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Civil war in Pakistan is imminent – wide ramifications for the whole region

23/05/2022 at 2:56 PM

Arun Joshi

A near-imminent threat of civil war breaking out in Pakistan is staring at the country. This is what Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has hinted at against the backdrop of his predecessor  Imran Khan’s threat to launch an “Islamabad march” beginning May 25  to protest against what he calls “ imported government” and to press for his demand for early elections in the country. Imran Khan is not reconciled to his ouster through a no-confidence motion in the National Assembly in early April and has been trying all tricks to destabilize the government, in the belief that he would win hands down the elections. His belief stems from the large crowds that have attended his anti-government rallies where he has rallied his supporters against the machinations of the US to have him removed from the government. his foreign conspiracy theory has divided the country and his long march to Islamabad has stirred the fears of civil war in Pakistan.  It is a quite ominous scenario for Pakistan and all the neighbouring countries, including India.

Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday told media in Lahore, “ Imran Niazi wants to initiate a civil war in the country. But he is mistaken. the nation will never forgive him and will hold him by the collar,”  This was no ordinary person commenting on the situation in Pakistan, it is the PM of the country. One could have taken it as a diatribe against the political opponent who day in and out is increasing troubles for the coalition government, but it is no small matter when the PM reflects on the situation heading toward civil war. This is a too scary scenario for any head of the government to paint about his own country.

Civil war as perceived in Pakistan has two connotations – one of, course, is the hyper Islamic nationalism tapped by Imran Khan, who claims that he was ousted as part of a foreign conspiracy that did not want him to stay in power because he had stood for the sovereign status of Pakistan, refused to tailor his policies suiting the foreign powers. Here he was talking about the US and had named  State department official Donald Lu for having conveyed it to the Pakistani ambassador to the US  that if Imran Khan continues as PM, Pakistan will have to pay a very heavy price, but things could change if  Khan is out of the government. The US has rejected these charges as untrue, but Imran Khan is sticking to these, for this theory serves two purposes for him – he projects himself as the real and honest leader of Pakistan, who refused to succumb to pressures from the US  vis-à-vis Afghanistan and then on his visit to  Moscow on February 24,  the day Russia invaded  Ukraine. This is a political assertion. It gels with the anti-American sentiment prevailing in various sections of the country, as Pakistanis feel that the US has used Pakistan as and when it needed it, but then dumped it once its usefulness was over. Alongside, Imran is championing the cause of Muslims and the dignity of the Muslim Ummah against Islamophobia being propagated by the west. This has religious overtones and this seeks to rally Muslims not only against the America – the “ conspirator”  against him but also against the “ collaborators”, the coalition government led by Shehbaz Sharif.

The peddling of the “conspirators and collaborators” theory works to his advantage politically and religiously, where he is portraying the men and women in the government- PML ( N) and PPP-  as stooges of America and, hence anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam. This they versus us is at the roots of the apprehensions of the civil war.

Sharif is not knowing the answers, to how to stop the long march of Imran Khan to Islamabad, the capital, where the former Prime Minister has threatened will stage a sit-in till his demand for early elections is met. This threat, in itself, is a stage for confrontation – one between Imran’s PTI supporters, most of whom are the youth enamoured of his image as a clean politician, committed to what they believe, Pakistan’s integrity and supremacy of  Islam with the government. Since the government owing to its fragility and lack of control over the system will be faced with certain handicaps n controlling the huge crowds that Imran has threatened to bring to Islamabad. The government-level confrontation is one part. Second, there is a strong possibility of the workers of the government parties taking on to themselves to check the “long march to Islamabad”.

These two situations open up a still grimmer possibility of the army intervening in the matter to avert the clashes, but that, in itself is a very bad situation – the army coming in between the protestors and supporters of the government, or, alternatively there is a possibility of army stopping the march. In both the situations, the army would be seen as taking the political space, physically and politically. That presents a very grim situation for Pakistan, and for neighbours, particularly India, it would mean that there will be greater difficulties in store for dealing with a destabilized Pakistan under the direct control of the army.

As has been the experience of  India in the past, whenever Pakistan is caught in such situations, it ratchets up the anti-India rhetoric and anti-India activities.  That is the most convenient thing for Pakistan to do and that is what should make Pakistan’s neighbours worried.  Civil war is worst thing to happen to Pakistan at this juncture because it has far-ranging ramifications beyond the boundaries of Pakistan .

About the Author:

Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.


This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com.

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