Categorized | South Asian Politics

Military- civilian relationship strains further after news leakage of meeting at the PM Sharif’s house

Posted on 27 October 2016 by admin

  Dr Hasan Askari

 Pakistan’s domestic politics has entered a complex phase in the last week of October. The outcome of such a difficult situation is unpredictable. Pakistan is experiencing three types of political issues. First, the leakage of information about the discussions in a national security meeting to a newspaper. Second, the Panama Leaks case before the Supreme Court. Third, The decision of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf to shut-down Islamabad on November 2. All these issues have built pressure on the PMLN federal government, especially on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

 The Army top brass are angry that an unauthorized news item appeared in a newspaper about the high level national security meeting held in the Prime Minister House. This news has accused the Army and the Intelligence agencies of supporting the militant groups that are said to be resorting to violence in India and Afghanistan. Such a charge is often made by India and the U.S. Now, the news item showed that Pakistan’s civilian leadership was repeating the same charge against the military. This has seriously undermined civil-military relations.

 The Army wants that the persons giving out the news should be punished. By now, it is more or less known to the media as to who were responsible for passing on the information to the newspaper correspondent. These people are so close to Nawaz Sharif that it may be difficult for him to take any strong action against them. The federal government is delaying the matter so that the episode is forgotten. However, the Army top brass are not in a mood to forget the incident.

 The Supreme Court has taken up the petitions filled by different people for disqualifying Nawaz Sharif from the membership of the National Assembly on account of the information made available through the Panama Leaks about the family’s property abroad and offs-shore companies. Currently, the Supreme Court has issued notice to Nawaz Sharif and his family. The Supreme Court will in the first instance settle the issue of taking up these petition. Nawaz Sharif and his family’s lawyers are expected to contest the right of the Supreme Court to take up these petition. If the Supreme Court admits these petitions for hearing, then the real case of properties and wealth of Nawaz Sharif and his family as leaked in the Panama Documents will be taken up for adjudication.

 The third major challenge to the Sharif government pertains to the decision of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf to shut down government functioning in Islamabad on November 2. Currently, Imran Khan is visiting different cities, addressing his party’s public meetings for mobilization of the people to come to Islamabad on November 2.

 The current government strategy is to fight out all the three issues, especially the challenge of Imran Khan. To the government’s good luck, most opposition parties are staying away from Imran Khan’s agitation. The PPP leadership criticizes Nawaz Sharif but, in the confrontation between the PMLN and the PTI, the PPP is supporting Nawaz Sharif. The PMLQ has however endorsed Imran Khan’s demands.

 Imran Khan appears determined to show his party’s strength in Islamabad. His party people are confident after the Raiwind public meeting that they would be able to mobilize very large number of people for the Islamabad political agitation.

 There can be several possible outcomes of the situation arising out of these three issues. Nawaz Sharif may sacrifice some associates from the bureaucracy and one cabinet members to pacify the military on the news leakage issue. If he does not take any action, the Army may invoke its powers regarding national security under the Army Act to adopt some tough investigative steps against those accused of passing on the information.

 If the Supreme Court takes up the Panama Leaks case, Nawaz Sharif can be disqualified. The PMLN may have to select a new prime minister; some leaders are in this race. If the case is decided in favor of Nawaz Sharif, it will be a major political triumph for him. Imran Khan’s movement will suffer a setback.

 The PTI agitation on November 2 is the most problematic issue for the federal government. It cannot let Imran Khan close down the capital. It can either summon the Army and the paramilitary forces under article 245 of the constitution to protect government installations. The advantage of this move for Nawaz Sharif is that it can cause a direct confrontation between the Army and the PTI. There will be no blame of use of force on the federal government. However, a virtual handover of the capital to the Army exposes the weakness of the federal government whose dependence on the Army will increase. All this strengthens the position of the Army in the political system and makes the future of the civilian government uncertain.

 If the federal and the Punjab governments arrest top PTI leaders and other activists a few days before the shutdown, it can make the agitation leaderless and can result in violence even before November 2. If the law and order situation deteriorates, the civilian government may have to seek Army’s assistance.

 If Imran Khan succeeds in shutting down the government in Islamabad, it will be difficult for Nawaz Sharif to stay on in power.

 The critical question is if the Army will press hard the civil government to take action against the culprits of the news leak or it will itself take action against them. The alternative for the Army is to wait for the judgment of the Supreme Court and what is the outcome of Imran’s agitation? If Nawaz Sharif does not pacify the military, it may not be keen to rescue his government in the face of Imran’s agitation.

 The retirement of General Raheel Sharif is not going to make any difference because the current disposition of the Army towards the Sharif government is shared by the top brass. Nawaz Sharif has alienated all top brass. The new Army Chief is expected to opt for continuity of policies.

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