Imran Khan regime in Pakistan may unravel this year

New Delhi: During 2022, political crises and economic meltdown in Pakistan are likely to intensify thereby resulting in regime change or mass protests which will pose yet another challenge to the country with serious implications for security and foreign policy choices, Friday Times reported.

The ‘hybrid regime’ that has been governing Pakistan since 2018 became hostage to internal contradictions and external pressures throughout 2021.

On the political front, the ruling PTI government led by Imran Khan lurched from one crisis to another; and was repeatedly rescued by the military establishment, the report said.

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“Since the return of (diluted and now hybrid) parliamentary democracy in 2008, no Prime Minister has been able to complete his term, be it Yusuf Raza Gillani of Pakistan People’s Party or Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. The looming question at the start of 2022 is: how and why will Imran Khan be an exception to this trend? Even a bigger question is how would such instability lead to economic recovery?”

The unraveling of the hybrid regime which is already underway will not be completed without a major political crisis. The year 2022 is when the incumbent army chief Qamar Ahmed Bajwa retires and his successor has to be appointed by the Prime Minister.

“The Prime Minister in 2021 by dragging his feet on the issue of notifying the new DG of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) made his choices rather clear. Not unlike the past, the civilian Prime Minister will get embroiled in a long drawn out conflict with the most powerful institution about this transition. This will be the driving force that will either push Khan out of power or will consolidate him for the future,” the report said.

For Pakistan getting the IMF and international finance markets on board will be a major challenge that would require US intervention or assurances that will have to be agreed upon by both the civil and military leaders. Managing this tricky process may result in further friction within the hybrid regime and it will be a real test for the Prime Minister to navigate these trouble waters, the report said.

The success of opposition parties in the by-election, local bodies polls should have been an eye opener for Khan and his party that bulldozing new laws and rules without a consensus would get a serious backlash, it added.

The year 2022 will also be a year when the Pakistani military establishment attempts to reset its relationship with political forces, the media and the civil society.

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