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Surya Gangadharan
Tuesday , November 08, 2011 at 15 : 26

Is Pak army behind the rise of Imran Khan?


Has Imran Khan's moment finally arrived? The euphoric press reports from across the border suggest that "Im the Dim" as he's sometimes called, is on a roll. Question: Is the army backing him? In fact, Imran's sudden rise may help explain some recent developments in Pakistan.

According to a US-based analyst, the army's biggest worry today is the prospect of its Pashtun brethren breaking away to cast their lot with the Afghan Pashtuns, their kinfolk. There's enough bad blood the Punjabis have accumulated over the decades. More recently of course, it has been the bombing by the Pak Air Force and the relentless US drone strikes that have killed several Taliban commanders but many more innocent civilians. The mood in the tribal badlands clearly is not very forgiving. Add to that, the analyst says the army is no longer able to influence the course of events across the Durand Line. It means that while it controls Mullah Omar, it's not sure about scores of other commanders.

Here's where Imran Khan could be useful. He's as Pashtun as they come, unsullied compared to other politicians and singing the army's preferred tune: No to American pressure, end the drone attacks and strike peace deals with the Taliban in Waziristan.

To a section of the army upset over the dilution of its anti-India battle plan, Imran's declaration that the Indian Army should be thrown out of Kashmir would seem doubly welcome. This at a time when public sentiment has downgraded India to Public Enemy No.2 status with Washington moving into first place. But the anti-India section maybe the only 'united' lot in the Pak army. There's the section which is pro-America anti-Jihadi, then the Anti-American pro-Jihadis and others. The ISI, he believes, shows the same divisions. In that sense, General Kayani no longer disposes, somebody else does.

Oddly, Washington still appears to believe that Pakistan is the preferred horse to back, notably in Kabul. The alternative is the regional players taking over, namely Russia, China, Iran and India which would leave no room for Washington. In that sense, a Pakistani hold over Kabul still gives America hope!


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More about Surya Gangadharan

Surya Gangadharan is International Affairs Editor at CNN IBN and was in Egypt to cover the anti-government movement. He has covered wars in Afghanistan, the UN intervention in Somalia and Rwanda, elections in Pakistan and the civil conflict in Sri Lanka where he interviewed the top leadership of that time. He has worked for the Straits Times Group in Singapore and also for PTI, the Indian Express and India Today in India.