Will Pakistan’s Army-Politics Nexus be Brought Down by Nawaz?

Things seem to be moving at the speed of light, with the end of the Imran-Bajwa regime now in clear sight.

Updated
World
5 min read
Things seem to be moving at the speed of light, with the end of the Imran-Bajwa regime now in clear sight.
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Pakistan was pushed into uncharted waters last week by three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, with his speech on Friday, 16 October. And since that time things seem to be moving at the speed of light, with the end of the Imran-Bajwa regime now in clear sight.

As I write this, there seems to be a rebellion of sorts going on in the province of Sindh by the police force, in protest of its humiliation at the hands of the military and ISI, in its endeavors at meddling in politics. What Sharif started that Friday seems to be spreading like wildfire.

The revolt started with one Assistant IG Police going on leave in protest and was followed by the IG himself, and then all senior, mid, and lowest level cadres either going on leave or resigning from the force – several streets and check-posts are now unmanned in the province.

It has triggered a crisis that appears set to expand and eventually bring down the incumbent dispensation.

“What has happened in Karachi is clear proof of our narrative, that there is 'a state above state.’ You have mocked the authority of the elected government of the province, violated the sanctity of the privacy of the home, abducted senior most police officers and forced them to sign (arrest) orders. You have defamed the Pakistan Army. This letter from the Additional IG Police is proof of your rebellion against the Constitution,” tweeted Sharif on Tuesday. The target was Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

How Opposition Exposed Top Cop’s Abduction

Having forced a huge error from the military and the ISI, Sharif made sure to capitalise on a possibly fatal mistake by the army brass and squeeze its jugular vein a little further. The civilians have closed ranks, acting in coordination as if in a symphony orchestra and tightening the pincer.

Just after the second jalsa of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Karachi, an appalling event had occurred.

PDM is the combined opposition movement of eleven opposition parties that have set out to rid the country of the hybrid civil-military regime currently that usurped power via the election heist carried out on Pakistan in the 2018 general election.

In the middle of the night, the paramilitary force Rangers (pretending to be the local police) had broken into Maryam Nawaz’s hotel room in Karachi on the pretext of arresting her husband Captain Safdar on an absurd charge.

This caused anger in the entire PDM at the brazen attempt to divide the political parties and thus sabotage the movement, as a woman politician of the PMLN had ostensibly been humiliated by the People’s Party’s government in Sindh.

However, the opposition political parties turned out to be wilier than the ruling junta and immediately decided to expose it.

That’s when they together revealed that the Inspector General of the Sindh police and one Assistant IG were abducted – let that sink in – abducted by the Rangers, taken to an ISI station commander, kept in custody for four hours, had his phones confiscated, and made to sign arrest warrants of Maryam’s husband.

This revelation by the Chief Minister of Sindh was a bombshell. This was a charge sheet against the army chief and the ISI chief for having committed another act of treason, another violation of their oaths, another violation of the Constitution.

The next day, the Sindh government announced a high powered inquiry into what had happened. The intent was clear, that matters will not be left at mere announcements, revelations and press conferences and the military’s interference in politics and coercive habits would now be taken head on.

Bhutto Jr’s Direct Support for Police

As if enough damage had not been done to the Bajwa-Faiz duo by these developments, the leave requests from Sindh police officers, starting from the IG of the province down to the SHOs, began to rain in.

At this, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari took to the television and announced his support for the police, which cannot conceivable work under such humiliating circumstances, with its powers usurped by the military.

He ratcheted up the ante and addressed the brass directly, perhaps for the first time, telling them that this interference doesn’t look good for them either, that he will not stand for this, that they must also hold an inquiry.

How it All Began

Coming back to what triggered all this was what Sharif had said at the first PDM jalsa in Gujranwala. The things he said are being called his seventh atomic explosion (it was Nawaz Sharif’s decision in 1998 to go ahead with six nuclear explosions in response to India’s five).

In an unprecedented and historic move, he named the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and director-general ISI, Faiz Hameed, and accused them of rigging the 2018 general elections and imposing an inept lot on the country.

He spoke at length about the economic destruction, never seen before inflation levels, spiraling value of the rupee, record unemployment (15 million job losses), record poverty levels the country has seen after two years of the hybrid regime seized power, and laid the blame squarely for all of this on General Bajwa as the conspirator and General Faiz as the executor.

He told the generals that they will not get away with what they have done to the country and its wretched citizenry, and that they will be held accountable.

Backed by Nawaz, Will New Pak Oust Army?

Publicly naming, and accusing of sedition and treason a sitting army chief and a sitting DG of the ISI had never happened in Pakistan’s entire seventy three-year history. The public gathering listened in thrall and roared.

Remote viewers watching on their phones and laptops the world over watched in shell shock – this had never been considered within the realm of possibilities. But everyone sensed that this act of Sharif boded the beginning of the end of the Imran-Bajwa junta.

The beauty of the events that followed, the turn events took, the revelations that surfaced about what happened in Karachi, and the resultant revolt by the police, indeed did not just prove Sharif’s accusations correct, but have also become a solid basis for charge-sheeting the generals and their minions who violated the Constitution yet again.

Pakistan is in for a turbulent ride in the near future, but the turmoil may just lead to putting an end to the Pakistani military’s political adventurism for all time to come.

And that will be down to ‘Thank You Nawaz Sharif’. Wali Khan is said to have famously said that Pakistan will only change once a Punjabi leader and Punjab challenge it.

The ten party PDM should know not to squander this historic opportunity (and it doesn’t look like it is in the mood to), because another Sharif may not be born in the next hundred years.

(Gul Bukhari is a Pakistani journalist and rights activist. She tweets @GulBukhari. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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