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Editorial: The May 9 Fallout

The battle between Imran Khan and the military establishment has reached a new peak

by Editorial

Screengrab of PTI supporters gathered in Lahore Cantonment

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s tirades against the Army achieved their inevitable goal last week when his supporters targeted military installations and buildings, including the Lahore Corps Commander’s house, ransacking and leaving them in ruin. The Corps Commander’s house, also known as Jinnah House, saw the worst of the violence, with rioters setting it on fire after looting it of all manner of “valuables”—from strawberries to paintings to golf clubs. One rioter even looted a peacock from the residence, while another paraded the Corps Commander’s uniform before the gathering. The rioters were seemingly granted free hand, with law enforcers absent throughout the destruction. This “revolution” was televised, with footage of the ransacking doing significant damage to the PTI’s political narrative. Seemingly realizing the turning tide, Khan has denied any involvement of his party—despite video footage proving otherwise—abandoning supporters who rioted for his release.

Multiple social media posts and interactions with media establish that the rioters’ target was the Army, who Khan has repeatedly accused of “betraying” him in the vote of no-confidence that led to his ouster. The same military once facilitated his rise to power but his disastrous foreign policy decisions—from alienating China to accusing the U.S. of a “regime change conspiracy”—saw it changing tack. The attacks on military buildings have cemented this disenchantment, uniting the military against a PTI that it states has “accomplished in one day what the enemy could not in 75 years.”

Khan has yet to offer an unqualified condemnation of the chaos triggered by his arrest even as a crackdown against his party—seemingly supported by the Army—continues nationwide. Has the PTI chief lost the battle with the Army? Or does he retain sufficient following within the ranks to return to the establishment’s good books? No one knows, but one thing is clear: there has been a reassessment of the senior leadership after the latest unrest. However, amidst all this rancor, Pakistan’s biggest concern, its struggling economy, has fallen by the wayside. The upcoming fiscal year’s budget is due next month and with foreign reserves barely sufficient for a month of imports, there is little expectation of relief from a populace burdened by inflation and caught between political instability that shows no signs of abating.

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