An(other) Attempted Assassination
The decade-and-a-half-old memories recently returned to Pakistan. Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto (June 21, 1953 – December 27, 2007) was assassinated after addressing a political rally in Rawalpindi’s Liaquat National Bagh on the eve of the 2007 Parliamentary Elections. Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi (b. October 5, 1952), another former Prime Minister, was shot in the leg by a gunman while delivering a speech to his supporters at a rally in Wazirabad on November 3, 2022. Khan was leading a march to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, demanding snap elections after he was ousted. It is a great relief that the cricketer-turned-politician has survived, and the Police detained the assailant.
Attacks on public leaders, especially in political gatherings convened in accordance with democratic norms, are highly reprehensible. In a broader sense, it is a blow to democracy. Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif (b. September 23, 1951), the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the main political opponent of Khan, has ordered an investigation, while the US Secretary of State has urged all the political parties of Pakistan to rise above violence. The External Affairs Ministry of neighbouring India, too, has issued a statement, saying that New Delhi is closely monitoring the political situation in Pakistan.
The recent attack on Khan has heated up the domestic politics of Pakistan. The diplomatic relations between Islamabad and New Delhi are also bound to be affected due to the political instability in Pakistan. Imran Khan, as a former cricketer, is popular in neighbouring India. Majority of the Indians were happy when he became the Prime Minister in 2018, as they thought that Khan would try to normalise bilateral ties. However, it did not happen during the Prime Ministership of Khan. Instead, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the Pakistan-based Deobandi Jihadist militant group that is widely considered as a terrorist outfit, reportedly launched a suicide attack on an Indian Army convoy in 2019. The former Pakistani PM also issued a statement that year after the Government of India revoked the special constitutional status of the northern province of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of India’s Constitution, and repealed of Article 35A, which had allowed the Province to define permanent residents of the place and certain special rights and privileges attached to such residency. Khan, even, snapped trade ties with India, triggering a diplomatic crisis.
Ever since the fall of his Government, Imran Khan has been accusing current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif of hatching conspiracy against his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Party with the help of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI; the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan). He has also blasted the top military leadership of his country for joining hands with PM Sharif. Military intervention in Pakistani politics is a common phenomenon, as the Army is still the main controller of power there even 75 years after Independence (1947). The influence of ISI, fundamentalist militant groups and the judiciary, too, is there. All these factors combine to determine the fate of the ruler of Pakistan, and Khan, as a critic, is no exception.
Despite the tussle for power and the complex diplomatic equation with India, the shooting incident on Khan remains condemnable. The attack on the leader of an Opposition party has exposed the real condition of democracy in Pakistan, yet again. Hopefully, Khan is dealing with the incident democratically. The Pakistani Administration, too, has lifted the ban on live telecast of his press conference.
Now, the Global Community is waiting to see whether the attack on Khan is properly investigated. The outcome of the investigation shall have a great impact on Pakistani Politics in the coming days.
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