Sunday, 26 June, 2022
HomeOpinionPakistan Army can’t risk controversy with Nawaz Sharif, sacrificing Imran Khan easier

Pakistan Army can’t risk controversy with Nawaz Sharif, sacrificing Imran Khan easier

Elected and removed from office thrice, Nawaz Sharif has understood how Pakistan’s military influences politics. He’s now giving a blow by blow account of it.

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After two massive rallies in Gujranwala and Karachi, the 11-party opposition, Pakistan Democratic Movement, has opened the doors for re-evaluation of civil-military relations in the country. Dismissing Prime Minister Imran Khan’s civilian government as a puppet, speakers at the rallies referred to Imran Khan as ‘selected’, while openly attacking senior generals as the ‘selectors.’

The military’s entrenched role in all the affairs has been a fact of Pakistan’s political life for years. But the military establishment has never been criticised so directly and openly as it is being now by opposition politicians, particularly former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

It took 22 years for the Supreme Court to recognise that the 1990 election had indeed been subject to military interference — then-army chief General Aslam Beg was hand-in-gloves in manipulating the polls where some politicians were funded through an “Election Cell” to thwart Benazir Bhutto’s chances.

Ironically, Beg’s decision to support the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI) had resulted in bringing Nawaz Sharif to the office of Prime Minister for the first time.

Also read: The opposition rallies and what they mean for Pakistan, and the big errors made by Imran Khan

The nexus is well understood now

In the years since that military-assisted rise in 1990, Nawaz Sharif has come into his own. He has developed a mass following and is now recognised as a democratic voice for civilian supremacy.

Having been elected thrice, and removed from office thrice, Nawaz Sharif has seen and understood how Pakistan’s military influences politics.

Sharif was overthrown in a military coup once (in 1999), but on the other two occasions, he was removed from office through ostensibly invisible machinations within constitutional processes. Instead of playing along with the pretence that the responsibility for his ouster lay with a civilian president in 1993 or a Supreme Court panel in 2017, Sharif is now giving a blow by blow account of differences with the generals that led to his ouster.

In 1993, Sharif was forced to resign, along with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, after the Supreme Court overturned Ishaq Khan’s decision to dismiss Sharif’s government. Then army chief, General Abdul Waheed Kakar, was involved in forcing the resignations.

Another component of the opposition alliance, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), has also been at the receiving end of the establishment’s disapproval. Its leaders have been elected to office four times and removed from power in a military coup once (1977), dismissed by presidential fiat twice (1990 and 1996), and effectively neutered by the judiciary in 2012.

The PDM’s other partners include various nationalist parties, representing the Pashtun and the Baloch, all of whom have been described as ‘anti-national’ at one time or another for their refusal to accept a conformist vision for Pakistan.

In 2018, the army leadership thought that it was bringing to an end its clashes with civilian politicians trying to assert independence once and for all. They supported cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who had been in politics since 1997, without much success.

Knowing his desperation to become prime minister, and the fragility of Imran Khan’s political base, it was assumed that if Sharif was pushed out of politics and the PPP was confined to the Bhutto-Zardari families’ home base of Sindh, the army would no longer have to worry about civilian leaders pursuing policies different to the ones preferred by General Headquarters (GHQ).

Also read: Nawaz Sharif is no political suicide bomber. His attack on Bajwas of Pakistan is deliberate

A tight spot

The opposition’s current resurgence is a reminder that politics is not amenable to staff solutions worked out by military officers. If the current opposition campaign maintains its momentum, the military leadership might have to withdraw support from Imran Khan, which might turn him into the establishment’s critic.

But sacrificing Imran Khan might be the easy way out, because the opposition’s attacks are making the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and his intelligence head controversial. While politicians are used to controversy, army generals are not.

Pakistan’s military leaders, like military leaders everywhere, do not like to be mired in controversy. Moreover, it is important for military commanders to be seen as fighting for the whole nation, not just for one political faction or party within it.

The initial response of the Pakistani military, as well as the civilian government installed by it, to the opposition campaign has been to reject the opposition’s effort to make the army leadership controversial. But there is a limit to the extent that the military can play an extensive political role, and still keep it hidden from the people.

Also read: Pakistan’s opposition is publicly naming all-powerful army as root of all evil. But what now?

Civilian-military rule not in sync

Pakistan has come a long way from the early 1960s when, under Ayub Khan, no one outside the army even knew the name of the head of the military intelligence service because the military’s internal appointments were not advertised in the mass media. Even under Zia-ul Haq, military men stayed out of the limelight and the military’s political business was conducted through discreet civilian intermediaries.

Now, the military’s relatively incompetent civilian partners themselves expose their backers just to establish their bonafides. Direct calls and text messages by military intelligence operatives to politicians and journalists often leave little room for deniability about an ostensibly apolitical institution playing a political role.

Part of the blame for the military’s ability to influence politics lies with politicians and journalists willing to do its bidding. As the road to power goes through GHQ, it is natural for ambitious individuals to seek the help of generals and intelligence officers to advance their careers.

When they decided to put their weight so openly behind Imran Khan and his party, the army bosses thought they were creating a civilian government that was on the same page as themselves. In the process, the generals took the risk of alienating the army from anyone who was opposed to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the one party that the generals backed.

Now, when the opposition is calling out that alliance between the army leadership and an incompetent civilian government, it won’t be enough to merely deny that nexus.

Nawaz Sharif’s attacks and the opposition’s campaign force Pakistan’s military leaders to review their current stance on politics mainly because the army, as an institution, might not like controversy over its support for Imran Khan in the 2018 election to drag on for so long. In the past, a political reset occurs whenever people in Pakistan’s streets turn negative towards the generals’ political role. What shape that reset might take this time is not yet predictable.

The author is the director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His books include ‘Pakistan Between Mosque and Military’, ‘India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t we be Friends’ and ‘Reimagining Pakistan’. Views are personal.

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  1. Husseinn Haqqani is nothing but an ass…e. If he has the guts, let him come back to Pakistan.

  2. Haqanni is an opportunist and not a man of letters. why to waste your time to listen to fired cartridges.

  3. There are only three things on which all Pakistani’s agree:

    1-Nuclear Program
    3-Hussain Haqqani is a traitor

  4. With all due respect, what you have written is totally rubbish. It appears you are paid for this. Pakistan will progress and India will never be able to stop this progress through such cheap tactics.

  5. Whether we like it or not, Pakistani army is organically liked by their masses and around the Islamic countries or for that matter, their army’s mettle is agreed upon by UN peacekeepers as well as US and EU and near our home by Sri Lanka and other Saarc countries besides Russia and China as usual supporters, whereas Indian army is pet of govt and looks for personal benefits and ranks and positions and promotions and TV channels have to do their bidding. Indian army has become a pawn in our country’s Far right govt, sloganeering and parading at their instance. Whenever they are desired are sacrificed in Pulwamas or Naxals encounter. Their ration and sanctions at lower levels are to be pitied. Confusion is deliberately encouraged and confidence is wantedly discouraged in Indian army and now they are on path to becoming communal too. God save India.

  6. Do whatever you want to do with ur ally thrice elected dog Nawaz but we will not let any one point out wrong finger to our Proudly Army
    Pakistan 🇵🇰 zindabad

  7. Husain Haqqani is a declared absconder. He has no right to a opinion, when he himself is required by law. He was involved in issuing thousands of visas CIA and to black water , CIA Contractor and now trying to sympathise with the political parties who have ganged up against the Army, whose role to wipe out terrorism has been appreciated by the whole world. He should just shut up his bloody mouth.

  8. To accept a statement of any writer,we first analyze his bent of mind .Either he is partial or impartial with regard to his approch.
    Its well acknowledged who plays dirty game for Dollars in the country and abroad.
    A trustworthy columnist never sell his dignity of words but not like Hussain Haqqani.
    Let them write these crab .

  9. After reading the article and then the comments, what could be added more about the writer? I think he is only prejudice about Pakistan his birthplace, unfortunately.
    We would also like him to be vanished in the air just as he had not existed, “void ab initio”.

  10. The print is that what you are the terrorist Modi poodal
    The Indian terrorist government is behind the killing of innocent Muslim in Jk and the Indian Muslim
    That was the reason Pakistan was born its going to be payback time your army is no where capable or match the pakistani army you took a taste when two of your forces jet were shot down by the brave Pakistan airforce pilot so be aware

  11. The print is that what you are the terrorist Modi poodal
    The Indian terrorist government is behind the killing of innocent Muslim in Jk and the Indian Muslim
    That was the reason Pakistan was born its going to be payback time your army is no where capable or match the pakistani army you took a taste when two of your forces jet were shot down by the brave Pakistan airforce pilot so be aware

  12. Honestl who wrote this codswallop? I mean what actual power does Nawaz Sharif have, that’s right 0, he’s sat scared in London because he couldn’t even face his own jail term given to him because his daughter lied in court with fake documents, Nawaz Sharif is finished, the army will back a nationalist over a person who is easily bought, Imran Khan is going nowhere

  13. Keep selling your propoganda Mr. Haqqani. No matter how long you go with manipulated stories Pakistan is and will exist for ever.

  14. Harami Haqqani
    Please do not trust his social media rants. He is a traitor like his master NS.
    These are my he real enemies of Pakistan.
    Many intelligent and sane Indians are better than this man.

    • Who told you that IK is an elected PM. Who ever speaks truth in Pakistan is considered a traitor. Pak army is of punjabi majority population. Thats the reason why it doesn’t tolerate other sects of society. The assassination of pakistan 1st PM Liaqat A. Khan is the proof. Pakistan has to manage with this only. There is no other alternative.

  15. Guys these are the paid & fabricated news therfore don’t take is seriously. The world’s gentle men and the people who has little bit of sense knows that the Imran khan is doing very well and he deserve for a Nobel price.

  16. Haqqani himself is ghaddar. Always work against Pakistan. He gave 4000 illegal visas in his tenure when he was forgn minister. He increase the wave of terrorism in Pakistan by giving visas to enemies. How dare he talks about Pakistan now. All ghaddars sitting outside of Pakistan and bark against Pakistan. Nawaz shreef is traitor as well. Corrupt politician. Army is only who saves Pakistan from these mafia.

  17. Deniability is suppose to be an art perfected by Pakistan. The entire set up is a bunch of liars. Still we must hear Mr. Haqqani out, without forgetting for a minute that he will stab us in the back if and when he gets a chance. These are the Pakistani friends of progressive intellectuals in India.

  18. Looks like the writer has touched a nerve, looking at the responses from Pakistanis.
    How dare the writer insult the noble peace prize candidate Immy?

  19. Mr Haqqnani can best be described as a person with not a grain of morality in his being. One is not surprised that he gets space here – his close family and friends who studied with him just do not want to know him as they say he is simply a manipulator and is a compulsive liar.

    • Haqani is a very intelligent and revered figure, he speaks truth which is why establishment has been peddling propagandas against him. No sane person can deny the fact that Pakistan army intervention in politics has caused massive damage to Pakistan, be it fall if Dhaka, Baloch insurgency, terrorism Pak army was/is directly or indirectly responsible. We salute people like Hussain Haqani who’ve taken it upon themselves to expose the sordid business of Pak army in the best interests of Pakistan and democracy.

  20. Army involvement in politics may be upto 10% you ignore 90% you say army installed pti actually insult public opinion.

  21. don’t make a drama it’s our country matter and we all love our country more than our life, don’t try to dividen our people, we know all our army our proud, we love Pakistan we love Pakistan army,so Pakistanis brother and sisters,just love Pakistan and trust and love Pakistan army,we hv many examples who countries people no hv strong army,what them country and home look like, this is all propaganda be aware off this propaganda and keeping loving Pakistan and Pakistan army,Pakistan zinda bad,pak army zinda bad,I’m not educated person, and I don’t how explain all my feelings and how to describe my words so that’s all love u Pakistan love u Pakistan army😍❤❤❤❤

  22. This guy is a traitor and part of international propaganda against the Pakistan army and the Pakistan the people of Pakistan they can afford to go after Mr nawaz Sharif to bring all the corruption money back to the country

  23. Yes you are right, because the Nawaz shareef was Indian Dog and Agent of Raw he is the same Like Modi ,
    It is not ghe way how India kills hummans in Kashmir in Balochistan . A Terorist Country wish tbat Nawaz shareef Come back but sorry Basterds its over now !

    • Hes got far more credibility, morals and ethics when compared to you, your army generals AND the rest of your scum ministers, in your screwed up nation.

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