Islamabad: After Imran Khan's ouster as Prime Minister, Pakistan has again been reminded that the main power lies in the hands of the Army Chief.

The pattern began with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was elected as the PM in the year 1973. He misused his power as he established a private security organisation to bust heads whenever the Army refused. He began the jihad in Afghanistan in 1973 by exploiting Islamist Afghans and in 1973, he launched a brutal army operation in Balochistan which resulted in thousands of civilian casualties. Then in 1977, he rigged elections to ensure another term. As violence engulfed the country, General Zia-ul-Haq, the Army Chief, who was appointed by Bhutto, deposed him in a coup.

Bhutto was convicted for the murder of a political opponent and went to the gallows. After this Zia assumed the office of the presidency and introduced many controversial provisions such as the eighth Amendment and its Article 582b which empowered the President of the country to dissolve the National Assembly, besides calling Pakistan a Sunni Islamist state. Under domestic and international pressure to hold elections, Zia selected Muhammad Khan Junejo.

The amendments made by Zia weakened the powers of the PM. Zia was confident that Junejo would listen to him but he refused to accept some of the Army Chief's orders like signing the Geneva Accords in April 1988 which led to the conflict in Afghanistan.

In May 1988, Zia dissolved the Parliament and dismissed Junejo. Democracy returned in Pakistan with the Benazir Bhutto reign but it also didn't last long as President Ghulam Ishaq Khan invoked the Eighth Amendment and prorogued Parliament citing mis-governance and corruption. Although Bhutto again became the PM after the Supreme Court interference, her government was again dismissed by President Farooq Leghari, whom she personally selected, presuming him to be loyal. Troops surrounded her home and her husband Asif Ali Zardari and arrested Zardari as he tried to leave for Dubai. He was convicted of various crimes and was in prison until 2004.

In 1997, when Nawaz Sharif came to power, he appointed General Pervez Musharraf, believing that the Army Chief would have less institutional support and thus would pose less of a threat. Sharif and Musharraf launched many army operations against India like the Kargil war. Despite their good bond, Sharif attempted to oust Musharraf while he and his wife were on a plane returning to Pakistan from Colombo. Sharif's government refused to let his plane land, which was tantamount to a death sentence for Musharraf and the other passengers. The Army moved in swiftly. Musharraf ruled Pakistan until 2007.

Imran Khan, like Nawaz Sharif himself, is a political creature of the army. After the ouster of Nawaz Sharif, the army was left with only one option and that was Imran Khan. Khan did not seem to appreciate the failure of his governance reflected poorly on the army because it was the army that emplaced him and it was widely understood that Khan was the army's man. And his relationship with army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa began to deteriorate in 2021 largely because of Khan's shambolic governance, rampant inflation and unemployment; corruption allegations undermined the army's own standing.

The tension between the two became visible when Khan was in Russia to meet Vladimir Putin on the day of the invasion (Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24). This very visible rupture between the two gave the signal to the Opposition that it was possible to oust Imran Khan. The Opposition jointly submitted the no-confidence motion on February 8. And on February 10, Imran Khan lost the no-confidence motion as 174 members voted in favour of the motion in the 342-member House.

Khan's supporters protested on the street with signs identifying Bajwa as a traitor. No doubt, the army as an institution is discomfited by this move. This is rare for the army to see that the tenants didn't leave the post pleasantly or without causing a ruckus after doing so. United Opposition was blinded by the only motto to remove Imran Khan but didn't pay attention to the fact that Shehbaz Sharif inherits a derelict economy with ever-growing inflation and unemployment. With Russia's war in Ukraine likely to go on for years, price pressure on oil and gas is likely to increase.