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Demonisation of Army in Pakistan – Dangerous signs of dumping political setup emerge

9/05/2022 at 12:31 PM

Arun  Joshi

An ominous sign of the past has started revisiting Pakistan – the army and the political class are on a collision course. Going by the past experience of such clashes in the past, it is quite unsettling for Pakistan, its politics, internal and geo-political stability. The Pakistani army, in an unprecedented manner, has come out with a stern warning to politicians not to drag the institution into politics. Rather, it has taken strong exception to the words and actions of politicians in demeaning the institution for the political game of one-upmanship being played in the country. The dangerous signs of Army takeover of Pakistan are emerging with rapid speed as the institution will not tolerate things beyond a point. It is not a question of the army having ambitious Generals but that it thinks and believes that it has the right to correct the course in such times like the ones that have swamped Pakistan.

The context is the heightened campaign by former premier Imran Khan and leaders of his political grouping – Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf- against the institution, questioning army’s stance of being neutral at the time when a no-confidence motion was passed in the National Assembly in the early hours of April 10. Imran has not reconciled to his ouster through democratic means after he had tried to subvert the democratic norms by getting the Assembly dissolved by the pliable President Arif Alvi and elections announced. Imran has launched a broadside against the army, judiciary, and the election commission of Pakistan since.

Now the army has said, enough is enough and no more. That is the crux of the latest statement of Pakistan army’s public relations wing – Inter-Services Public Relations, in short ISPR. It is hurt by the direct, indirect and insinuation against it and the top brass of the institution, both in speeches, visuals and social media. It clearly underlines the fault lines dotting the landscape of Pakistan.

The statement was self-speaking about the damage that Pakistan’s institutions were suffering from and how damaging these could be for the country. It read; “These attempts ate manifest through direct, insinuated, or nuanced references to the armed forces as well as their senior leadership, made by some political leaders, a few journalists and analysts on platforms, including social media.”.

The statement said that the practice of “unsubstantiated, defamatory and provocative statements and remarks is extremely damaging,” adding that the Pakistan Armed Forces take “strong exception to such unlawful and unethical practices”.

It also stated that “ the army “expects all to abide by the law and keep the armed forces out of political discourse in the best interest of the country.” Since the beginning of this year and in the face of rapidly changing political situation of the country, the Pakistan Army has repeatedly urged people not to drag the army into political matters.

Following the dissolution of the National Assembly by President Arif Alvi on the advice of former prime minister Imran Khan on April 3, the Director-General of ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar had said that the military had nothing to do with the political events of that day, Pakistani media outlets have reported.

This, by itself is manifestation of anger in the most powerful institution, which, in reality is the establishment of Pakistan that runs the domestic and foreign policy of the country, sometimes directly and on other occasions behind the scenes. It moves the chessboard and no other institution in Pakistan has the capacity to challenge it.

Two major possibilities, it is feared will emerge if the contest between the politicians and the army continued the way it is unfolding now: one it will put extraordinary pressure on the government of the day- that is Shehbaz Sharif -led multi-party coalition to deal with the political crisis mounted by Imran Khan by way of his rallies, in which he is unsparing in his criticism of the army. He has gone to the extent of saying at a rally in Abbottabad  questioned the very notion of neutrality, claiming that, “ God hadn’t permitted  human beings to remain neutral when the time comes to stand up for justice and support the good.” Imran allocated himself the divine right to rule and is angry with the army for not having stood by his side when he was thrown out of the government through no-trust motion. He demonised the army by saying: God will ask you is you struggled against an imported government. You won’t be able to say that you were neutral.” And the truth is that given the fragility of the Sharif government amidst Himalayan challenges, it is near impossible task. There are problems for the government from within the coalition as also from his own family – Maryam Sharaf, vice president of PML-N and information Broadcasting Minister has also not spared the army from criticism. These fault lines ate deepening.

The second, and most likely scenario is that army would intervene and takeover. That has happened in Pakistan in the past, and it is threatening to happen again. This will destabilize the situation because the establishment has its own agenda, and that is not always democratic.

About the Author:

Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, and The Tribune. He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.


This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com.

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