Pakistan army, historically a highly disciplined outfit, has not tolerated insubordination in the past, but it appears that divisions within the army are why Imran Khan and his followers have been allowed to get away with attacking not just the army but the army chief in speeches and on social media.
The PTI’s social media teams continue to drag General Bajwa over the coals. What is incredible, analyst Mohammad Taqi notes, “is that Khan and his followers have gotten away with all of that without as much as a rap on the knuckles. The more he attacked the military and judicial establishment, the more defensive they became. Khan has known all along that the army’s thuggery is carefully calibrated; it hounds the weak, tolerates the strong and caves in to the powerful, especially if they are from the Punjab province. But in this instance, there is a lot more at play than meets the eye. Khan has powerful backers within the junta who weren’t terribly pleased with the traditionalists ditching him.”
The army, in Taqi’s words, “became the prisoner of its own narrative. It has been peddling for decades that the conventional politicians are crooks who plunder Pakistan and stash the loot abroad, and only a charismatic and ostensibly honest and patriotic strongman like Khan could put an end to it.” Further, “General Bajwa’s decision to can Khan has been a hard sell within the army, and he faced criticism from the officers at several forums. He simply could not tell the officers and cadres that the potion they had been consistently fed is poison. The groundswell support that Khan enjoys within the army has made him virtually untouchable; against whom the top brass could not retaliate.”
As Taqi notes, “Khan has powerful backers within the junta who weren’t terribly pleased with the traditionalists ditching him. This adventurist lot comprises of both true believers suffering a self-inflicted, modern-day caliphate-seeking complex, as well as opportunists like the former Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI), Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed Chaudhry, who seeks to become the army chief when General Bajwa steps down this November.”
The Pakistan army has historically held all the cards, will that continue in the future?