Categorized | South Asian Politics

What does political confrontation and military involvement mean in Pakistan?

Posted on 30 July 2014 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari

      If we go by the statements of Pakistan’s political leaders it seems that Pakistan will experience a major political crisis in mid-August and later. The possible confrontation between the Nawaz Sharif government and the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf of Imran Khan is expected to persist for some time.  Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri and his Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) are also getting ready to challenge the federal government.

      If the agitation takes off it can make it difficult for the Nawaz Sharif government to sustain itself because its governance and service delivery to people has been poor. These failures are being exploited by the opposition to bring out people to the streets. Imran Khan and Dr. Tahirul Qadri are more vocal in criticizing the government than giving a clear plan of action to solve the problems of the common people. None has talked of resource mobilization for fulfilling their wild promises.

     If the objectives of Imran khan are electoral reforms or ending corruption. these objective can be achieved by making necessary changes through parliament. These goals can be achieved by improving administrative efficiency, control of corruption and reformulation of institutions and processes.  Imran Khan is claiming to do all this through the existing political order in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa which has a PTI government. However,  he plans to resort to street agitation and pull down the government  in order to institute the political changes of his choice.  Similarly Dr. Tahirul Qadri also wants to use his religious following and popular mobilization to launch a street agitation to remove the government in order to introduce his “revolutionary” changes..

       Both leaders view the removal of the Sharif government as a pre-requisite to the desired structural changes in Pakistan’s politics and economy.  This may be wishful thinking because the removal of an “undesirable” government does not necessarily means that Imran or Qadri would be able to make preferred changes which conflict with each other.

     It is always easy to dislodge a government that has alienated people because of poor governance and non-delivery of services to people. However, basic socio-political and economic restructuring of the state system and society is more complex. It requires providing a new intellectual basis to the state system and breaking the monopoly of the existing dominant institutions and classes of people.  Such a far reaching change in Pakistan is neither possible within the framework of the existing constitution nor the opposition leaders have the vision and mindset to transform Pakistan’s socio-economic and political order.

    The most the sustained agitation can achieve is to paralyze the present government, forcing its restructuring or setting up of a national/caretaker government within the framework of the constitution.  Such a change may not be possible even if violence escalates unless the military decides to take the initiative and facilitates a change.

       The political situation is gradually moving in the direction of confrontation. Imran Khan has expanded his agenda from the initial demand of reviewing the results of four constituencies to the scrutiny of the whole election which has now been replaced by the notion of forcing the Nawaz Sharif government out of office.

   The federal government is equally confident that nothing will happen on August 14 and later because everything is under their control. Instead of seeking political accommodation with Imran Khan the federal government is spending more energies in cultivating the army. The cabinet members known for criticism of the army are now issuing very friendly statements. They are also vocal in supporting the military operation in North Waziristan, pushing aside the fact they were not in favour of such an operation until the military top brass decided to start it.  Nawaz Sharif is meeting with the army chief more frequently. Two meetings between them on July 16 and 17 were noteworthy. On July 17 Nawaz Sharif went to the Army Headquarters with the team of his advisors.

    The initial proposal of holding a major festivity in association with the military on the morning of August 14 is another attempt to show that they are working together.  This festivity was scheduled to take place in the “D Chowk” where Imran was to hold his protest rally. Now, this programme has been shifted to the midnight of August 13-14 with a change in the venue, perhaps on the advice of the military that did not want to be dragged in the political confrontation between the ruling party and the PTI.

     The federal government is already ceding some space to the Army by involving it in the security of some cities, including Islamabad. The federal government is summoning the Army in Islamabad under article 245 of the constitution which gives enormous leverage to the military in controlling Islamabad. This is being done under the pretext of managing the fallout of the military operation in North Waziristan. However, the fact cannot be ignored that the PTI is launching a protest rally on August 14 in Islamabad whose security has been given to the Army.  If Imran Khan is not deterred by this, will the Army stop the entry of his loyalists in Islamabad? Traditionally the Army does not side with any one in political confrontation. Will it change its policy for Nawaz Sharif? The chances are that it will not play into Nawaz Sharif’s hands and it will act independently if the confrontation becomes a reality. This has happened for the first time in Pakistan’s political history that the apparently calm capital is being handed over to the military for its security. This amounts to admitting the failure of the civilian government.

    Nawaz Sharif is devoting more attention to cultivating the military and activating his ties with his Saudi royal family. The key factor in determining the direction of political change is going to be the ground political reality in the streets of Pakistan after August 14. If in the political confrontation gets out of control, the military will play autonomous role to secure internal stability rather than protecting Nawaz Sharif’s rule.   Similarly the foreign friends (Saudis and others) will be left with no option but to accept the reality as it emerges in Pakistan.

    Nawaz Sharif needs to focus more on defusing internal political situation through talks and accommodation.  He needs to reduce his government’s fights with the opposition and the military.  The calling of the military for the security of Islamabad will not solve his problems. This will work to his disadvantage in the long run.

Leave a Reply

Advertise Here
Advertise Here