Why is Imran Khan so desperate to return to power in Pakistan? After all, his party, the PTI, did well in recent elections, even in strongholds of the traditionally dominant parties. Is he concerned that the present regime will dig up enough dirt to send him to jail? He has been blaming just about everybody – from the US to the Pakistan Army and the political elite – for his abrupt removal from office. Indeed, there was a lot of drama – be it in the courts or behind closed doors, when he was ousted. Some of it quite dramatic, if narratives are to be believed, including Imran being roughed up by Army men to persuade him to quit his post.
Imran’s politics has serious fundamentalist tones, with his stated goal being revival of the ‘Riyasat-e-Medina’ of Prophet Mohammed’s times. This has drawn into his fold a particular section of Pakistanis, who remain loyal despite the fact that what he actually provided when in power was economic collapse, and confusion regarding relations with important patrons such as the Chinese and the US. A country almost entirely dependent on foreign aid cannot afford his populist declaration on behaving as an equal to the world’s great powers.
As in the case of any narcissistic leader, over time he has become excessively paranoid, seeing conspiracies, first to remove him from office and, then, to take his life. The attempted assassination on 3 November will further stoke this paranoia. He has already threatened civil war if elections are not called and this could become a reality with PTI leaders issuing calls for violence after the shooting incident.
Pakistan has had a difficult time under the present regime in obtaining financial relief from international agencies. Some headway has been made in renewing relations with China, which has promised to continue support to the economy. For the country to collapse into political turmoil at such a critical time would be unacceptable to all those concerned about its well-being. It can be expected, therefore, that the Shahbaz Sharif regime and the Army would be on the same page. However, if matters are brought to a head, martial law cannot be ruled out, with which Pakistan will regress further in the effort to establish democracy. The ordinary people, already going through difficult times, will be greatly worried about the direction matters are taking and hoping that the ongoing polarisation does not further split an already much divided nation.