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The ouster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has led to an unprecedented backlash against the country’s all-powerful military establishment. People have expressed anti-army sentiments after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan accused the military of planning his downfall along with the United States. In rallies held across Pakistan, protesters have raised slogans in support of Khan and against the military.

One of the slogans raised by protesters is “Anyone who is friends with America is a traitor” translated from “Amreeka ka jo yaar hai gadaar hai,” New Lines Magazine reported.

It is pertinent to note here that Imran Khan became the first Prime Minister in Pakistan’s history to be ousted from power after losing a no-confidence vote. Presently, anti-army sentiments are highly visible in Pakistan. People continue to voice their opinion against the military on social media despite accounts being suspended and arrests being made of people accused of planning anti-army campaigns on the internet. After Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa traveled to the United States in October, hashtags like BajwaHasToGo and BajwaTraitor trended on social media, accusing General Bajwa of following US orders in Pakistan.

Last week, the chief of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Agency (ISI), for the first time in the nation’s history addressed the press conference to speak about ARY News senior anchor Arshad Sharif’s killing and Imran Khan’s statements against the military.

Speaking at a press conference, “spymaster” Lt. Gen. Nadeem Anjum sitting alongside Lt. Gen. Babar Iftikhar said that the army and security agencies were not traitors.

The development comes after Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued a notice to the ARY News over the statement broadcasted by the channel of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) politician Shahbaz Gill, according to New Lines Magazine.

Speaking on air, Gill said that senior army officers should ignore their military leaders if they have been directed to do anything against the interests of the people. The PEMRA said that statements made by Gill have been “tantamount to inciting the rank and file of armed forces towards revolt,” as per the New Lines Magazine report.

Shahbaz Gill was later detained in Islamabad and Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah informed that Gill was arrested on charges of sedition and abetting mutiny. ARY News senior anchor Arshad Sharif who interviewed Gill was also charged with sedition for peddling an anti-state narrative. Sharif was shot dead by local police in Kenya on October 23. Kenyan Police claimed that Sharif’s killing was a case of mistaken identity. However, many in Kenya and Pakistan raised doubts over reports of the death of a senior journalist, with some activists claiming that it was a hit job. The incident further fueled the anti-army sentiment in Pakistan.

The tussle between the Pakistan army and PTI Chief started after General Bajwa condemned Russia for launching an offensive in Ukraine while the then Prime Minister Imran Khan was in Moscow. General Bajwa’s statement came at the time when Khan was facing a no-confidence vote hinted that the army and PTI-led government were no longer on the same page.

Amid his fallout with the Pakistan army, Imran Khan claimed that he was making efforts for an independent foreign policy for Pakistan and accused the US of plotting against him. Recently, an audio clip of Imran Khan and a senior party member surfaced on social media which revealed that the two leaders were discussing plans to use a US conspiracy narrative. Khan said that the leaked conversation took place in PM’s house and called it a “breach of national security” which he insisted posed a threat to the nation. His political party PTI also filed a petition at the Supreme Court demanding a judicial investigation into the matter, New Lines Magazine reported.

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