All is not well
After the massive leak of a Panamanian firm specializing in offshore investment, all is not well for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his government – and to be precise – for our tottering democracy.
As Nawaz face the heat from political opposition over Panama leaks, his actual concern these days is the big brother of Pakistan’s power corridors: Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif. Speaking at a military gathering in Kohat, the Army Chief said, “Across the board accountability is necessary for the solidarity, integrity and prosperity of Pakistan,” adding further that, “Pakistan’s Armed Forces will fully support every meaningful effort in that direction which would ensure a better future for our next generations.”
His statement sent shockwaves across the political landscape of the country as it was considered a direct intrusion of military in political matters.
Couple of days after Raheel Sharif’s controversial statement, a ‘leaked news’ of General Raheel Sharif sacking several army officers hit the surface – stirring up another storm. While the circumstances were curious, there were contradictions in the number of officers. It was also revealed that these officers would avail the post-retirement privileges like pension and medical facilities.
Those dismissed included former head of country’s powerful Army Strategic Forces Command, Lieutenant-General Obaidullah Khattak, and Major-General Ijaz Shahid.
However, curiously, neither did ISPR release a statement, nor did DG ISPR, Asim Bajwa tweeted about it like he always does. It was established later that most of the officers were removed from their posts way before the leak. A report by The News stated that Major General Ijaz Shahid was removed from service back in 2015.
Predictably, the pressure on the civilian government mounted as the military took all the praises, leaving criticism for Sharif-led government.
Famous journalist and columnist Marvi Sirmed believes the move, which may have meant to pressurize the government has actually portrayed army in the bad light. “National and international media have raised many questions, especially about corruption and accountability process inside the military,” Sirmed said.
Earlier, Prime Minister, in his address to the nation, announced formation of a Judicial Commission to investigate the claims made in the Panama Leaks. “I challenge everyone who accused me of tax fraud to present evidence,” he said, adding “if any of charges of wrongdoing are proved, I will step down immediately.”
The commission has already become controversial as both government and opposition are yet to agree on a mutual Terms of Reference. Imran Khan has already threatened to come back to the streets if the government doesn’t agree to his demands.
Under such circumstances, PM Sharif is losing the remaining authority he had on national affairs. He had ceded enough space to military post PTI-PAT Dharna to lose the rest now. Pakistan’s foreign and defense policy has already been under military’s control.
The rift between Sharif-led government and army is evident from the symbolic moves like banning ‘Maalik’ – a movie which was allegedly funded by ISPR. Citing wrong and negative portrayal of police force and politicians, the film was banned after 3 weeks of uninterrupted screening. It is interesting to note that a film remains on-screen for maximum three weeks and there were fair changes for Maalik to be stripped off the screens due to poor box office earnings.
Stand-off between civil-military relations became too evident over the decision to launch operation in Punjab. While COAS instructed it be an all-out military venture, Punjab government insisted it was a police-led effort with the help of military.
Under such circumstances, PM Sharif is losing the remaining authority he had on national affairs.
Unlike Sindh, Punjab’s government has yet to permit special powers to Rangers. Punjab, which is considered the PMLN’s den, has been long under Army’s scrutiny but permission to launch military operations there were denied.
Commenting on this imbalance, journalist and political analyst Marvi Sirmed said, “Civil-military imbalance doesn’t result well for any country – especially like Pakistan,” she said, asserting that it discourages democratic process. “Both sides need to move carefully from here because one wrong move could result in destabilizing the country.
The rift between Sharif-led government and army is evident from the symbolic moves like banning ‘Maalik’ – a movie which was allegedly funded by ISPR.
Pakistan Army has been fighting a ‘decisive war’ against terrorism. An all-out operation against terrorist elements in Punjab was launched just last month. “Such broad steps to tackle the menace of extremism cannot be successful until both civilian and military authorities are on the same page, and especially until political stability is achieved,” Sirmed added.
Only in the coming few weeks will we be able to see the shape this stand-off between both institutions takes.We can hope, however, are that the matters will be resolved in a civilized manner.