Trouble in Hybrid Regime Paradise!

FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

Over the last seven decades, Pakistan has gone through four military dictatorships and its democracy has remained still-born. Since 2008, no Prime Minister has completed his term in power and while it looked like Imran Khan, selected by the Pakistani establishment may last his full five year term, recent developments suggest that may no longer be the case.

As analyst and author Mohammad Taqi wrote, “A ruckus has been going on in Pakistan over the appointment of a new Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI). What is generally considered a routine matter in which the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) recommends a name – or a few to choose from – to the Prime Minister, became a matter of intense speculation when the incumbent PM Imran Khan dithered to affix his approval to the change of guard.”

Taqi notes “Installing Imran Khan as its puppet PM had been the army’s longstanding project, fostered by several army and the ISI chiefs. But it was on General Bajwa’s watch that it came to fruition in 2018. General Bajwa first appointed the then Major General Faiz – his junior from the Baloch Regiment – in charge of the ISI’s Directorate C, where he did the legwork to undermine Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N’s) government and subsequently steal the elections for Imran Khan. Within four months of becoming a lieutenant general, Faiz was appointed the DG ISI in June 2019. He replaced Lt General Asim Munir, who had a mere nine-month stint – shortest in the ISI history – as the director. The Bajwa-Imran-Faiz trio has since worked together without much friction, with the PM essentially doing the army’s bidding without questioning or invoking any rules and the brass ignoring his occasional tantrums and consistent incompetence as the chief executive.”

As Taqi points out “While the army would’ve had no issues with Imran Khan working with its chosen new DG ISI towards securing a second term, even by manipulating the 2023 elections, it frowns as an enterprise over the civilians – even its handpicked ones – personally teaming up with individuals in the general staff. A PM trying to create his or her lobby in the army is seen as an attempt to undermine the outfit’s discipline. The ISI, as influential as it is, is still supposed to strictly follow its de facto remit laid down by the army, and it really does.”

Further, “Imran Khan’s tight embrace of General Faiz and instance on retaining him on the pretext of the evolving situation in Afghanistan didn’t hold water with the brass. The army knew that the duo’s bear hug had multiple other reasons. The worst kept secret in Islamabad is Imran Khan’s delusional reliance on the supernatural for temporal decision-making. His wife is said to be a religious soothsayer who directs the PM whom to pick and when for key official positions.”

Taqi ends by noting “The opposition parties are rightly seeing this as a mere lovers’ tiff and not a battle for civilian supremacy. The army, under General Bajwa, was completely out of line to announce the DG ISI’s appointment without the PM actually signing a notification. On the other hand, the PM, who has delegated any and all domestic and foreign policy matters to the COAS, just realised that he has merely been carrying water for the army these past three years. The army might be itching to put Imran Khan in his place, and he may be craving a political martyrdom, but for now both might have to go through some therapy and reconcile.”

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Author: Ali Chughtai