By implicating ISI general in plot to kill him, Imran has taken his battle to GHQ

by IANS |

New Delhi, Nov 12 (IANS) By directly implicating a senior intel official in the alleged plot to kill him, the former Pakistani Prime Minister has taken the battle to GHQ, political commentator Zahid Hussain has said.

Imran Khan's insistence on nominating the intel official, along with the Prime Minister and interior minister, as a suspect in what he describes as a "plot to kill him" has intensified his confrontation with the security establishment, Hussain wrote in an article in 'Dawn'.

Unsurprisingly, the allegation drew a scathing rebuttal from the ISPR.

In a statement, the military rejected the accusation as "baseless and irresponsible" and warned that allegations against the senior army officer and the institution are "absolutely unacceptable and uncalled for".

The military has also urged the government to take action against the former Prime Minister for maligning the security institution.

Hussain said such scathing public exchanges are rare. "They clearly show the growing hostility between the former Prime Minister and his erstwhile patrons," the article reads.

His aggression against the military leadership denotes no breakthrough in "back-channel talks" with the generals. Apparently, the demands presented by Khan were believed to be unacceptable to the establishment. His rising populist support seems to have added to Khan's hubris.

Pakistan journalist Hamid Mir said in an article in Friday Times that it isn't a secret anymore that Imran Khan wanted to use the military for his political gains. "When the army refused to be used in the name of its constitutional limitations, Khan became furious."

The former premier tried to negotiate a deal with General Bajwa after the no-trust motion came to the Parliament, but it failed.

Once ousted from power, he once again attempted to ink an agreement with the COAS via President Dr. Arif Alvi, but to no avail. It was at this time when he began to directly criticize Gen Bajwa and some other officers, Mir said.

The gun attack on Imran Khan has pushed the country deeper into anarchy. The would-be assassin may have been arrested but the motive behind the shooting remains shrouded in mystery. The former prime minister has been quick to blame the top government leaders and a senior ISI official for plotting the attack. He has named names, Hussain said.

It seems to be a well-calculated move to step up the pressure on the security establishment on the eve of a critical transition in the army high command.

Imran Khan's letter to the president calling upon him to act against the "abuse of power and violations of our laws and of the Constitution", and to delineate "clear operational lines" vis-a-vis the ISPR has accentuated the political divide, it added.

Khan's appeal to the President for action seemed to have been triggered by last month's unprecedented media briefing by the ISI and ISPR chiefs where the former Prime Minister was censured for his "false foreign conspiracy narrative".

The stand-off between the PTI and the security establishment also worsened after the alleged custodial torture of former federal minister Senator Azam Swati.

The elderly senator who was arrested by the FIA in October in a case registered against him over a controversial tweet is now out on bail. He has accused two senior intel officials of being involved in the alleged crime.

Umer Farooq wrote in Friday Times that there are people in Islamabad and Rawalpindi who believe that Nawaz Sharif's aggressive campaigning against General Bajwa was aimed at creating unrest among Pakistani Punjabi middle classes, from which most of the officer corps of Pakistani Army are drawn.

"This unrest would have built pressure on the top brass whose junior and senior ranks are from middle classes in central Punjab. Nawaz Sharif miserably failed and General Bajwa got off the hook. But Sharif had shown the way."

When Imran Khan was ousted, he embarked on a similar path to destabilise Central Punjab and its middle classes - the same middle classes from which the majority of the officer corps of Pakistan Army are drawn. Reports in the media suggest that Imran Khan's political message got more receptive ears inside the army organisational structure, Farooq said.

According to observers, the boldness and aggressiveness of Imran Khan's political campaign suggest that he is either being egged on from within the organisation or he knows that ranks and files are being generally affected by general unrest in the middle classes of Central Punjab, the article said.

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