Pakistan, where the year-long political tumult exploded on May 9 with the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, finds itself once again at the crossroads with the nation torn and polarised on the way forward.
On the one hand is the populist Khan, who turned his grouse against the present and previous Army chiefs into a raging mass resentment against the Army, with mobs torching military symbols in previously unseen demonstrations of anger against the country’s most powerful institution.
On the other is the Pakistan Army, which sees itself as the final arbiter of the nation’s destiny, and constantly asserts its will to secure its pre-eminent position. In the process, it has removed elected governments at will to take on the reins of government, or has sought to rule through proxies.
This time, in a punishing crackdown, the Army has all but dismantled Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Faced with the prospect of jail or worse, a trial in a military court, many prominent second rung leaders have quit. Scores of his supporters have been jailed.
Is this is the end of the road for Khan? In the violence of May 9, there were rumours of divisions in the topmost echelons of the Pakistan Army, and speculation of a coup within the Army against the Army chief. Does the tough Army response to the violence indicate that these reported divisions have been cemented? Will elections be held in Pakistan this year, and will Khan be allowed to contest? What role is the Shebaz Sharif government playing in all this? Will Nawaz Sharif return to lead Pakistan? Pakistan’s economy is on the edge of a Sri Lanka-like meltdown. What is the country’s way out of these multiple crises? What does this all mean for India?
T C A Raghavan, India’s former High Commissioner to Pakistan, will discuss these questions and more on Wednesday at a session of Explained.Live titled Breakdown in Pakistan. He will be in conversation with Nirupama Subramanian, National Editor, International and Strategic Affairs, The Indian Express.
Raghavan’s expertise on Pakistan was honed over two postings – before his stint as High Commissioner from July 2013 to December 2015, he served as Deputy High Commissioner from 2003 to 2007– and in between, as head of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk at the Ministry of External Affairs.
A 1982-batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service, Raghavan was also the High Commissioner in Signapore from 2009 to 2013.
Since his retirement in 2015, Raghavan, who studied history at Jawaharlal Nehru University and was a awarded a PhD, has written three critically acclaimed books: Attendant Lords, Bairam Khan and Abdur Rahim- Courtiers and Poets in Mughal India, awarded the Mohammad Habib Memorial Prize by the Indian History Congress in December 2017; The People Next Door- The Curious History of India’s relations with Pakistan; History Men: Jadunath Sarkar, G.S. Sardesai, Raghubir Sinh and their quest for India’s Past. He also led the Indian Council of Foreign Affairs as its Director-General from 2018 to 2021.