Imran Khan and the Army: How Pakistan is Back to Square One

Throughout the period since his ouster in April 2022, Imran Khan tried to involve the army once again in politics.

4 min read
Hindi Female

Military trials or proceedings – we don’t know what to call them because of the opacity involved – against officers involved in the attempted coup against army chief General Asim Munir, have been completed.

Apart from being fired, we do not know what other punishments, if any, have been meted out. 102 civilians have also been handed over to the army for court martial proceedings. The debate over military trials of civilians rages on as the Supreme Court hears several petitions, including former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s, against this violation of human rights.

But the Court led by Chief Justice Omar Atta Bandiyal (an Imran Khan loyalist) is simply going through the motions with no intention of looking into the actual question before it.


Though a loyalist, Justice Bandiyal dare not examine the Army Act or the Official Secrets Act and rule against them being applied to civilians, because he is a heavily compromised man. In all proceedings thus far, he has made it clear that he will focus on procedural matters alone, not the principle. Justice Bandiyal is said to have committed not to stand in the army or the parliament’s way any further, on the condition that he is not exposed or tried, and allowed to retire with all the extravagant benefits of a Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Another point to note is that Imran Khan’s own government allowed military trials of 24 civilians, three of whom got death punishment. Further, none of the eminent appellants nor advocates representing them filed any such petitions before the court when human rights activists and non-PTI civilians were being court-martialled during Imran Khan’s tenure.


Involvement of the Army 

The army is all in all right now, General Asim Munir has shot from a weak chief to an extremely powerful one and is calling the shots, with the government and parliament kowtowing to him.

But how did all this come to pass?

Throughout the period since his ouster in April 2022, Imran Khan tried to involve the army once again in politics in a bid to have it prop him back into power.

He spared no tactic, from plain abuse (janwar) to treason (Mir Jaffar) to religion (Allah doesn’t permit neutrality in the fight between good and evil) to begging (meetings with the then army chief Gen Bajwa, and now appealing for meetings with Gen Munir), to defiance and violence (events of 25 May 2022 in Islamabad and March 2023 petrol bombs on the police in Lahore), accusations of the murder of his supporters (Zille Shah and many others who died in accidents or natural deaths), accusations at the current army brass of plotting and attempting to kill him, and then finally, the insurrection or attempt to overthrow the army chief on 9 May 2023 with the help of colonels and corps commanders within.

Nothing worked, and Imran Khan is now royally trapped. His plan of a coup failed, and he had no Plan B. The army he wanted to involve in politics to support him, finally become involved – but to crush him; to crush the monster it created for its own benefit, but which became its nemesis. Spot the double irony here. The judiciary which was aiding and abetting Imran Khan went so far out, nakedly meting out illegal judgments in his favour, that it ended up losing him from its jurisdiction and becoming Coram non judice.

It is not difficult to imagine the seething and increasing anger of the army at the protection of the judiciary, which was given to a man who was constantly abusing, accusing, maligning, and threatening it, inciting hatred against it amongst the public, and fomenting revolt within its ranks.

The Events of 9 May 

9 May was a case of spy versus spy. Imran Khan had planned the violent coup against Asim Munir, but Munir and the top brass knew of his plans (after all 23 secret services) and instead of foiling it, laid an intricate trap.

Mind, the trap was not for him alone, but also for the offending officers within and the main facilitators within the judiciary. Army personnel and the police were ordered to show restraint on the day of Imran Khan’s arrest, which of course was chosen by the army. 

My article published in this space on 10 May outlined how both the army and police would allow the PTI (and colluders within the army) to commit the planned crimes against the army itself, collect evidence, and then prosecute. This was most likely designed to spring the coup makers from the jurisdiction of civil courts and land them solidly in their own jurisdiction. Thus, by over-leaning in his favour, the judiciary has ended up cooking Imran Khan’s goose.

The judges who would then give bail and allow further mayhem leading to a coup were also being surveilled. The Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (DG-ISPR), Maj. General Ahmad Sharif Chaudhry’s reference to ‘facilitators’ and ‘obstructors’ in his press conference on Monday was a clear allusion to the sitting Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan.

The timing of his presser too was aimed at making the CJ a lame duck, who concluded his court proceedings Thursday with ‘hope’ and ‘expectation’ that the military trials would not begin till his final decision, but he did not dare stay the military trials of civilians.

A strong message to the Chief Justice was that if we can punish our senior-most officers, their wives, granddaughters, and sons-in-law, then you or your kith and kin can have no hope either, simply because of the class you belong to.

The minute the presser was announced, I knew what was going to be announced and tweeted the essence of it.


Tragically, Pakistan is back to square one where civil-military balance is concerned. Leaving aside the power games, ordinary Pakistanis have ended up in hybrid regime 2.0 with civil liberties lost, that neither the civil government nor the parliament is pushing back.  

(Gul Bukhari is a Pakistani journalist and rights activist. She tweets @GulBukhari. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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Topics:  Imran Khan   Asim Munir 

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