Instability brewing in Pakistan

The imminent tussle between the Pakistan government and the army will not be in the interest of either.

It certainly appears that all is not well in Pakistan between its civilian government and the all-time powerful army. With the recent revelations of some names of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family members in the Panama Papers leak, the long drawn war of attrition between the two prominent centres of power seems to be resurfacing. And that arouses a fear of a Pakistani army taking over the civil government.

With General Raheel Sharif having already removed 13 of his senior military officers, including a lieutenant general, a major general, and 5 brigadiers on grounds of their proven involvement in corruption, his anti-corruption pitch has become louder, urging PM Sharif to come out with an above-the-board accountability – a clear signal for him to resign.

Supporting the General’s endeavour are Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), which are said to be the Pakistani General Headquarter’s (GHQ) political creations. The embattled PM has been left with no option but to challenge the General’s moral authority to question him.

Since the army in Pakistan has always been instrumental in deciding not only political leadership but also helping produce forthcoming leaders for the country since its creation, it still continues to live with its self-assumed role of nation-building in today’s world of intensifying democracy, globalisation and liberalisation.

With Pakistan becoming an Islamic state during the regime of General Zia-ul-Haq in the early 1980s, the role of hardliner mullahs and religious fundamentalists increased manifold. Consequently, the duo – the military and hardliner mullahs – became the two very powerful pillars of Pakistani governance, always off-balancing the popular civilian government. Hence, the country’s democracy could not institutionalise and gain strength as the one in India and has always remained in shambles.

This time, though the corruption charges against PM Sharif may be categorised as the ostensible reason for the army to step into popular governance, the actual reason is to maintain its supremacy in Pakistan as an oligarch, particularly when the rising tide of democracy, the Arab Spring, has already over swept West Asia.

Obviously, the army is more organised when compared to the civil government, and since it wields the guns too, it continues to remain influential and decisive vis-a-vis the civil government.

Another reason for predominance of the army may be assigned to the persisting tense relations between India and Pakistan. In fact, neither the army, the hardliner mullahs nor even all the political leaders in Pakistan really want peaceful and friendly relations with India, because the conflict provides them with a continuous fuel to maintain the heat against us. As a result, they keep harping about the fear of India to divert attention from their own inefficiency and misrule.

Cross-border terrorism

Further, the Pakistani army’s repeated failure to win a battle against India led them (particularly, their secret wing Inter-Services Intelligence) to wage a covert war in the form of a persistent ‘limited or little war’ (the guerrilla war), which has now taken the form of cross-border terrorism since the past few decades.

Unfortunately, this strategy could not succeed to their expectations and Pakistan itself got mired in the bitter fratricidal and ethnic civil wars of its own creation. Such strife has now become a curse for its sustenance as a respected state in the comity of nations.

However, the cumulative effects of all these machinations have gone in favour of the country’s army to maintain its ascendance in Pakistan’s governance and day-to-day administration. Despite this, the army has to remain cautious of PM Sharif’s well-practiced clever moves to divide the top echelons of power to keep them weak and ineffective.

In this scenario, while General Raheel Sharif has gradually become more and more persistent with his ongoing purges for establishing a corruption-free society and polity, an apprehensive PM has begun reshaping a permanent regional policy with a view to challenge the former’s move.

Thus, the two oligarchs are face to face in their quest to regain predominance in Pakistan.  However, the upcoming discord between the two will not be in the interest of either.

While General Raheel Sharif’s success in capturing civil power may bode bad omens for the country, PM Sharif’s continuing intrigues and conspiracies to safeguard individual power will be of no use in restoring transparency and accountability in Pakistan, which is very essential for the country’s survival as a political democracy as well as a cohesive and self-sustaining society.

(The writer is Associate Professor of Political Science, MDPG College, Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh)

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