Imran Khan Assassination Attempt is Nothing New for Pakistan
The world was shocked on November 3 when Imran Khan, the former prime minister of Pakistan, was shot multiple times in the leg during a protest. Along with Khan, ten protesters were injured, of which one has since died. Whilst Khan is expected to make a full recovery, the motive for the violence is under close investigation. Khan claims that at least two people could have been shooting at him and that he suspects that the administration of the current prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, had a hand in the attacks. The Sharif administration completely denies these claims, stating that they have found the perpetrator, a man named Mohammad Naveed. Unfortunately, this is far from the first time political violence or instability has been seen in Pakistan—not a single democratically-elected Pakistani prime minister has ever finished a full term.
Former Pakistani PM Imran Khan
The assassination attempt is not the first time this year that incredible political turmoil has impacted Pakistan. On April 10, Khan was ousted in a no-confidence vote and replaced by opposing party leader and current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Initially, Khan blamed his ousting on US interference and claimed that it was the US’s revenge for Pakistan not standing with them on foreign policy issues. Despite these claims, there is no proof that the US had any involvement in the no-confidence vote and Khan has since walked back claims of US involvement. There have been many protests since Khan’s removal from office and he continues to agree publicly on the sentiment that he should be back in power.
Pakistan’s history has been marred by political conflict across its 75 year history as an independent nation. Along with repeated tensions with India, its own internal issues have repeatedly prevented democracy from being fully implemented. The first Pakistani prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, was assassinated in 1951 after being shot in the chest twice. He was four years into his five-year term, making him the longest serving Pakistani prime minister.
After Khan’s term, no other prime minister finished their full, elected-to term. Some resigned amidst fears of no confidence votes or fears of being ousted. Others were ousted or worse, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was executed after a coup and sham trial. Three military coups have occurred, and three prime ministers were removed by a president who did not agree with their administrations. Due to the continuously tense political climate, violent unrest is not uncommon in Pakistan. The recent assassination attempt on Former Prime Minister Khan has sparked an unsettling atmosphere in the country as their are thoughts that the assailants in this attack may have allies who will attempt to try again, or a completely separate group who will be inspired by these acts of political violence, similar to the assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto.
Not all of Pakistan’s administrations and regimes have been democratically elected, but non-democratic regimes also tend to end in violence. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq took power in 1977 after deposing and eventually executing Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and he held control over the nation until his untimely death in 1988. Zia-ul-Haq’s regime was highly controlled, banning all opposing political parties and kept the nation under martial law for a majority of his reign. In 1988, Zia-ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash that many believe was sabotaged on purpose by political opposition.
Pakistan’s next elections are not until mid-to-late 2023, but Khan is calling for early elections in response to what he believes is a corrupt removal from office. Khan is still incredibly popular among his supporters and is generally well-liked by the people of Pakistan. Protests against the no-confidence vote and his removal from office didn’t stop after the assassination attempt–they continued with full force.
Political turmoil is just one of the looming threats of danger in Pakistan and the country also reels from recent devastating floods that absolutely decimated parts of Pakistan. Increased rates of malaria, cholera, and other waterborne diseases have been reported, and international relief organizations worry about the lasting humanitarian and health effects from the floods. Despite this, Pakistan has no plans to change their responses to the floods besides putting increased pressure on the UN for help. As the nation floods, politics haven’t changed much. Politicians, such as Khan, have made attempts to increase humanitarian aid whilst also using it as an opportunity to slander their opponents. As the parties wage war over whose administration is legitimate, their people drown and suffer. Between the lasting effects of the floods, the political instability, and the economic debt the floods left the nation in, the 2023 elections are bound to be consequential for the nation.