Pakistan’s crisis poses a big threat to the region
Its political and economic free-fall raises the risk of instability not only within the country but also in its neighbourhood as non-state actors get emboldened and ratchet up activity
Allegations of drug abuse and questions over the mental health of former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan even as its ruling dispensation plans to transfer the cases against him to military courts and ban his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, are signs of an all-out attack to finish him politically. Khan has alleged that the establishment, backed by the all-powerful military, is doing so because it fears his popularity. The swell of people that protested earlier this month does seem to suggest he has wide support. Add to it, there has been no official word on elections in the large Punjab province despite being due. This lends weight to his claims of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML)-N government under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, possibly avoiding a political test. Indeed, while the country has had a record of internal strife, the open attacks on its military establishment suggest dissatisfaction levels have reached boiling point. Khan would have hoped for the protests to rage on. For some time, they did, taking authorities by surprise. But they now seem back in control. As the forces crack down with an iron hand, Khan has been isolated, with many top party leaders deserting him. While he isn’t giving up yet, his stand has evidently softened, urging talks, only to be rebuffed.