Why is General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s army chief, visiting Washington right now? Wasn’t his Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, in the nation’s capital less than a month ago? I know you are confident about your guess: The Americans must have invited him to come and discuss the unfinished war on terror. Oops! You got it wrong.According to the Voice of America, the United States government has not invited Pakistan’s powerful army chief. To borrow a phrase from the Hindustan Times, Raheel has invited himself to the U.S. The invitation does not matter much but this trip once again highlights the army’s brazenly tight grip on the country’s democratic government, specifically its foreign policy. A smug Raheel is in Washington with a straightforward message to D.C.’s policymakers: Forget about what was discussed between President Obama and Prime Minister Sharif last month. Let’s talk again. I decide my country’s foreign policy, not the prime minister.
Before his arrival to Washington, Raheel’s army, on November 10th, had solely taken credit for the “improved security situation” but rebuked the democratic administration that the “progress” it had made in the fight against terrorism could not be “sustained without matching betterment in governance and administration.”
Although the army has historically been in full control of Pakistan’s external relations, Raheel, since becoming the army chief, has staged sort of a foreign policy coup. Prime Minister Sharif, a victim of a military coup in 1999, has been so cautious in avoiding another military takeover that he has even not appointed a foreign minister two years after becoming the prime minister for a third term. On the foreign policy front, the army is explicitly intimidating the prime minister. He cannot take bold decisions or fulfill the promises he makes during meetings with foreign heads of government. The army chief has entered into an undeclared competition with the prime minister over foreign trips.
According to Zahid Hussain, a senior Pakistani journalist, the army chief “has perhaps travelled to more world capitals over the last two years than even the prime minister, reinforcing the perception that not only does the military call the shots on security matters it is also actively directing the country’s foreign policy
Read more » Huffington Post
See more » http://www.huffingtonpost.com/malik-siraj-akbar/pakistans-army-chief-is-i_b_8580138.html
ISLAMABAD: A lack of progress on the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism in the wake of the Army Public School massacre was just one of many reasons behind the civil-military tensions that boiled over last week.
In background conversations with Dawn, military officials and civilian leaders offered their own interpretations for the reasons behind a public spat between the government and the army.
Also read: Military’s complaint
Sources say that there have been a number of recent developments that have strained the ever-sensitive balance of power between the two institutions.
After the corps commanders’ meeting on Nov 10, the military leadership expressed its dissatisfaction with the government’s performance on NAP. This prompted an uncharacteristic response from the PM Office the following day, which emphasised that effective implementation of NAP was the shared responsibility of all national institutions working within the ambit of the constitution.
A senior government functionary close to the PML-N leadership told Dawn that the prime minister had never been very comfortable with the army chief’s trips to international capitals. He was particularly unhappy, the functionary said, with Gen Raheel Sharif’s visits to Saudi Arabia in the first week of November, and now the US.
Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1220034
By Afzal Khan/ Islamabad
Rabbani calls for in-camera meeting as senators raise alarm.
Amid a continuing debate over the army chief’s provocative statement on governance, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has suggested that an in-camera joint session of parliament should be held to discuss it.
Rabbani called for the joint session as senators picked up the largely negative reaction earlier voiced in the National Assembly where several members voiced alarm that Gen. Raheel Sharif had overstepped his constitutional authority.
Rabbani further proposed that besides the progress on the National Action Plan (NAP), the in-camera session should also take up issues pertaining to foreign policy. It is widely believed that the Nawaz Sharif government has ceded its control over major foreign policy matters to the army.
Read more » Khaleej Times
See more » http://www.khaleejtimes.com/international/pakistan/pak-army-chiefs-remarks-senate-chief-proposes-joint-session
“The ISPR and the Corps Commanders has no right t publicly talk about the democratic and constitutional government.”
BY AMIR WASIM
ISLAMABAD: Severely criticising a recent ISPR statement on poor implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) by the civilian set-up, several political parties — mainly the PPP — assured the PML-N government of their complete support in any eventuality.
“I am disappointed with the governance of the present government. But the ISPR and the corps commanders have no right to publicly talk about the democratic and constitutional government of Nawaz Sharif,” Leader of Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said while speaking on a point of order in the Senate.
“Keep on indulging in my character assassination, but you will find Aitzaz Ahsan and those sitting on the opposition benches with you in case of any threat (to the government),” he said in an apparent reference to recent personal attacks on him by some ministers on the floor of the house.
Also read-editorial: Military’s complaint
Mr Ahsan said it was Mehmood Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) who had been talking on the matter over the past two days, regretting that no-one from the PML-N had the courage to speak out.
Indicating tensions in civil-military ties, the military leadership had gone public on Tuesday with its concerns about poor implementation of the NAP and warned that efficacy of its counter-terrorism efforts could be undermined by inadequate supporting actions from civilian agencies.
The ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations) issued the statement after a corps commanders’ meeting presided over by army chief Gen Raheel Sharif.
“There is no doubt that the present government is absolutely incompetent. But can the military make such an announcement through an official statement after the corps commanders’ conference,” said Farhatullah Babar. “The ISPR statement itself is a manifestation of poor governance of the rulers.”
“We can also ask questions about your governance, Mr Commander,” he said in an apparent reference to the army chief.
“You almost daily tell us about the killing of foreign militants in Tirah Valley and other tribal areas. Please tell us the names of at least two militants,” he said. Similarly, he added, there were many questions in their minds about the ongoing Operation Zarb-i-Azb. “However, we do not ask such questions publicly believing that the army is doing a good job.”
Mr Babar said he would like to know why the army chief had not raised the issues at a meeting on national security issues presided over by the prime minister only two days before the corps commanders’ conference.
Read more » DAWN
See more » http://www.dawn.com/news/1219328/
RAWALPINDI: Pakistan’s army chief Raheel Sharif has described Kashmir as the “unfinished agenda of the Partition” and threatened an “unbearable cost” of a “short or long” war.
Speaking at an event in Rawalpindi on Sunday, General Sharif said: “Let me reiterate that our armed forces stand fully capable to defeat all sorts of external aggression.”
The comments were seen as a direct response to Indian Army Chief Dalbir Singh Suhaag saying last week that India has to be prepared for “swift, short nature of future wars” because of frequent ceasefire violations by Pakistan and its “new methods” used to keep Jammu and Kashmir on the boil.
The Pakistan Army Chief said: “If the enemy ever resorts to any misadventure, regardless of its size and scale – short or long – it will have to pay an unbearable cost.”
Saying that innocent people were “subjected to injustice, atrocities in Kashmir”, General Sharif said: “Enduring peace is not possible without a just resolution of Kashmir. The issue can no longer be put on the backburner.”
The time had come, he said, for Kashmir to be resolved “in line with UN resolutions.”
The Pakistan army chief was speaking at an event to mark the 1965 war with India.
Read more » NDTV
See more » http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/pakistan-army-chief-raheel-sharif-warns-india-of-unbearable-cost-of-war-1214940
In just a couple of weeks, thousands of Pakistani youth will sit through one of the most rigorous tests of human memory, in the form of the annual Central Superior Services (CSS) examination. In the exam, they will be asked questions ranging from the absurd to the most absurd, and you can almost be sure that the name of the brother-in-law of the sister of one of the cousins of the premier of a small African republic will be on the paper.
But, sometimes, through sheer luck, you can be tested on a relatively easier topic, for instance say, the name of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Under normal circumstances, this would be an absolute freebie of a point; the ‘aspirants’ would only have to recall the results of the last election, promptly mark Mr Nawaz Sharif’s name on the question paper, and then start daydreaming about sticking it to others while sitting in big offices.
This time though, such a query is bound to be a loaded question. Let me explain why.
In a parliamentary system like ours, the prime minister is usually appointed by the political party in majority in the representative assembly. Tradition dictates that the leader of the majority party be bestowed with this honour (though there have been significant diversions from this norm even in recent years).
The prime minister is supposed to lead his cabinet and the country through thick and thin, and ooze a shimmering aura of national unity, so much so that the hearts of the masses are supposed to fill with a warm glow each time they look at their leader.
The premier is supposed to be approachable, so that his/her constituents can share their problems and concerns.
The premier should also have an unblemished reputation of being not only uncorrupt, but also incorruptible. He/she must understand the nuances of the issues and cultures within the territory of the country, and present a clarity of vision in taking initiative towards national reform.
All this is fine and dandy. But now, let us take a small dose of reality.
PESHAWAR: Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah has said that Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif must take notice of those exploiting the name of army for political purposes, ARY News reported Wednesday.
Talking to media here, Shah said it was said numerous times that army will take over, however it remained neutral.
Confronting with parliament means fighting with people, said Shah.He said COAS would certainly fight any one challenging the mandate of public against the parliament and judiciary.
Read more » ARY News
– See more at: http://arynews.tv/en/shah-urges-army-to-take-notice-of-exploiters/#sthash.M4ghQr1e.dpuf
It is reported on Dawn news channel that Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain has asked Pakistan army to intervene in the political crisis in the country during an interview on Friday September 5, 2014. He also claimed that former Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was involved in the rigging in 2013 elections.
Pakistan Muslim League (Q) leader and senior politician Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain is directly asking Pakistan army to take over the government as current political government is taking the country towards destruction.
PML (Q) leader said that army dictatorship is better than the existing democracy in Pakistan. He said that he does not recognize Nawaz Sharif’s democracy.
Chaudhry Shujaat claimed in the interview that Retd. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was personally involved in the rigging of the general elections in 2013.
PML (Q) politician is siding with Tahirul Qadri in the protest against the government of Nawaz Sharif in a bid to topple the government.
Courtesy: News Pakistan
While the security establishment had played footsie with domestic, regional and transnational jihadists for decades, it threw the decision to act against them in the PM’s lap
The so-called neutral umpire that the chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Imran Khan had been looking up to for a decision was neither neutral nor an umpire and now has fallen flat on its face. None other than the veteran politician and the elected president of the PTI, Mr Javed Hashmi, took the wind out of Imran Khan and his umpire’s sails. Mr Hashmi vented his spleen not just about the dictatorial tendencies of Imran Khan but also ripped apart the PTI’s ‘clean politics’ facade. The maverick from Multan flayed to shreds the sordid collusion between certain leaders in the PTI, its fellow travellers and the establishment. What Mr Hashmi, popularly known as the baghi (rebel) for bucking both the civil and military demigods, said has been known since at least this past April. The original plan was to unfold right after Ramzan but was delayed due to the military operation in North Waziristan. However, hearing it from the horse’s mouth vindicates everyone who has suspected that Imran Khan was merely the establishment’s 12th man who had been fielded to do its dirty work.
The whispering campaign against the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) started when elected Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif refused to give the former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf a free pass in the treason trial. The PM, appointing Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a man that the security establishment has despised for his clear anti-dictatorship stance, did not go down well with the boots. Attitudes hardened when the PM made peace overtures at his Indian counterpart’s inauguration. The tipping point, however, was PM Sharif’s courtesy visit to the wounded television anchor-journalist Hamid Mir who had implicated an intelligence agency in the attack that he narrowly survived. The battle lines were thus drawn. It was more about the security establishment losing face due to General Musharraf’s trial and ceding domestic political space to the civilian PM in appointments such as that of the defence minister than just about foreign policy. A decision seemed to have been made then that PM Nawaz Sharif had to be reined in. The PML-N’s comfortable parliamentary majority and former President Asif Ali Zardari’s judicious decision to divest the president of his powers to dissolve the National Assembly, made undermining the PM ‘constitutionally’ impossible.
Either way, barring any new surprises, the coup by other means appears to have run its course. It was a tawdry affair. An elected government and prime minister were chastened by a mob — a mob, moreover, that was very possibly encouraged by the military.
When protesters converged on the Pakistani capital of Islamabad to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, many were quick to see the hand of the military pulling the strings behind the scenes. Sharif, who became prime minister in 2013 after Pakistan’s first full transition of power from one democratically elected government to another, irked the army during his first year in office. He put former military ruler Pervez Musharraf — who overthrew Sharif in a 1999 coup — on trial for treason. He tried to carve out an independent foreign policy — the traditional preserve of the army — including promising better relations with India. The protests, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cult religious leader Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri looked like a means of putting Sharif in his place.
Then, with Sharif refusing to resign and the protesters turning increasingly violent over the weekend, the showdown appeared to be following a familiar course. If Pakistan became ungovernable, the Pakistan army would be “forced” to intervene and take over to restore order. It had happened before. In 1977, General Zia-ul-Haq seized power ostensibly to end a political crisis. Throughout the 1990s, elected governments were repeatedly changed as political parties moved through a revolving door pushed by squabbling politicians and spun from on high by the army and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
This time around, however, events are not following the script. In what could become a watershed for Pakistan’s fragile democracy, civilian politicians are fighting back. Political parties, with the exception of Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), rallied behind the government. PTI’s own president, Javed Hashmi, broke with his leader to accuse him of acting on the behest of the army in the hope of forcing fresh elections. A statement released by the army — which appeared to draw equivalence between the mob besieging Islamabad and the elected government — was quickly called out by the English-language media. The army statement advised the government against the use of force and said that if the situation were not resolved quickly, it would play its part “in ensuring security of the state” — an apparent warning that it could take over. In response, a remarkably forthright editorial in Dawn pointed out that “it is the government that is supposed to give orders to the army, not the other way around.” The Nation also declared the army to be out of line and pointed out that the military would not hesitate to use force if violent protesters besieged its own headquarters. On Tuesday, the government called a joint session of both houses of parliament to reaffirm support for democracy.
So what happened to the script? Has Pakistan’s democracy matured to the point where civilian governments can no longer be so easily dismissed? The answer may not be entirely clear for a few days or weeks yet, and will depend on Sharif’s own ability to show flexibility in accommodating opponents inside and outside of parliament.
Or did this coup, by other means, stumble not just because of the resistance of the democrats, but also because the military itself was hesitant about delivering the fatal blow? Are some parts of the security establishment eagerly cheering on Khan and Qadri while others ready themselves to settle for a weakened prime minister still in place? After all, retaining the trappings of democracy would avoid the international disapproval and U.S. sanctions that might follow an outright coup. (Officially, the army denied backing theprotesters in a statement that insisted it was an apolitical institution.)
Pakistan’s security establishment — a term that covers everyone from army chief General Raheel Sharif, to his fellow Corps commanders, to the ISI, to retired officers who may or may not be acting under official orders — is notoriously opaque. All that can be said, then, is that Khan has been useful to the security establishment in the past, but either has a tendency to go his own way, or draws his support from particularly hard-line elements.
A few years ago, for example, Khan became one of the most vocal campaigners against drone strikes in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and against the U.S.-led campaign in neighboring Afghanistan. His campaigns were particularly useful to an army that liked to tell the United States that domestic opinion — albeit domestic opinion it had helped manufacture — prevented it from doing more against Islamist militants. Yet more recently, his insistence on holding peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban annoyed some in the army who believed they should be fought more aggressively. Khan’s commitment to defending the people of FATA was conveniently forgotten as soon as the Pakistan army launched its own military operation this year in North Waziristan, which produced one million internal refugees.
In the run-up to the elections, Pakistani media suggested that Khan was a particular favourite of Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, then head of the ISI. The former cricketer, not well known for his critical thinking, happily espoused the army narrative that all of Pakistan’s problems could be blamed on its corrupt politicians, while disregarding the military’s own powerful role in setting policy. Yet moving Khan from a single issue player as an anti-drones campaigner to the national political stage proved extremely hard even for a powerful intelligence establishment with many friends in the media. Khan picked up genuine support from those tired of existing political parties, particularly from a younger, urban generation. His unseen friends in the security establishment made sure he was given ample coverage in the Pakistani media, while the international media duly promoted a man with a glamorous international playboy past and pukka English.
ISLAMABAD: The government registered treason case on Monday against PTI and PAT leaders Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri. According to media reports the case was lodged at Pak Secretariat Police Station. Several sections and clauses, including section 124-A which pertains to treason, have been invoked in the FIR. Both Imran and Qadri were also charged with incitement to violence, attempted murder, robbery and interfering in the affairs of the state. PTI ally Shaikh Rasheed and party leaders Jahangir Tareen, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and others said to be booked in the FIR registered at Secretariat Police Station over rioting in Red Zone of Islamabad and attack on Parliament House.
Kuj sheher dey log vi zaalim san. Kuj sanu vi maran da shauk si (Azim Muneer Niazi)
The kind of government Pakistanis want is entirely their choice. Democratic, dictatorial, camouflaged military, Islamic, socialist or controlled. The rest of the world may like one or the other but will have to deal with the reality, in its own way. Attempts by others to change systems are messy, with little guarantee of success or permanence.
However, if the people of the country have decided that they wish to follow the route of free and fair elections and to be ruled by a democratically elected government then the present turmoil in Pakistan is not only inexplicable but also dangerous for Pakistan. When political leaders rely on unconstitutional support for political survival and encourage their followers to disregard established norms and institutions then they encourage chaos and unending violence. This ultimately destroys them because the institutions that protected them have ceased to exist.
Chaos rules in Pakistan as conflicting reports come from Rawalpindi and the streets are controlled by the followers of Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan while the Prime Minister remains invisible. The Army’s initial ambivalence,instead of a forthright support for Nawaz Sharif, indicated weakening support for him. Quite obviously, Nawaz is being punished for pursuing former Army chief General Musharraf.
There are conflicting reports emanating from Islamabad about the future of a democratically elected Nawaz Sharif. The highest judiciary has stepped in with its advice, the parliament has been called to session tomorrow and Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have been booked for treason. The entry into PTV offices and the PM’s house despite the Army’s presence in Islamabad indicates a seriously dysfunctional government.
Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif announced he is not quitting after his three hour long meeting with the Army chief General Raheel Sharif seems to have strengthened Nawaz’s position. Latest reports indicate that protests in Islamabad have resumed. The protests have lasted 18 days and requires considerable organisation and cash flows to sustain this campaign. The Khan-Qadri duo must be flush with money or have unknown benefactors. The disclosure by PTI President Javed Hashmi that Imran Khan had decided to move to the Prime Minister’s after receiving a ‘message’ via Sheikh Rasheed and Saifullah Niazi, is telling.
The carefully constructed veneer of neutrality that the army leadership had constructed through much of the national political crisis instigated by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri has been torn apart.
First, came the army’s statement on Sunday, the third in a series of statements in recent days on the political crisis, which quite astonishingly elevated the legitimacy and credibility of the demands of Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and their violent protesters above that of the choices and actions of an elected government dealing with a political crisis.
Consider the sequence of events so far. When the army first publicly waded into the political crisis, it counselled restraint on all sides — as though it was the government that fundamentally still had some questions hanging over its legitimacy simply because Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri alleged so.
Next, the army crept towards the Khan/Qadri camp by urging the government to facilitate negotiations — as though it was the government that was being unreasonable, and not Mr Khan and Mr Qadri.
Now, staggeringly, the army has ‘advised’ the government not to use force against violent protesters and essentially told it to make whatever concessions necessary to placate Mr Khan and Mr Qadri.
It is simply extraordinary that it is the PAT and PTI supporters who want to break into and occupy state buildings, but it is the government that has been rebuked.
It’s as if the army is unaware — rather, unwilling — to acknowledge the constitutional scheme of things: it is the government that is supposed to give orders to the army, not the other way around.
The government has already issued its order: invoking Article 245.
On Saturday, as violent thugs attacked parliament, it was surely the army’s duty to repel them.
But the soldiers stationed there did nothing and the army leadership the next day warned the government instead of the protesters — which largely explains why the protesters were able to continue their pitched battles with the police and attacked the PTV headquarters yesterday.
If that were not enough, yesterday also brought another thunderbolt: this time from within the PTI with party president Javed Hashmi indicating that Mr Khan is essentially doing what he has been asked and encouraged to do by the army leadership.
It took the ISPR a few hours to respond with the inevitable denial, but a mere denial is inadequate at this point. The functioning of the state stands paralysed because a few thousand protesters and their leaders have laid siege to state institutions.
Where is the army condemnation of that? Would the army allow even a handful of peaceful protesters to gather outside GHQ for a few hours?
The army is hardly being ‘neutral’. It is making a choice. And, it is disappointing that choice is doing little to strengthen the constitutional, democratic and legitimate scheme of things.
Crisis in Pakistan could become unmanageable
The ongoing violence prompted the top generals of the nuclear-armed state to hold an emergency meeting on Sunday, August 31. The army – which has directly ruled the nation for more than three decades collectively – voiced support for democracy, but also “expressed concern.”
Pakistani military – back in charge
But many people in the country think the army’s “concern” is part of the script that the generals have written themselves. Pro-democracy activists believe Khan and Qadri have the full backing of the army, which is wary of Sharif’s cordial moves towards the country’s regional arch-rival India. The PM and the army are also not on the same page over the Islamic Republic’s Afghanistan policy, nor on the future of Pervez Musharraf, former military chief and ex-president, who is currently detained.
The military, which has been in control of the country for most of its recent history, enjoyed limited power during the five years former President Asif Ali Zardari was in office. The generals fear that if Sharif remains in power, they may further loose grip on the country’s defense and foreign policy.
On the website of the leading Pakistani daily Dawn, two (of the four) articles in the section dedicated to editorials are as follows: ‘PTI’s bizarre proposals‘ and ‘The mask of anarchy‘.
The first, presumably written by the edit page staff of the paper, underlines the absurdity of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s demands placed before the Nawaz Sharif government. Last week, the protest march, led by Imran Khan had stormed Islamabad’s red zone, proceeded towards the country’s parliament with next to no resistance from the government.
While, it was read as a victory for the protesters demanding Nawaz Sharif resign immediately the events that followed revealed that Sharif had played well. Because in the course of the next few days, the events unfolded in a way to make Imran Khan look increasingly vacuous, while Sharif held fort, quietly. From threatening to storming Sharif’s house, Imran Khan came down to demanding a temporary resignation, where he asked Sharif to step aside for a month so that the judicial commission’s enquiry into the alleged rigging in the country’s polls concluded without government pressure.
Naturally, national and international media reacted with ridicule. Almost in the way India’s media reacted when AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal first organised a dharna against his city’s police force, then quit the government and then decided to run for the general elections this year by challenging Narendra Modi. Like Kejriwal’s recent political trajectory in India, Imran Khan’s gimmicky ‘protest’ has not been received well by the media in Pakistan and abroad.
Understandably, therefore, the editorial in Dawn punches several holes in PTI’s stand on the Nawaz Sharif government by observing, “Consider that the very elections that the PTI is disputing were held under a caretaker government. Clearly then, even within the PTI’s scheme of things, if the PML-N was allegedly able to rig an election when not in office, could it not affect the outcome of a judicial inquiry when the party has governments at both the centre and in the principally electorally disputed province of Punjab?”
Almost as a nod to Dawn’s stand, an editorial on another Pakistan daily Express Tribune describes Imran Khan’s situation as ‘Lose Lose’. Talking about Khan’s grand announcements, the writer Saroop Ijaz says about PTI’s stir, “Everybody wants it to stop, except maybe Mr Imran Khan. One can only speculate on how those who truly care for him will be pained to see all this happening to him. It is all heading towards ending with a whimper; any banging sound will only be made by heads.”
The second editorial in Dawn spells it out without mincing words: “What is the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s great revolutionary idea that will fix our broken homeland? Replacement of Nawaz Sharif with Imran Khan? Is the PTI fighting for a goal larger than the political aggrandisement of Imran Khan?”
Writer Babar Sattar observes, “If its sole purpose is to fix a perceived unproven wrong inflicted on the PTI voter in 2013, this movement by definition is a narrow partisan struggle not aimed at empowering ordinary citizens but a means to snatch power from the PML-N and hand it to the PTI.”
And it’s not just Pakistanis who seem to be discomfited by Imran Khan’s flashy political rhetoric and confusing political message. New York Times’ Declan Walsh observes in a piece on the protest that the mood at the protests is mostly carnival-esque. He writes, “On the streets, Mr. Khan’s movement has the boisterous feel of a midsummer music festival. Pop stars introduce his speeches, which are punctuated by songs during which his supporters, many of them women, burst into dance. A disc jockey known as DJ Butt is part of his entourage.”
It’s almost impossible to ignore the glaring similarities with the anti-corruption movement started by Anna Hazare, steeped in rousing youth support. Like that movement was almost a performed, with all its pop culture ramifications, Imran Khan’s ‘protest’ seems theatrical, almost an elaborate attempt to confer heroism on Imran Khan, anew.
It’s equally hard to ignore, how, like the anti-corruption movement that AAP’s grandiose anti-establishment politicking ran out of fizz. And the latter got branded as ‘anarchists’ – a brand they anyway decided to flaunt with impudence. However, the petulance had its effect on the voters, reflected in the shoddy performance of the party in the general elections.
Imran Khan, might, well be headed in the direction. The Wall Street Journal notes that despite all the sound and fury, despite Khan promising at least a million protesters, the officials numbers could be anything between just 20,000 and 50,000. Definitely not more than 60,000.
Like we had noted in our live blog in the past, Khan’s call to stop paying taxes and utility bills was met were severe criticism from the business communities and intellectuals of the country who pointed out that he is encouraging the citizens to serve a death blow to their own country’s economy.
Also, PTI’s voters in Peshawar were reportedly wary of Khan’s theatrics and said that none of the promises made to them have even been taken up by Khan in the past few months. The region continues to suffer from the same old ills.
Walsh notes in The New York Times article, “Mr. Khan’s call for supporters to stop paying taxes and utility bills met with widespread derision because few Pakistanis pay income taxes, and the country is already crippled with power shortages.” Much like Kejriwal’s call to Delhi to stop paying bills was met with a fair amount of concern.
If the alarm bells ringing about Khan manage to shake his voters up, this protest movement might be just his undoing.
– – – – – –
The government on Thursday approached both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) after Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to give talks one more chance.
Prime minister and army chief met for the second time in three days against the backdrop of government’s lingering deadlock with PTI and PAT.
Insiders told The Express Tribune that Nawaz briefed the army chief about talks with Qadri and Imran.
According to sources, the premier told General Raheel that government had agreed to accept first two demands of PAT in return for Qadri calling off the sit-in outside the Parliament.
But an agreement could not be reached after Qadri refused to accept the government’s condition, sources said.
Sources further said the army chief advised the prime minister to give talks one more chance and after which the government decided to approach both PTI and PAT.
A senior government official claimed that the army chief conveyed a clear message to both Qadri and Imran to resolve the impasse through dialogue.
“It was agreed to take necessary measures for resumption of stalled process of negotiations for an expeditious resolution in the best national interest,” the spokesperson for the PM House added.
The crucial meeting was held hours after talks between government and Qadri broke down on Wednesday evening over the registration of First Information Report (FIR) of Model Town incident.
Following the meeting between the COAS and premier, the government agreed to accept Qadri’s demand of FIR.
The official while requesting anonymity also said the next 24 hours would be very crucial.
He also insisted that the army chief extended his support to the government in the face off of brewing political tensions.
However, army officials could not be reached for their reaction on the meeting between General Raheel and Nawaz Sharif.
Later, both PAT and PTI accepted army chief’s role as mediator and guarantor to end the crisis.
Someone watching Pakistan from afar would really wonder if the state has not begun to resemble some of the countries in Africa. There is a deep power struggle amongst the ruling elite that totally ignores the fact that the country and its people cannot afford this kind of life style. Anarchy, in fact, has become Pakistan’s trademark. The battle for and obsession with power is to a degree that while challenging opponents leaders do not consider longer interest of the state and its people. Asking people not to pay taxes or sending money through official channels is not just about starving the government. It is about establishing a very bad habit that the country can ill-afford. What if Imran Khan makes the government tomorrow which does not meet an ideal standard that he seems to have set for his followers? This is not protest but a criminalisation of politics which is as bad as some of what he seems to object to.
We hear little about the negative impact of the current state of politics. People are actually losing opportunities and the economy is bleeding money faster than usual. The small and medium entrepreneurs that I talked to recently in various cities of Punjab complained about how business has almost dried up since the marches were announced. The reason people are not crying out loud and surviving is probably due to a parallel economy. The pro-government rallies are not likely to help improve conditions but increase the threat of a real conflict. Many believe that the clash between mobs is what might open doors for a hard coup.
Perhaps, the powers that be should take a plunge. It will be interesting to see what they then feel about a world they created themselves. The establishment and its many intellectual clients often refer to the Bangladesh model. What they often forget is that Dhaka’s political system or people’s choices did not change even with intervention. The challenges are far bigger than what some of the foreign qualified Chicago trained economists, commercial bankers or development gurus could manage to even understand. The US has some of the best universities but it has also produced experts that have often messed up with developing states rather than put things right. The question is can Pakistan afford such experimentation?
This is a not a moment for personal egos but for compromises which aim at benefiting the country and not just the individual. Instead of aiming at resignation of the prime minister it would help if Imran and Qadri could extract commitment for transparent institutional changes which will take this country a long way. If not then we have terribly lost our way into an endless abyss.
KARACHI: In an interview with a private TV channel on late Tuesday night, former president general (retd) Pervez Musharraf supported the demand for ‘change’ and stressed the United States must not interfere in Pakistan’s internal politics. His remarks come at a time when many have been speculating that the military is involved in the prevailing political crisis.
Our great leader has taken the pulse of Twitter and Facebook (or heard good news from on high) and has decided to throw caution to the wind and board the anti-GEO bandwagon.
Sadly, once more, he may be boarding the wrong train. The army’s ability to swing itself into the harness and give orders has been slowly but steadily weakening for years. Zardari’s successful tenure (successful in not falling to a coup) and the peaceful transfer of power to MNS were baby steps. A major Paknationalist media empire deciding its time to openly challenge the ISI after its reporter is shot (by the ISI or by someone else) is a bigger step (because it means serious sections of the ruling elite feel it is time they can do this). This is not to condone GEO’s method of making the accusation, or their odious past record of labeling others as thieves, traitors, etc. That is all condemn-able and has been condemned in the past and should be condemned now. But their willingness to do so still indicates that they perceived a power shift.
The deep state (and its useful-idiot supporters in the PTI fan-base) have since mobilized to teach GEO a lesson and to show them who is still boss…but it is not exactly going as planned. It took a few days, but liberal fascists (a term GEO and Hamid Mir freely popularized when they and the establishment were on the same page) continue to pop up to question the army’s right to label GEO (or anyone else) as traitors. More significantly, MNS does not seem to be cooperating. Astute politicians like Zardari will soon get the hint (if they have not already got it) that there is not going to be a coup and its time to stand aside and let the ISI expose itself and its remaining supporters for what they are: people out of step with Pakistani political reality. (Look at the dozens or at most hundreds of people showing up to wave pro-ISI posters at rallies).
That leaves Imran Khan.
As expected, he has miscalculated. Thinking this whole sorry scheme of things entire may be wound up soon, he has boldly stepped forward (after waffling for a few days) and has now discovered that GEO is the enemy and he is ready to boycott them.
By doing so he stands ready to lose either way:
1. He is wrong and MNS and GEO both survive this episode, leaving him with abundant egg on his face after yet another failed “mobilization/revolution”.
2. He has picked the “winning side” and the deep state will kill GEO and MNS (killing one without the other is not likely to be much help) on May 11th (the day Khan sahib and Canadian-gun-for-hire Tahir Ul Qadri are supposed to launch their campaign against this “corrupt system”). What then? He will find himself marked as a supporter of what will surely be Pakistan’s last and least successful coup. The inevitable disasters that follow will end his political career (and possibly more than that).
The hegemony of the military has been successfully questioned, if not threatened. This does not take away from the fact that the military still continues to be powerful, interventionist, and a veto player in many key decisions, but things need to be seen in their historical perspective.
Pakistan’s main contradiction at the moment is over military and civilian supremacy. Issues of class, where the landed and propertied rule over and exploit the dispossessed and working people, or of real sovereignty of the country, where Pakistan’s elite acquire the vision and sense to confront imperial and global power, are more permanent evolving features of the nature of contradictions facing Pakistan.
Similarly, other more substantive longer-term social conflicts are also embedded in contested visions of cultural and social ideology, which one sees being played out in different spheres. While multiple contradictions exist in Pakistan, the immediate tussle over civilian rule free from the obtrusiveness of the military and its institutions, has been played out far more visibly and colourfully than the longer, more drawn-out, transitions.
The Abbottabad raid by the US, the outcome of the Asghar Khan case, or even the largely symbolic indictment of General Musharraf, have allowed public criticism of what Aasim Sajjad Akhtar in these columns has called ‘sacred cows’ to be voiced fairly belligerently.
As he argues, ‘even a few years ago it was unthinkable that the ISI and its chief could be subject to such accusations’ as it has recently. Clearly such a new-found voice by members of parliament or the media, is far more than ‘ornamental’, and must represent a greater shift.