The common refrain is the Imran Khan has won this round against Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, by having the last say in the matter of the appointment of the new DGISI. There is grudging acknowledgment of Imran Khan’s win among citizens on social media and senior analysts. The fact that he has delayed the change in guard at the ISI for months is being hailed as his win. His trolls are going as far as claiming it as a win for civil supremacy in Pakistan.
On Tuesday, almost three weeks after ISPR’s announcement of the new DGISI‘s name (Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum), the PM’s office issued a longwinded statement claiming the PM had interviewed all candidates put forward for the post by the GHQ, and that after detailed consultations with the army chief, the PM selected Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum for the office.
Is Imran Khan's Ouster Only a Matter of Time?
Personally, I think the weeks-long standoff has eroded the authority and prestige of both offices—the PM’s and the COAS’s. And if the delay can be be considered Imran Khan’s win, then not only the choice of the new DG is Bajwa’s win, but a much more fundamental change is also his win: General Faiz Hameed’s ouster from the ISI and Pindi.
I had tweeted on the 13 October that Imran Khan would eventually add some imaginary names to the “list” of General Nadeem Anjum and announce Anjum as his choice to save face—which is exactly what happened on 26 October. As it turns out, the PM’s office did not even say from which names the PM selected Lt Gen Anjum.
So, contrary to popular opinion, it is quite clear that the Imran-Faiz duo has lost the gambit. Imran Khan’s crutch, Lt Gen Faiz, is out and now it’s only a matter of time when the two shall be ousted completely.
What Nawaz Sharif Might Do
Whilst PMLN supremo Nawaz Sharif’s camp is observing a studied silence, it’s clear they are exploiting the chasm in favour of General Bajwa for the moment. Nawaz Sharif is appearing quite content and confident. But the next moves are expected to take place only after General Faiz is safely shunted out of Pindi, after 20 November. But it would have to be soon after that date.
An in-house change, ie, a vote of no confidence against Imran Khan, and a vote of confidence for someone from within his party is the most talked about eventuality.
Indeed, earlier Nawaz Sharif was unwilling to support even a no-confidence move - because an army backed alternative would have to be found. And neither was he willing to back another puppet, nor become one himself. But the change now is this: the iron is hot, and he must strike.
So he will go for the no-confidence against Imran Khan, but will neither back any other party/ candidate, nor present his own, precipitating a constitutional crisis. The assemblies will have to be dissolved and a new election called.
Will Pakistan Army, After All, Allow a Fair Election?
Given the army’s fatigue with being abused in Punjab for installing Imran Khan and driving the country into a ditch, there is a good chance it will stand back and allow a relatively fair and free election in a bid to reclaim some respect and credibility.
It appears the brass has reconciled to PMLN sweeping back into power, but certain assurances would have to be obtained: for example a safe passage for General Bajwa. Common sense dictates these would be given in return for a fair election and a few sacrificial lambs. It would be cruel to name the lambs at this point.
It is then possible the wheels of the no-confidence will be put into motion in December this year, with a fresh election by March 2022. Even if the PPP has been promised the next turn, the army is in no position now to help utterly unelectable parties into the federal cockpit, and will end up betraying the PPP - the army seems hemmed in and appears not to have a choice, not withstanding any promises.
Are Zardari and the PPP Still in the Game?
The PPP will have to content itself with just ruling Sindh again, where it still has a genuine base. Though, it could have had so much more had it stuck with the PMLN in the Pakistan Democratic Movement, and not decided to backstab it last year.
Word has it Mian Nawaz Sharif had offered the PPP seats in Punjab, especially the South Punjab, in a bid to keep it onside in the movement with the lure for it to become a national party once again. But that was not to be. Unfortunately.
In President Zardari’s own words, he has but one son. And that sealed the fate of the party. At the time it seemed to have sealed Pakistan’s fate, but now it turns out that it only sealed the PPP’s fate.
The Americans and the Saudis all appear to be on board with the inevitable, so let the games begin.
(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 Quintneither endorses nor is responsible for them.)