Rising anger in Pakistan threatens military's chokehold on political power, says analyst

ANI
·3-min read
Representative image
Representative image

Oklahoma [US], December 24 (ANI): The anger exhibited by the protestors across Pakistan in recent months in the rallies organised by Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), indicates that many Pakistanis see the army as the real power behind Prime Minister Imran Khan and the cause for the political and economic woes afflicting the country, according to a political scientist.

Aqil Shah, writing for Foreign Affairs Magazine said the rage of the protestors has caused a shift that could eventually threaten the "military's chokehold on political power," adding that instead of targeting the ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party (PTI) and Imran Khan, the protests could go after the military itself.

In an opinion piece for the US magazine, Shah wrote that "Many Pakistanis see the army as the real power behind Khan and the cause of the country's political and economic woes. Their anger has occasioned a remarkable shift as major political figures speak out for the first time against the military's dominance of Pakistan--a shift that could eventually threaten the military's chokehold on political power."

Shah, who is a Wick Cary Associate Professor of South Asian Politics at the University of Oklahoma, said that it is well known that Pakistan chief of army staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa takes most of the decisions including foreign relations and decisions on domestic policy.

"He independently manages the country's foreign relations with important allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, controls decision-making on dealings with neighbouring Afghanistan and India, holds briefings for business leaders, and even makes important domestic policy decisions--such as the one to impose a nationwide lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic."

On the raging protests across Pakistan, Shah wrote in the Foreign Affairs article that recent months have witnessed a mounting challenge to the country's military and to Imran Khan himself. "Pakistan's otherwise fractious opposition parties formed an unprecedented united front in September under the umbrella of the PDM. Tens of thousands of opposition protesters gathered in the city of Lahore this past Sunday."

Shah's commentary comes as PDM has given PTI government until the end of January 2021 to resign failing which the alliance plans to take hold of Islamabad in February to oust Imran Khan.

According to the Shah, the opposition's campaign is likely to intensify in the coming months, as will the government's attempts to dismiss and quash the protests.

"It is unclear whether the PDM will succeed. But there is no doubt that the military's continued hold over Pakistani political life poses a clear threat to democratic freedoms and the rule of law," he said.

The political scientist further said for the first time in Pakistan's history, there is a consensus across the ideological spectrum on the need for "civilian supremacy over the military."

"Academics, rights activists, and journalists continue to speak truth to power at great personal risk even as the military cracks down on civil society and imposes severe restrictions on free speech," he wrote.

Slamming the international community, for their the lack of attention in the matter, Shah said, "Sadly, the international community, including the United States under President Donald Trump, has largely been indifferent to the parlous state of democracy in Pakistan and failed to put pressure on the military."

On the US President-elect Joe Biden's stated commitment to promoting human rights, Shah hoped that the upcoming administration will not allow the "autocratic excesses in Pakistan". He further urged Biden administration to speak out loudly against the generals' assault on democracy and democrats. (ANI)