10/27/2022, 12.16
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Islamabad, Imran Khan continues to stir politics: but the economy pays the price

The former premier and cricket star announced another march for early elections. He then claimed that the killing of journalist Ashrad Sharif in Kenya was targeted. The intelligence chief for the first time spoke directly to the media. International rating agencies fear that the current political instability will fuel the economic crisis.



Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Former Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to agitate the country's political life, generating concerns about the already precarious economic environment. The leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (Pti) party has announced that from tomorrow he will lead a protest march from Lahore to the capital - where he is expected to arrive on 4 November after travelling 380 km - demanding early elections. 

Last week, his supporters organised small protests against the Election Commission's decision to deprive him of his seat in Parliament. Khan is accused of abusing the office of premier between 2018 and 2022 by selling and receiving gifts of state property worth 140 million rupees (more than 635,000 euros). However, the authorities did not disqualify the 70-year-old former cricket champion from running for public office again, as some had initially speculated. The disqualification from political life in Pakistan can be up to five years.

The beginning of this saga can be traced back to April, when the parliament with a vote of no confidence removed Khan and formed a new government led by Shehbaz Sharif. Since then, the PTI leader has continued to mobilise his supporters to call for early elections, despite the fact that the government has already responded that the elections will be held as planned in the autumn of next year. 

However, Khan has continued to argue that it was an international conspiracy led by the United States that decreed the end of his government. Then he started attacking judges and opposition members and accusing the Pakistani army and intelligence (which has always played a leading role in politics) of plotting against him. Now the mainstream parties seem to have no idea how to handle the situation. 

In the past few days, Khan stated that the killing of the well-known journalist Ashrad Sharif in Kenya was targeted and that he knew his life was in danger. 'I received information that they were going to kill him,' said the former premier, adding that the journalist had exposed the corruption of the families of Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, both well-known politicians.

At a historic press conference this morning, the head of the intelligence service (Isi), Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum, and Major General Babar Iftikhar, Director for Inter-Services Public Relations (Ispr), fearing that the situation could escalate, wanted to make it clear that 'fact, fiction and opinion must be differentiated'. This is the first time in the country's history that the head of the spy agency has addressed the media directly. Iftikhar presented the information gathered so far about the reporter and said that despite Sharif's negative criticism of the army, 'we had no negative feelings about him and have no such feelings now'.

Imran Khan's support base is made up of urban Pakistanis disillusioned with the historic parties: the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) from which the current prime minister comes (but from which his brother Nawaz Sharif, who served as prime minister three times, also came), and the Pakistan Peoples Party, led by the family members of former political leaders Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

Khan had been supported by the Pakistani army precisely because he presented himself as an alternative to the country's corrupt and dynastic politics, but he was unable to present concrete solutions to the country's problems, primarily the economic crisis: the value of the rupee immediately eroded after Khan contravened the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund and reimposed fuel subsidies. Pakistan's historical allies such as China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have refused to lend to cover the 6 billion foreign debt.

After the floods of recent months, Pakistan is even more in need of international aid to revive its economy. But rating agencies fear that the current political instability will only fuel economic uncertainty.

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