Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan's statement regarding the people of Pakistan welcoming a military takeover has come in for panic criticism from all political parties, but the unfazed former cricketer has not withdrawn or qualified his scandalous view.
The word in Islamabad is that Imran Khan hopes to become an army-installed Prime Minister, having failed to win the post electorally.
On July 17, while addressing a public rally in Islamgarh in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Khan said, "Democracy in Pakistan is threatened by Nawaz's monarchy and the people will celebrate and distribute sweets if the army takes over."
The obsequious statement by Imran, seemingly to curry favour with the Army, comes close on the heels of banners and posters that appeared in 13 cities across the country urging the Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif not to retire in November this year as scheduled, but to "stay on" and impose martial law.
Rumour mills are abuzz that the two events, that is Imran Khan pathetic plea and the mysterious springing of propaganda posters are linked. Half-hearted attempts have been made by the establishment to delink itself from the poster-drama. Islamabad Police has registered a case under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 124A (sedition) and 505 (inciting for disruption of public order) against unknown suspects, even though the claim in the posters was clearly made by the Move on Pakistan Party.
The office bearers of the party, including Chairman Mohammad Kamran and party associates Ali Raza and Asif Iqbal, have been granted anticipatory bail by the Islamabad High Court.
But a buzz has been created for an army takeover in Pakistan. People in Islamabad have seen a clear pattern emerging which is reminiscent of earlier occasions when the army deposed elected governments.
Imran has been roped in to constantly harp on the theme of Nawaz Sharif being ill and incapable of completing his term.
Television anchors and debating heads have started talking of power tussles in the Sharif household.
Imran Khan tweeted, "In Pakistan, democracy is threatened by the Badshahat of Sharifs who are trying to build a dynasty. People of Pakistan must rise to defend democracy."
Ironically his definition of democracy is army rule. At the rally in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Khan said the army wasn't a threat to democracy, but Sharif was.
Former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Faisal Kundi, said Imran's statement was tantamount to inviting a 'dictator' to topple an elected government.
An outfit that calls itself the Pakistan Justice Party (PJP) supposedly filed an application in a Lahore police station to register a case against Imran Khan under Section 124(A) sedition, as his statement calls for the toppling of a democratically-elected government.
However the police station mysteriously says it has received no such application. Kaptaan Khan clearly has the blessings from the GHQ at Rawalpindi to speak their mind.
Politicians are nervous now that Imran is trying to get a backdoor entry as a puppet Prime Minister in an army-ruled Pakistan.
Awami National Party (ANP) Senior Vice President Haji Mohammed Adeel said, "What Imran has stated may be true in view of the politics of PTI, Pakistan Awami Tehreek or Pakistan Muslim League-Q. But for the supporters of political parties like ANP, PPP or Pakistan Muslim League-N, who have faced immense hardships during dictatorial regimes, can never think of supporting any undemocratic move."
It will be interesting to see how many people from civil society, politics and lawyers come out in open support of Imran Khan's statement.
Clearly, the former cricket captain-turned-politician was not merely kite-flying here. He has been in politics too long to make random statements about the army without getting it cleared by GHQ.