“We must understand today the cruelty the people of the East were subjected to,” Imran said last week following his brief arrest by paramilitary forces that was declared “illegal” by the Supreme Court.
Critics said Imran’s comparison is a stretch, but it affords a perspective to the Baloch insurgency and a resurgence of Pashtun nationalism, which Islamabad has struggled to contain since 1971. The Baloch separatists claim the military brass and Punjabi politicians exploit the mineral-rich areas for personal profit.
The fighting Pathan hopes to exploit Pashtun sentiments and his “illegal arrest” can only further his campaign.
This comparison has cropped up at various fora to describe Pakistan’s political, constitutional and financial crises, making the point that the socioeconomic and political maltreatment of the Bengali people by the civil-military elite of West Pakistan was similar to Pakistan’s current crisis.
The breaking point evidently was the unwillingness of authorities in West Pakistan to hand over power to the democratically-elected Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman whose Awami League took 167 of the 169 seats allocated to East Pakistan in the combined house of 300 in 1970, the first free elections held in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s army generals and most West Pakistani politicians were unprepared to transfer power to Mujeeb. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto—his Pakistan Peoples Party won a majority in West Pakistan—made a public call to boycott the assembly session. The transgression fuelled resentment in the eastern wing, which ultimately led to the movement for independence.
The Imran-led opposition compares to 1970 the reluctance of the Shehbaz Sharif government to conduct elections following en masse resignation of legislators from National Assembly and the dissolution of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces in January. Elections within 90 days of dissolution of an assembly is a constitutional requirement.
Khan warned authorities to avoid repeating mistakes of 1971, asserting the country’s armed forces were being deliberately pitted against PTI. The Shehbaz Sharif government has backed the army’s move to prosecute under martial law Imran’s supporters for attacks on military installations following his arrest in an alleged graft case.
“Everyone knows Mujeeb and party won the 1970 general elections. Instead of handing over power, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto set Awami League and the army on a collision course in his greed for power. Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are playing a similar role,” claimed Imran, who heads Pakistan’s largest party today.
Pakistan crisis: A rattled Islamabad targets Gilgit Baltistan after its failure at reigning in Imran supporters