that does not has any authority to decide the future of any political player.

The only thing this government can do is make false charges agains opposition leaders and put them behind bars with the help of the judiciary that is being exploited blatantly by the military establishment. How long the establishment and PTI can exploit the system and weaken the judiciary and accountability institutions remains to be seen, but one thing is very clear: The damage that has been done to the economy, the judiciary and the democratic system is gradually becoming irreversible.

Opposition leaders like Rana Sanaullah, Nawaz Sharif, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Asif Zardari can be held behind bars with controversial accountability witch-hunts and weak court decisions, but this will not change the fact that Imran Khan has failed miserably, while the undeclared coup staged by the establishment has also failed. But it may be that the establishment will have to negotiate with Sharif and Zardari in the near future, as US President Donald Trump, who gave a lease on life to the bleeding economy of Pakistan through the International Monetary Fund, is relying heavily on Pakistan to achieve a safe and face-saving exit from Afghanistan. Trump surely knows that if the political and economic crisis continues to prevail in Pakistan, the establishment will not be able to focus on Afghanistan, and this could dent his future prospects for winning the presidency again in next year’s US election.

A testing time lies ahead as far as establishment hegemony and its current undeclared coup is concerned, while Imran Khan is destined to be sacrificed as a pawn at some stage of the game. In the long run, it seems that Sharif will be the winner, and that his daughter Maryam Nawaz will carry his legacy with the help of the vibrant vote bank in Punjab. The problem remains that until then, Pakistan will suffer heavily on the economic and foreign fronts, and who knows how heavy a price it will have to pay for the misadventures of the establishment and its ally Imran Khan?

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