Pakistan crisis: Why Imran Khan remains popular despite failing on most fronts as prime minister

Pakistan crisis: Why Imran Khan remains popular despite failing on most fronts as prime minister

Pakistan’s democracy has been in turmoil ever since it was carved out of undivided India in August 1947.

Pakistan’s democracy has been in turmoil ever since it was carved out of undivided India in August 1947. Unlike India, whose biggest asset has been a vibrant functioning democracy, Pakistan has been under army rule for almost half the period of its existence since Partition.

Ayub Khan, the first Army General to become head of state in 1958, ruled Pakistan till demonstrations and labour strikes supported by protests in East Pakistan led to his resignation on 25 March 1969. He was succeeded by Yahya Khan, another general in the Pakistan Army who served as president of Pakistan from 25 March 1969 until his country’s defeat in 1971 war with India that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh from erstwhile East Pakistan.

After a short period of civilian rule, in 1977, Gen Zia-ul-Haq overthrew the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was later executed in 1979. Gen Zia ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988 till he died mysteriously in a helicopter crash.

The next Army chief to take over the reins of Pakistan was Gen Pervez Musharraf, who was president of that country from 1999 to 2008. It is ironic that Gen Zia was appointed as the chief of the Pakistan Army by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto whom he overthrew, and likewise Musharraf was selected by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was later arrested by Musharraf and forced into exile.

Pakistan crisis: Why Imran Khan remains popular despite failing on most fronts as prime minister
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Even during the period when an elected government ruled Pakistan, the army played a pivotal role in the affairs of the state, especially defence and foreign policy.

In fact, the Generals in Pakistan have evolved politically and are smarter than Pakistani politicians; they mostly facilitate the election process and government formation under their preferred leader and thereafter nudge him to govern the country their way for obvious commercial reasons. The army runs 50 commercial entities. The Fauji Foundation grew by 78 per cent between 2011 and 2015 with an annual income of $1.5 billion.

The United Nations has ranked Pakistan 150 out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI), with one-third of the population living below the poverty line. To evade accountability, the Generals have realised that it is better to control an elected government than rule the country directly.

It is evident from the above that while all countries have armies to defend their territorial integrity and core values, the Pakistan Army has a ‘country’ that defends the personal interests and the wealth of the army’s hierarchy. The army keeps its continued relevance and disproportionate budget allocation from the national budget by continuously harping on threats from India.

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