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Friday May 24, 2024

Social media campaign against army could backfire on PTI

Defence sources say that they have all the evidence on how these smear campaigns against the army and its chief have been run

By Ansar Abbasi
April 27, 2022
Imran Khan. Photo: The News/file
Imran Khan. Photo: The News/file

ISLAMABAD: Imran Khan and his PTI are pursuing a policy of pressurising the military establishment to intervene and hold early elections. However, signs are that the defence forces are determined to remain apolitical on this issue.

The tactics being used by a sizeable number of Tehreek-e-Insaf social media followers -- recently dubbed by Imran Khan as his “social media warriors” —may, however, backfire mainly because of the malicious campaign launched against the army and its chief.

The country’s military establishment is clearly unhappy over these social media campaigns. Defence sources say that they have all the evidence on how these smear campaigns against the army and its chief have been run. Details are expected to be made public ‘at the right time’.

A senior PTI leader, while talking to The News, insisted that the PTI leadership has nothing to do with such campaigns, but he admitted that the party wants to bring pressure on the establishment to pave the way for early elections. Contrary to what the PTI leaders say, the military establishment claims to have concrete evidence showing otherwise.

In his speech at the Lahore rally last week, the PTI Chairman Imran Khan, without naming the establishment, had said that ‘whoever made the mistake’ of ousting him can rectify their mistake by holding early elections. Observers say that Imran Khan was sending out a clear message to the establishment.

When approached, defence sources said that the military establishment will maintain its apolitical stance and will in no manner pressurize anyone to hold early elections. These sources said that all such issues need to be discussed and decided by the politicians among themselves.

The PTI is planning a march on Islamabad, to be followed by a 2014-like sit-in to press its demand for immediate elections. The 2014 sit-in was believed to have the support of the military establishment but even then, it could weaken but not oust the Nawaz Sharif government.

It is yet to be seen whether PTI’s recently announced sit-in will be able to influence the Shehbaz Sharif government to hold early elections—especially at a time when the PTI’s social media ‘warriors’ have already annoyed the establishment because of their anti-army campaigns.

According to some PTI leaders, this situation is worrisome for them as well, and there is a realization and debate within the party that targeting the army and its chief will not do any good to the Tehreek-e-Insaf. For this reason, PTI sources said that some party leaders have recently spoken out in favour of the Army and its importance to Pakistan.

These sources said that Imran Khan has not only said it in public but also privately argued that the Army is more important for Pakistan than even himself. He said that without the Army, Pakistan could not survive.

It is, however, pointed out by some political observers that neither Imran Khan nor any of the party’s top leadership has condemned the PTI’s social media team and party supporters for waging the smear campaign against the army and its chief.