Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, has accused the country’s powerful military and intelligence agency of openly attempting to dismantle his political party. In a candid interview at his Lahore residence, Khan expressed his conviction that he would be tried in a military court and subsequently imprisoned.
While Khan had previously hinted at the military’s involvement in a crackdown on his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, his recent remarks were the most direct yet. When asked about the crackdown’s instigators, Khan unambiguously stated, “It is completely the establishment.” He clarified that by “establishment,” he was referring to the military establishment, as their actions were now out in the open for all to see.
In response to Khan’s allegations, the military, which has exerted control over Pakistan either directly or indirectly throughout its 75-year history, did not provide any comment when approached by Reuters.
The strained relationship between Khan, the country’s most popular leader according to polls, and the military reached a critical point when military buildings and properties were reportedly vandalized by his supporters last month. This political unrest has heightened the uncertainty in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation with a population of 220 million, already grappling with financial turmoil. The country’s $350 billion economy is struggling to avert default, manage soaring inflation, and stabilize its depreciating currency.
Khan denounced the violent protests that ensued after his brief arrest as a “false flag operation” aimed at targeting him. Authorities have initiated legal proceedings against numerous individuals, including PTI members, suspected of involvement in the protests. These cases are being tried in military courts, typically reserved for military personnel or those deemed enemies of the state.
“They want to imprison me; that’s the only way they are going to get me into prison,” Khan asserted, emphasizing that the military’s objective was to prevent his return to power in the upcoming November elections. He dismissed the approximately 150 criminal cases filed against him as baseless and likely to be dismissed in a civilian court.
“I am fully convinced that the military courts are intended for me,” affirmed Khan, who is currently out on bail. Amnesty International has previously raised concerns about Pakistan’s military courts, citing disregard for due process, lack of transparency, coerced confessions, and executions following unfair trials.
Regarding the crackdown, Khan specifically implicated Pakistan’s most powerful intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), asserting their deep involvement. According to Khan, two senior members of his party were summoned by the agency and coerced into renouncing their affiliation with PTI.
Khan revealed that he had attempted to initiate dialogue with the military to resolve the ongoing crisis but received no response. He expressed bewilderment over the army chief, General Asim Munir, being fixated on sidelining him. Munir had previously served as the head of the ISI before assuming the role of army chief in November 2022. Notably, Munir was abruptly removed from his position as ISI chief in 2019 during Khan’s tenure as prime minister. Khan acknowledged for the first time that he had desired Munir’s resignation but did not provide further details.
Khan questioned the motive behind the campaign against him, expressing surprise that someone with his longstanding prominence in the country, having received numerous accolades and being widely recognized as a prominent Pakistani, is now being treated as an alien and an enemy of the state.