Special Strategic Discussion- “Assassination attempt on Imran Khan and its Implications on India"
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Vivekananda International Foundation organized a Special Strategic Discussion on the topic “Assassination attempt on Imran Khan and its Implications onIndia” on 9th November 2022. The event was attended by Shri S Gurumurthy, Chairman, VIF, Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF, Lt General R K Sawhney, Mr. Tilak Devasher, Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma, Amb. Ajay Bisaria, Amb. Satish Chandra, Mr. Raghvendra Singh, Shalini Chawla, Brig Rahul Bhonsle, Mr. Rana Banerji and Mr. Sushant Sareen.

On November 3, Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot at in both legs during a rally in Wazirabad. He was leading a highly publicized march called HaqeeqiAzadi or real freedom movement to the capital to press for early elections. Though Khan escaped with bullet wounds to his legs from an assassination attempt, massive protests erupted in front of Peshawar after the attack. The assassination attempt on former PM Imran khanhas pushed Pakistan into deeper crisis. There have been looming questions around who’s behind the attempted assassination attempt. Imran Khan has claimed that that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, and Major-General Faisal Nasir- an intelligence officer conspired to have him killed. The immediate reaction of military and the intelligence was that such accusations are “baseless and irresponsible”. However, it is also been debated that the attack was self-staged by Imran Khan and he is the biggest beneficiary of it. Further there have been reports that it was a lone wolf attack. The self-confessed attacker Muhammed Naveed has stated that he shot Khan as he was "spreading hatred and misleading the people", as well as making "blasphemous and anti-religion" remarks. In fact his phone records reveal that he was influenced by sermons of Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leaders Khadim Rizvi and his son Saad Rizvi.The attack does reflect a case of religious extremism, which is increasingly rising in Pakistan.

Events in Pakistan have been tailspin since April 2022 when Imran Khan was ousted through the no-confidence motion. There are four reasons, which has added to the political uncertainty in Pakistan, first was the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) disqualifying Imran Khan on 21st October 2022 in the Toshakhana case. Second was the Khan announcing Long March with the purported aim of calling for fresh elections. Third was the unprecedented appearance of Pakistan’s DG ISPR, ISI chief holding a press conference and rebutting Imran Khan’s false statements and allegations. Fourth was the recent attempted assassination attempt against Imran Khan, which has added to the chaos in the country.

It is pertinent to note that Imran Khan shows no sign of backing down. His popularity has been on the rise as his narrative has struck right chords with the masses. With the help of smart information warfare Khan has managed to paint himself as the victim. It will be interesting to see if the Imran Khan doesn’t back down and continue with the confrontation, how will army react. There has been a discussion of army being highly divided and weak. Thetiming of the crisis in Pakistan is sensitive for the military as the current army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa is set to retire this month. Imran Khan had been suggesting that the transition shouldn’t take place until the next election, so he could have a chance at appointing the next army chief instead of Sharif. Further the appointment of a new army chief prompts a new set of challenges, especially amidst an economic crisis and climate catastrophe.

The discussants deliberated upon the various probable scenarios ahead for Pakistan. The first could be Imran Khan continues with his narrative against the incumbent government by organizing rallies and mobilizing the masses, leading to the military and government agreeing to his demands for fresh elections. However the possibility of fresh elections seems highly unlikely. Though there have been reports of backchannel talks between Imran Khan and government and Imran Khan and army. Second scenario is that the instability continues and the current government buys time till the 2023 elections. They are expecting that Imran Khan’s popularity will fade away with time. Lastly, there is a possibility of military intervention and emergency sort of situation in Pakistan. As far as India is concerned as Pakistan goes deeper to into the abyss, it will have strategic and security implications for the country. No regime change in Pakistan will impact India and Pakistan relations, which remain at the lowest ebb. Political situation in Pakistan is heading towards a flashpoint and there is going to be prolonged instability in Pakistan for the times to come.

Event Date 
November 9, 2022

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