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Imran Khan’s fate hangs in the balance amid persistent unrest in Pakistan civil-military relations

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The length of the rope the army leadership gives to Imran Khan’s government may depend on a variety of complex factors over the coming months

File image of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. PA

The takeover by Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum as Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), finally took place on November 20, ending the unseemly feud that arose between the chief of the army, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Imran Khan on the blocked 6 October channel of lieutenant-general transfers. Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed’s farewell appeals to the President, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs were exceptionally broadcast in the media ahead of his departure for the XI Corps mission in Peshawar. In contrast, there was complete silence on the advent of Anjum.

All kinds of speculation surfaced during the interregnum, about the breakdown of civil-military relations and the options for change being considered at either end. The name of Lieutenant-General Muhd ​​Abdul Aziz, commander of the IV Corps, Lahore, the most senior among the lieutenant-general, briefly floated for the chief of the army, in case Imran takes the drastic step of sacking. Bajwa prematurely. This rumor was not very successful, presumably because the collegiate group of senior generals remained steadfast in favor of the incumbent leader.

The deal with Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP), Pakistan, to end its unrest was worked out as part of the military establishments initiative, embarrassing the prime minister, who had spoken harshly about the execution of the state mandate. The TLP’s name was removed from the list of terrorist parties under the annexes of the anti-terrorism law and its leader, Saad Rizvi, was released by the courts just before the anniversary of the death of its founder, Khadim Rizvi.

The upper judiciary flexed its muscles too much, urging the prime minister to appear before the Supreme Court while petitions from aggrieved parents at the army’s public school, Peshawar, the calamity of December 2014 were heard. Angry judges asked why no FIR had been filed against the leaders, including then army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif and CEO, ISI, Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul Islam. The appearance of the prime ministers turned out to be more of a distraction.

After two bills could not be passed in the National Assembly and a planned joint session of parliament had to be postponed on November 11 due to lack of support from Pakistan’s ruling allies Tehreek-e-Insaf ( PTI), opposition parties seemed optimistic that military establishments have regained impartiality in domestic politics. The Chaudhrys of Gujrat, Pervez Elahi and Shujaat Hussain, criticized the PTI for mistreating their employees of the Pakistani Muslim League {Quaid-e-Azam} (PML-Q) in Punjab. Governor Mohd Sarwar joined the chorus of critics.

The opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) announced a revised schedule of public rallies in Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar and Lahore, culminating in a long march to Islamabad, to protest high inflation and continued mismanagement of the economy by the Imran Khan administration. Before filing a possible vote of no confidence against the PTI government, they toyed with the idea of ​​an operation get Sanjrani, to first remove the president of the Senate.

However, this optimism proved to be short-lived as the joint session was held on November 17, comfortably passing 33 bills, including controversial bills introducing electronic voting machines and allowing overseas Pakistanis to vote. vote. Lawmakers sadly admitted to being brought to the joint session, familiarly receiving phone calls from the ISI, urging them to attend. The opposition now has the opportunity to challenge the illegal and unconstitutional bulldozer of these laws in court.

Not surprisingly, this led to questions about a new reparations agreement aimed at restoring the same page between the military and its hybrid protege, thanks to another extension from General Bajwa in November 2022. Under the amended law on the army, the head of the army can continue until the age of 64. years. Although Bajwa would get two more years, such an extension would be highly unpopular within the military, as 16 more lieutenant generals would retire before a new leader arrived. Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed remains the leader in this regard, having completed a year in command of the Peshawar Corps, especially if Imran Khan continues as prime minister until then. However, this closeness to the prime minister can irritate high-ranking generals, who dislike excessive military prowess in front of civilians. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Lt. Gen. Anjum can become his own man at the ISI, moving the institution away from promoting only the interests of the ruling parties.

Former Gilgit Baltistan judge Rana Shamims, under oath, signed oddly enough before a notary in London, alleged that former chief justice Saqib Nisar suggested tougher judgments against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam. An audio clip to this effect has been leaked, although its authenticity has been denied. Much to the dismay of the media, Judge Minallah of the Islamabad High Court ruled that this was a case of contempt against the journalists who combed the matter.

Flaming speeches by lawyers at the Asma Jehangir conference in Lahore (November 20) chided the repeated disruptions to democracy by the military in Pakistan, leading upset Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed to reaffirm that independence judicial process remained unimpeded. A speech by ex-exiled Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was delivered virtually during his closing session, despite abortive internet interruptions.

The Pakistani economy continues to cause serious concern. Inflation has hit the common man hard as commodity prices remain high. The rupee continues to decline against the dollar. An increase in electricity tariffs is imminent. Negotiations to release the IMF tranche have still not been concluded, with international donors insisting on limiting borrowing and further measures to mobilize resources. A bill on the autonomy of the State Bank was reluctantly drafted after the insistence of the IMF. Former Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) finance minister Miftah Ismail has criticized the State Bank’s latest move to raise benchmark interest rates to 8.75 percent as catastrophic. None of the government leaders appear to have convincing cures for a bailout.

Lack of confidence and gloom persist in civil-military relations. The length of the rope the army leadership gives to Imran Khan’s government may depend on a variety of complex factors over the coming months. The majority of PTIs in the National Assembly remains slim, as does the opposition’s blatant inability to come up with a viable alternative. Meanwhile, the masses are struggling to cope with the deteriorating economic situation.

The author is a former special secretary of the Cabinet Secretariat. The opinions expressed are personal.

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