Attempt on Imran Khan's Life: Has Pakistan Army Lost Popular Support?
Multiple polls over the years have found that the Pakistani military has traditionally enjoyed widespread popular support in the country. This support has been particularly strong among the urban middle class Pakistanis who have now become the backbone of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party which has accused the Pakistani military of orchestrating an assassination attempt against the former Prime Minister. The events of the last several months, particularly this week's assassination attempt on the PTI chief's life, are forcing the people to choose sides. By-election results and huge attendance of the PTI rallies confirm that most of the people are supporting Imran Khan over the military.
|Pakistan's Ex PM Imran Khan and Current Army Chief General Bajwa|
Some Pakistani political analysts have long speculated about the possibility of the loss of public support for the Pakistani military. Back in 2019, I met Sohail Warraich, a senior journalist and political analyst as well as a popular host of "Ek Din Geo K Sath" aired on Geo TV channel. Warraich was visiting Silicon Valley to record an episode of "Ek Din Geo K Sath" with a successful Pakistani entrepreneur named Osman Rashid. Warraich said he believes the rise of Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) were enabled by the support of the military and the middle class. Middle class support for the military will eventually fade and there will eventually be conflict between the two. It could lead to significant political changes in the country.
Osman Rashid invited me and a few other Pakistani-American friends to meet Warraich over dinner at his Los Altos home. In response to my question about about the current state of affairs in Pakistan, Warraich shared his insights below:
1. Pakistan's middle class is rising and increasingly asserting itself in politics.
2. The Pakistani military is the most dominant force in the country. It enjoys broad support among the middle class Pakistanis.
3. The rise of Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) have been enabled by the support of the military and the middle class.
4. Middle class support for the military will eventually fade and there will be conflict between the two. It could lead to significant political changes in the country.
Will there be yet another Martial Law in the country? Past Martial Laws in Pakistan have had the support of the people. A Gallup poll conducted immediately after the 1999 coup showed that 75% of respondents supported the military takeover, while less than 10% supported restoring Mr. Nawaz Sharif's government. The situation today is very different. It is more likely today that the Pakistani military will back down and concede to Imran Khan's demand for fresh elections.