How the Pakistani military feel about Imran Khan after protests

It started off as a regular Tuesday evening. Komal, the wife of a Pakistani army officer stationed in a conflict zone, was chopping vegetables for dinner while her two young daughters watched TV.But their military compound, arguably one of the safest p…

It started off as a regular Tuesday evening. Komal, the wife of a Pakistani army officer stationed in a conflict zone, was chopping vegetables for dinner while her two young daughters watched TV.

But their military compound, arguably one of the safest places in Pakistan, was about to feel very unsafe.

Komal was surprised when her husband rang, much earlier than usual. He told her to keep the doors locked, because military quarters across the country were being attacked by supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. In Lahore, the residence of a lieutenant general had already been set ablaze.

"If they could brazenly attack a general's house, will ours be next? The thought of it sent shivers down my spine," says Komal, who doesn't want to use her real name.

She immediately locked the doors and windows and put food in the storeroom in case they had to hide. She even thought about how to exit the apartment if it was set on fire - could she jump out of the second-floor window with her daughters?

"When I watched videos of the protests, it terrified me," Komal says. "I have never felt so insecure and vulnerable."

But she was also torn - as a staunch Khan supporter, she felt let down.

"I and many others had supported Imran Khan, hoping for a change, but now, I feel betrayed by the very person I had championed. His irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric fuelled the hatred and violence that has rocked this country," she says.

Deep-rooted narrative

The protests were an unprecedented challenge to Pakistan's powerful military who have ruled the country for several decades, with three military coups since independence in 1947. Although military rule officially ended in 2008, many believe that the army remains the kingmaker behind politicians. And Mr Khan was widely believed to have their blessing.

Even before his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party came to power in 2018, Khan was known as the "military's darling". His critics say that he was portrayed by the army's social media teams as Pakistan's saviour, and the only leader who would stand up to dynastic politicians and a corrupt ruling elite.

After Khan and the powerful military establishment fell out and he was ousted from power last year, the narrative was so deep-rooted that it didn't change the minds of many in the army's rank and files.

Army medical officer Gul, who speaks on the condition of anonymity, is apolitical but now furious at Khan's supporters. On the night of the riots she was away on duty while her parents were home with her children.

"I wished I were with them. I thought, what if they are attacked or injured or, God forbid, killed? I can't express what was going in my head. I couldn't sleep the whole night. This was all traumatising, especially for a mother who is away from her children," she says.

But many in the army continue to support Mr Khan, who has remained the most popular political figure not just among civilians, but also within military rank and file.

"If given a choice, among the current politicians, it is no-one else but Imran Khan I'll vote for," one officer told me, on condition of anonymity.

Another officer also still supports the former prime minister.

"I really feel sorry for what happened at the general's residence in Lahore, but we don't know who did it - Imran Khan says his party workers didn't initiate the attack. But nothing has changed my opinion towards Imran Khan. I still support him as a voter and will continue to do so. For me, he is a motivation and a true leader," she says.

A senior officer from a security agency, who did not want to be named, says he regularly fields political questions from his subordinates, whose opinions are also informed by the internet and social media - and who sometimes question the military's influence in how the country is run.

"They want concrete evidence that the military establishment does not meddle in politics. They ask questions about its role and we have to answer them convincingly," he says.

Retired officers, influential in shaping the army's image, also strongly support Mr Khan. Raja Shahryar, a former officer who retired 15 years ago, voted for him in 2018 - the first time he had ever cast a ballot.

"My perspective has not changed but the events of the past few days have angered me because the PTI leadership failed to contain the protesters from attacking government installations and property. They should have acted better than the rest," he says.

After the attacks, the army was quick to show a united front. A spokesperson for the armed forces appeared on the Pakistani TV channel Geo News saying the army and its chief believed in democracy.

"The army is united, despite propaganda by extremists and enemies both inside and outside the country," he said.

Resentment against the military

But the country is divided. Shahryar says he has never before witnessed "this level of political polarisation and expression of resentment against the military".

And while many military families feel a line was crossed when their cantonments were attacked, and some police officers injured, PTI supporters feel law enforcement went too far.

More than 10 protesters were killed during the demonstrations on 9 May.

Tariq Nasir spent an hour searching for his brother Omer in a government hospital in Quetta. The 26-year-old had been protesting outside the military's cantonment area in the city, when he was killed.

"There was a lot of teargas shelling. Omer was holding salt and water in his hands for people who were affected. He was unarmed, and peaceful, only exercising his right to hold a peaceful protest. They shot him right in his head. Why was he shot when he was unarmed?" he asks.

Like many others, including Mr Khan himself, Nasir claimed that those who threw stones at police or attacked army installations were not really PTI supporters. He suspects foul play.

The army has announced that those involved in attacks on army installations will be tried in military and anti-terrorism courts.

Videos of men apologising for vandalism, claiming it was at the request of PTI leadership, are being circulated by police authorities. But many allege they are being coerced into recording such videos.

Mr Khan has said those who attacked military installations were not PTI members and has asked the judiciary to form a commission to investigate the matter.

However, dozens of his party leaders and close aides - some of whom were arrested and later released - have also abandoned Mr Khan, condemning the attacks on a general's house and other military installations.

"My brother died while doing a peaceful protest," says Nasir. "When he was killed, he had Khan's flag around his neck. He lived for him and he died for him. He wanted a better Pakistan and Khan was his hope. One day, his dream will come true. And maybe, only then, we will get justice."

Pakistan's powerful military establishment has long been blamed for interfering in politics, installing and removing governments. Ruling parties have also been accused of using state machinery to violently remove political opponents.

Resentment at both the army and the politicians is rising within law enforcement, too.

"Like them, I also wear uniform, and I know them all. They think they are above the law. Only Khan can correct them," a police officer told me.

"And what do we expect from these politicians? Just a decent salary each month to afford our basic needs. Is that too much to ask for? They have also failed us. The military or politicians, they are all too busy fighting amongst themselves, and the country is going to the gallows."

Source: BBC

Taliban Move to Address Pakistan’s Cross-Border Terror Complaints

Taliban authorities in Afghanistan announced their plan Sunday to move thousands of Pakistani refugees away from border provinces amid sustained allegations the displaced population is the source of growing terrorism in neighboring Pakistan.Zabihullah …

Taliban authorities in Afghanistan announced their plan Sunday to move thousands of Pakistani refugees away from border provinces amid sustained allegations the displaced population is the source of growing terrorism in neighboring Pakistan.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the chief Taliban spokesman, told VOA by phone that the refugees currently reside in Khost, Kunar and some adjoining Afghan border provinces.

"The Islamic Emirate plans to relocate them to far-flung provinces (in Afghanistan) to ensure they don't have access to the (border) lines nor are they involved in attacks or any other acts of violence that happen in Pakistan," Mujahid said, using the official title of the Taliban government. He did not elaborate.

The plan comes amid a dramatic surge in cross-border militant attacks in Pakistan since the Taliban reclaimed power in Kabul almost 22 months ago. The violence has killed hundreds of people, mostly Pakistani security forces, especially in districts near the Afghan border.

The outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), allegedly operating out of Afghan soil, has claimed credit for much of the deadly violence.

Hostility on Sunday

The latest hostility occurred Sunday in the volatile North Waziristan border district, where the Pakistani military said that a security raid against a "terrorists' location" had killed two soldiers and two militants.

Officials in Islamabad maintain fugitive TTP leaders and fighters, along with their families, reside among tens of thousands of Pakistanis who have taken refuge in Afghanistan after fleeing a 2014 large-scale counterterrorism military operation in the Waziristan border district of Pakistan.

The Norwegian Refugee Council estimated in an October 2019 report that most of the approximately 72,000 Pakistani refugees settled on Afghan soil were living in a makeshift camp in Khost on the border between the two countries.

Islamabad presses Kabul

Islamabad has been pressing Kabul to rein in cross-border TTP violence and complaining that the group enjoys "greater operational freedom" after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Pakistani officials say that members of the Afghan Taliban have also been helping TTP carry out cross-border attacks.

Mujahid and other Taliban officials have repeatedly denied allegations they are allowing any group to threaten Afghanistan's neighbors, including Pakistan or any other country.

While Mujahid did not name TTP in his comments Sunday, a top Pakistani official told VOA last week that the Taliban had recently told Islamabad they intend to "relocate TTP members" from the border areas to remote Afghan provinces.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah added that the Taliban proposal could limit the access of TTP to Pakistan. He did not elaborate.

The militant group, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, claims its insurgency in Pakistan is aimed at overthrowing the government, calling it "un-Islamic."

Washington has also outlawed TTP as a global terrorist organization.

Settlement negotiations collapse

TTP is an offshoot and close ally of the Afghan Taliban. It provided shelter on Pakistani soil and recruits to the Afghan Taliban as they waged insurgent attacks on U.S.-led international troops and the former Afghan government for almost two decades until they seized power in 2021.

Shortly after taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban hosted talks between TTP leaders and Pakistani officials to negotiate a settlement. But the process collapsed last November when the Pakistani Taliban terminated a unilateral shaky cease-fire with the government and has since intensified its violent campaign.

The violence has strained Pakistan's relations with Taliban-governed, landlocked Afghanistan, which heavily relies on land routes and seaports of the neighboring country to conduct bilateral and transit trade activities.

Source: Voice of America

Two Soldiers, Two Terrorists Killed In Encounter In NW Pakistan

At least two terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces yesterday, in Pakistan’s Bannu district of north-west Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the military said.The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan arm…

At least two terrorists were killed in an encounter with security forces yesterday, in Pakistan’s Bannu district of north-west Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the military said.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan army, said that, the exchange of fire took place during a search operation in the Janikhel area of the district.

The personnel of the security forces killed two terrorists during the exchange of intense fire, and also confiscated weapons and ammunition from the site. Two soldiers of the Pakistan army also lost their lives.

The ISPR added that, the country’s armed forces are determined to eliminate terrorism

Source: Nam News Network

Govt committed to resolve problems being faced by people: Mubashir Iqbal

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Rana Mubashir Iqbal says government is taking practical measures for the solution of problems being faced by the people.Addressing an open katchery in Lahore on Sunday, he said that PML-N has will steer the country …

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Rana Mubashir Iqbal says government is taking practical measures for the solution of problems being faced by the people.

Addressing an open katchery in Lahore on Sunday, he said that PML-N has will steer the country out of crisis.

He said that PML-N initiated the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, Gwadar Port and other development projects in his previous tenure.

Source: Radio Pakistan

British magazine ranks AIOU 1st among 66 Pakistani varsities in quality education ranking

British magazine Times Higher Education has ranked Allama Iqbal Open University the first among 66 Pakistani varsities in quality education ranking for 2023.Globally, AIOU ranked 25th among 1304 international universities in this category being the on…

British magazine Times Higher Education has ranked Allama Iqbal Open University the first among 66 Pakistani varsities in quality education ranking for 2023.

Globally, AIOU ranked 25th among 1304 international universities in this category being the only university from Pakistan to make it into the top 25 global institutions of higher education.

Keeping in view last year's rankings, AIOU jumped to the first place from 20th in Pakistan and 25th from 400-600 in this year's rankings.

Source: Radio Pakistan

Pakistan to export more seafood, agro products through KKH to Chinese market: Ambassador Haque

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Moin-ul-Haque says Pakistani and Chinese governments are making joint efforts to bring more Pakistani seafood and agro products through Karakoram Highway to the Chinese market.He stated this while commenting on Pakistan’…

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Moin-ul-Haque says Pakistani and Chinese governments are making joint efforts to bring more Pakistani seafood and agro products through Karakoram Highway to the Chinese market.

He stated this while commenting on Pakistan’s first-ever land containerized seafood cargo which successfully arrived in Xinjiang through Karakoram Highway.

Ambassador Haque said facilitating trade and exports of Pakistan’s high-quality products through the Khunjerab border was Pakistan and China’s shared objective.

Source: Radio Pakistan

Hajj monitoring team to provide the best facilities to Hujjaj of private scheme: Farid

The high-level monitoring team, responsible for overseeing the arrangements for Hajj conducted by hajj group organizers, has made a firm commitment to ensure the provision of facilities to private scheme hujjaj in accordance with the service provider …

The high-level monitoring team, responsible for overseeing the arrangements for Hajj conducted by hajj group organizers, has made a firm commitment to ensure the provision of facilities to private scheme hujjaj in accordance with the service provider agreement.

In an interview with Radio Pakistan’s correspondent in Makkah Javed Iqbal, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Arshad Farid who is in charge of the monitoring cell, stated that the ministry's monitoring team has effectively conducted assessments of 12 hajj group organizers.

In the upcoming 20 days, a total of 75,000 intending pilgrims from the private hajj scheme will arrive in Saudi Arabia.

It is noteworthy that, up until now, no complaints have been received from any private intending pilgrim.

Source: Radio Pakistan

China-Pakistan joint exhibition showcasing cultural art of Gandhara enters final phase

The three-month long China-Pakistan joint exhibition offering a glimpse of the ancient Gandhara art and culture has entered its final phase at the Palace Museum in Beijing.The exhibition titled Gandhara Heritage along the Silk Road lasting till 15th o…

The three-month long China-Pakistan joint exhibition offering a glimpse of the ancient Gandhara art and culture has entered its final phase at the Palace Museum in Beijing.

The exhibition titled Gandhara Heritage along the Silk Road lasting till 15th of this month, has jointly been organized by the Palace Museum and Department of Archeology and Museums, National Heritage and Cultural Division, and supported by Pakistan Embassy Beijing.

The exhibition also included a multimedia presentation, art installations, and interactive activities to help visitors understand the cultural history of the region.

Source: Radio Pakistan