Pakistani Military Establishment’s Desire to Control Politicians Remain Unfulfilled


Pakistan’s omnipresent and powerful military establishment may hope that its constant interference in Pakistan’s politics will lead to the emergence of new politicians and the older ‘dynasts’ like the Bhuttos and Sharifs will fade away. Unfortunately, that is not how democracies function and politicians have a remarkable ability to remain in active politics for decades.

Three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif continues to confound the military establishment and his critics. According to former editor on Dawn, Abbas Nasir, “the politically astute Nawaz Sharif who, many observers said, was well past his ‘sell-by’ date is active again because he scents an opportunity to create more elbow room for his party so he can steer a safe path through tough economic decisions that could dent, even decimate, his support.”

In the immediate aftermath of the February elections, and the shock of the PML-N not winning the large numbers that Nawaz had hoped for, the veteran politician had agreed reluctantly to give two key ministries of interior and finance to establishment nominees.

However, the recent appointments of Rana Sanaullah and Ishaq Dar sends the message that Nawaz sought to pre-empt any move by the establishment to appoint more of their loyalists. Ishaq Dar was first made foreign minister and then quickly elevated to deputy prime minister, to ensure that another establishment loyalist was not given that slot. Next, Rana Sanaullah has been made prime ministerial adviser with a seat in the cabinet. He is a diehard Nawaz loyalist who has been critical of the establishment and its chosen interior minister Mohsin Naqvi.

Further, the PPP’s decision to stick with Yousuf Raza Gilani as its successful candidate for the Senate chairman ensured that this position was not offered to another establishment loyalist. According to anchor Najam Sethi “given the former caretaker prime minister, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s ‘invaluable services’, the establishment was keen to reward him with an important position in the new government.”

According to Nasir, Nawaz read the tea leaves correctly. Also, Nasir argues that Nawaz’s moves predate Imran Khan’s recent article in The Telegraph in which he “blew to smithereens any idea of reconciliation” with the military establishment. “Although the Imran Khan article came later in the week, Nawaz Sharif seems to have read the situation correctly ahead of its publication, as he pushed through two decisions via his brother’s office.”


Author: Muhammad Butt