Major dissidents, including former and current lawmakers of Pakistan, have called the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan a ‘military puppet’. He accused the powerful army of lack of stability in the country, insecurity and inability to walk with neighbors. Pashtun leader and former senator Afrasiyab Khatak even gave in the ‘Fifth Annual Conference of South Asian Against Terrorism and for Human Rights’ (SAATH) that ‘undeclared martial law is in force in Pakistan’.
SAATH is a group of pro-democracy Pakistanis founded by former Pakistan Ambassador to the US Hussein Haqqani and US-based columnist Dr. Mohammad Taki. According to a statement, SAATH’s annual conferences were held in London and Washington in the past, but this time the conference was digitally attended. It said that the participants described Prime Minister Khan as a ‘military puppet’.
Members of the group include leaders, journalists, bloggers, social media activists and people associated with civic institutions. Many of these are forced to remain in exile in various countries. According to the statement, Pakistani security services have tried to disrupt SAATH meetings in the past and also banned foreign travel of its members living in Pakistan, but this year the meeting in digital format has many prominent dissidents living in the country. Faces also participated in it.
Addressing the conference digitally from Pakistan, Khatak said, “It is the most dangerous martial law in Pakistan because it has exposed and distorted constitutional institutions.” He said, “The current military system is limiting the country’s political institutions and the situation is that intelligence agencies are instructing MPs when to attend the session and when not to vote.”
Haqqani said that Prime Minister Khan had recently accused him and SAATH of accusing him of undermining Pakistan internationally. He said, “Pakistan is losing ground internationally because of its policies to promote terrorism and suppress freedom, not because of activists voicing for human rights.” Several speakers at the conference also raised the issue of suppressing various minorities in Pakistan and denying them rights.