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Pakistan Seeks to Ban Imran Khan’s Party for Criticizing the State



Pakistan Looks to Ban Imran Khan's Party for Criticizing the State

Pakistan is considering barring former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party for criticizing the state, the defence minister said on Wednesday, a move that is sure to outrage his followers and aggravate his feud with the military establishment.

The former cricketer is embroiled in the next critical phase of a decades-long battle between civilian leaders and Pakistan’s powerful military, which has ruled directly or indirectly over governments throughout the country’s history.

The confrontation has sparked widespread rallies by Khan’s followers, raising new concerns about the nuclear-armed country’s stability as it grapples with its worst economic crisis in decades.

According to Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has targeted the “very foundation of the state,” which cannot be permitted. “It is under consideration to ban PTI,” he added, adding that a government decision to outlaw the party would require final approval from parliament.

The minister was referring to Khan’s protesters who attacked military installations, including army headquarters and government offices, earlier this month.

Khan was elected Prime Minister with the tacit assistance of the military in 2018, but both sides denied it at the time. The military perceived Khan’s conservative, nationalist programme as more likely to preserve its interests.

However, Khan then lost out with the generals after being accused of interfering in critical security promotions, and he was deposed as prime minister after losing a confidence vote in 2022.

Khan, 70, has been campaigning for a sudden general election since then, mobilizing supporters across the country, but the prime minister who replaced him, Shahbaz Sharif, has rejected the call for an election before the one scheduled for late this year.

Khan is also facing corruption charges, which he has denounced as fabricated in an attempt to remove him from politics. He was arrested on May 9 in connection with the charges, provoking protests and attacks on military sites by his followers.

Khan was eventually released on bond. On Tuesday, anti-corruption agents questioned him for almost three hours.

US Ties with Pakistan’s Military

The United States has had a complex and evolving relationship with the Pakistan military over the years. The ties between the two countries have been influenced by various factors, including geopolitical considerations, regional security dynamics, counterterrorism efforts, and support for stability in South Asia.

Historically, the United States has provided military assistance to Pakistan since its creation in 1947. During the Cold War, Pakistan aligned itself with the United States, serving as a key ally in the region against the Soviet Union. The U.S. provided military equipment, training, and financial aid to strengthen Pakistan’s military capabilities.

However, the relationship has also faced periods of strain and turbulence. In the late 1970s and 1980s, during the Soviet-Afghan War, the U.S. significantly increased its military and financial assistance to Pakistan to support the Afghan mujahideen fighting against Soviet forces. This assistance included the provision of weapons, training, and financial support. It is important to note that during this period, Pakistan served as a conduit for the U.S. to channel aid to the Afghan resistance.

Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. reduced its engagement with Pakistan, leading to a decline in military assistance. Tensions between the two countries emerged over concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and suspicions of its support for militant groups, such as the Taliban.

After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the U.S. once again engaged with Pakistan, this time in the context of the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan became a key partner in the U.S.-led coalition’s efforts to combat terrorism and dismantle Al-Qaeda. The U.S. provided significant military and financial aid to Pakistan to support its counter-terrorism operations and to enhance its military capabilities.

However, the relationship continued to experience challenges. The U.S. expressed concerns about Pakistan’s alleged support for militant groups operating in Afghanistan, accusing Pakistan of providing safe havens to the Taliban. These concerns, combined with other issues, including the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011 without prior notification to Pakistani authorities, strained the bilateral ties.

In recent years, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has undergone further shifts. The Trump administration suspended security assistance to Pakistan in 2018, citing concerns about its alleged support for militant groups. However, efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan and bring peace to the region led to a reengagement between the two countries.

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the U.S. had resumed some military aid to Pakistan, including the delivery of military equipment and ongoing cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts. However, the nature and extent of the current military ties between the U.S. and Pakistan may have evolved since then, and it would be advisable to refer to the most recent sources for the latest information.

Khan’s Move towards China

Imran Khan, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, pursued closer ties with China after coming into power in August 2018. The relationship between Imran Khan’s government and China was characterized as a strong strategic partnership with a focus on economic cooperation and infrastructure development.

China and Pakistan have a long-standing relationship that dates back to the 1950s. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has become a key aspect of their partnership. CPEC aims to enhance connectivity between China’s western region of Xinjiang and Pakistan’s Gwadar Port through a network of infrastructure projects, including highways, railways, energy projects, and the development of Gwadar Port itself.

Imran Khan’s government has actively promoted and supported CPEC as a game-changer for Pakistan’s economy. The investment and development projects under CPEC are expected to bring economic growth, create job opportunities, and address infrastructure deficiencies in Pakistan. The Chinese government and Chinese companies have pledged billions of dollars for CPEC projects, which are seen as crucial for Pakistan’s development and regional connectivity.

In addition to economic cooperation, China and Pakistan also maintain close diplomatic and military ties. Both countries engage in regular high-level exchanges and have expressed mutual support on various regional and international issues. China has been a consistent ally of Pakistan in international forums, including the United Nations Security Council.

It’s worth noting that the close relationship between Imran Khan’s government and China has attracted both praise and criticism. Supporters argue that the partnership offers significant economic opportunities and contributes to Pakistan’s development. Critics, on the other hand, raise concerns about potential debt burdens, environmental impacts, and the influence of China in Pakistan’s internal affairs.

Overall, Imran Khan’s government has prioritized strengthening ties with China, particularly through the implementation of CPEC. This partnership is expected to continue shaping Pakistan’s economic and strategic landscape in the coming years.

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