Does Pakistan Have Civil-Military Divide On US Ties?

Multiple media reports and analysts have suggested that there is civil-military divide in Pakistan on the question of relations with the United States. These reports cite General Bajwa's statement that "We share a long history of excellent and strategic relationship with the United States" and the fact that this statement came a day after the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan formally protested to the United States for allegedly backing his opponents in a parliamentary no-confidence vote seeking his ouster from power. However, a look at more detailed remarks by General Bajwa at the Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022 (ISD2022) lead to an entirely different conclusion: There is no civil-military divide in Islamabad on the question of US-Pakistan ties.  

Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) with General Bajwa

Answering a question about US-Pakistan ties at the Islamabad Security Dialogue 2022, Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa said China is "off course our neighbor, a very important neighbor, and our military ties are growing". 

He complained about the US denying helicopter engines for T129's Pakistan ordered from Turkey. Similarly, he said France & Germany denied submarine engines for Pakistan under Indian pressure. 

He said Pakistan wants good relations with the US & western Europe but it is being left no choice but to seek its military hardware from China & Russia. He encouraged Western participants at the Islamabad conference to think about these things.

The ISD 2022 hosted 17 foreign speakers from the US, China, UK, Russia, European Union, Japan, and elsewhere.

Bajwa reminded the West that Pakistan was a part of US-led military alliances SEATO & CENTO. He said Pakistan helped the West dismantle the Soviet Union. 

“Our commitment to defeat terrorism remains unwavering,” he said, adding that with the help of security and law enforcement agencies, Pakistan has made significant gains against terrorism. 

“Pakistan, as a country located at the crossroads of economic and strategic confronts, is navigating these shared challenges in our immediate region and through our partnership in the international community,” he said.

“It [National Security Policy] recognizes the symbiotic relationship between the economic, human and traditional security, placing economic security at the core,” he said.

“It is our collective responsibility towards the people of Afghanistan to ensure timely and adequate flow of humanitarian aid into the country; however, the world, especially the west is preoccupied with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine,” he stated, reminding that we must not forget the 40 million Afghans during these times.

“Inability to address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan will not only lead to the refugee crisis but will again make Afghanistan an epicenter of terrorism where Daesh — which has a global agenda — flourishes which may result in more than one 9/11s,” he said.

“Good or bad, it is important for the international community to keep the Afghan government’s nose above the water.”

Mentioning the performance of the interim Afghan government, he said: “The performance of the present Afghan government is not satisfactory, to say the least, but we have to be patient and accommodative.”

“Instead of imposing sanctions, which have never worked, we must incentivize Afghans for their positive work and behavioral change,” he said, reiterating that disengagement with Afghanistan is “not an option.”

“India’s indifferent attitude in not informing Pakistan immediately about an irrelevant launch of a missile is equally concerning,” he said, hoping that the international community will realize that this incident could have resulted in the loss of lives in Pakistan or an accidental shooting down of a passenger plane that was flying along the path of the cruise missile.

“On our part, like early 2019, when Pakistan demonstrated its role as a responsible member of the international community by returning the captured pilot of an intruding fighter aircraft we have once again demonstrated maturity and responsibility in our response,” he said.

Bajwa  reiterated: “Pakistan continues to believe in using dialogue and diplomacy to resolve all outstanding issues including the Kashmir dispute and is ready to move forward in this front if India agrees to do so with one-third of the world in the Gulf region involved in some sort of conflict and war it is important that we keep the flames of fire away from our region.”

“I believe it is time for the political leadership of the region to rise above their emotional and perceptional biases and break the shackles of history to bring peace and prosperity to almost three billion people of the region,” he said, highlighting the intransigent behavior of the Indian leaders.

“While with Russia, Pakistan had cold relations for a long time due to numerous reasons; however, recently there have been some positive developments in this regard,” he said.

“Sadly, the Russian invasion is very unfortunate as thousands of people have been killed, millions made refugees and half of Ukraine destroyed,” he said, stressing the need to address the issue “immediately”.

“Pakistan has consistently called for an immediate ceasefire […] we support immediate dialogue between all sides to find a lasting solution to the conflict,” he said, highlighting the humanitarian assistance sent to Ukraine from Pakistan.

“The continuation or expansion of the conflict in Ukraine will not serve the interest on any side least of all the developing countries which will continue to face the social-economic cost of the conflict — a conflict that can easily get out of hand,” the COAS said.

“Pakistan today has a unique position where it has very cordial historic relation with both the camps,” he said.

Here's a short clip of General Bajwa's remarks at ISD2022:


Riaz Haq said…
Growing ties between #Pakistan and #China raise concern in #Washington and #NewDelhi. Just how close Sino-Pakistani ties have become can be seen in a 33-point document issued by the two countries in early February during #ImranKhan's visit to #Beijing

China’s engagement in South Asia has increased significantly in recent years, going beyond economic and development projects to encompass geostrategic and security interests.

And perhaps in no other country in the region has Beijing expanded its footprint more than in Pakistan, raising concerns in Washington and New Delhi about the geostrategic implications of this deepening partnership.

The latest example of this was the Pakistan Day Parade in Islamabad in late March, which saw the country’s military display several recently acquired, Chinese-made platforms such as J-10CE multirole fighter aircraft, battle tanks, self-propelled howitzers and air-defense equipment.

China’s supply of advanced military equipment to Pakistan — also including warships and submarines — is part of an intensifying military and intelligence cooperation that reflects the growing level of trust between the two sides.

The burgeoning military ties, which also include joint defense-industrial projects such as the JF-17 fighter aircraft, can largely be seen as an attempt by both sides to counter capability advancements by their common regional rival India, particularly as they both remain in territorial disputes with New Delhi.

“For Beijing, Pakistan serves as a buffer against India. And for Islamabad, China is a key source of arms and other support to strengthen Pakistani capacities to counter India,” says Michael Kugelman, the deputy director at the Asia program of the Washington-based Wilson Center.

Geopolitical developments in recent years have made this dynamic even stronger, as New Delhi has gradually drawn closer to Washington and its allies under “the Quad” grouping of countries, which also includes Japan and Australia. Kugelman argues that China lacks the capacity to contain the defense-industrial development of a regional giant such as India, which is why Beijing’s strategy is instead focused on countering India — as seen in the Himalayan border standoff in recent years — and outperforming it economically.

The growing Sino-Pakistani cooperation has set off alarm bells in New Delhi, especially as Chinese arms and money continue to flow into Pakistan. Moreover, the Indian military, which is preparing for a potential two-front war with China and Pakistan, is also concerned about the possibility of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) establishing a more robust logistics and basing infrastructure in the region.

Beijing is pursuing additional military facilities in foreign countries — beyond its base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa — to support naval, air, ground, cyber, and space power projection, according to the Pentagon’s 2021 China Military Power report. And one of the locations likely considered by China is Pakistan, along with Cambodia, Myanmar and other nations.

Riaz Haq said…
In Q&A, #US Assistant Secretary of State for #SouthAsia Donald Lu neither confirmed nor denied having a threatening conversation with #Pakistan's Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan. When pressed, Lu said: "That’s all I have for you on that question". #ImranKhan

Q: Let me move to the rest of the region and start with Pakistan. Imran Khan seems to suggest that you had a conversation with the Pakistani ambassador in the US and told him that if Imran Khan survives the no-confidence motion, Pakistan is in trouble and the US won’t forgive Pakistan. Any response?

A: We are following developments in Pakistan and we respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law.

Q: Did you have such a conversation?

A: That’s all I have for you on that question.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani official has expressed to Newsweek that relations with the United States would stay their course after a no-confidence vote prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has accused Washington of seeking to oust him.

The Pakistani official told Newsweek that the vote was "a parliamentary process as per the constitution, and that "Pakistan-U.S. relations will remain on track as is evident from the engagement we had in the past one year."

The parliamentary motion Saturday produced 174 votes against Khan, two more than needed to remove him from office, and followed a dramatic escalation in political rifts within a nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people that constitute the world's second-largest Muslim population.

Since coming to office in August 2018, the populist cricket star-turned-politician has faced growing tensions with the nation's influential military leadership as well as worsening inflation. Abroad, he had embraced a tightening bond with neighboring China and an increasingly difficult relationship with the U.S., which has forged stronger ties in recent years with Pakistan's top rival, India.

As support grew for Khan's ousting, the Pakistani premier alleged last week that the effort was a result of "blatant interference in domestic politics by the United States." His accusation was later backed by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, a fellow member of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party who attempted to block the no-confidence vote and dissolve parliament last Sunday, only to be overruled on Friday by the Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden's administration has vehemently denied the claims.
Riaz Haq said…
Syed Talat Hussain
By opting out of the swearing in ceremony of PM Shehbaz Sharif, Gen Bajwa has achieved 3 unenviable outcomes. 1) Fuelling Imran’s charge of this govt being an outcome of “US conspiracy”; 2) acknowledging street pressure;3) acknowledging internal sensitivities. Bad gesture.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan has been an important ally for 75 years: #US Sec of State Blinken’s message to #ShahbazSharif. "The United States views a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as essential for the interests of both of our countries"
via @swati_bhasin

Pakistan has been an "important partner on wide-ranging mutual interests for nearly 75 years", the United States' secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement as he congratulated the country's new prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, who was elected this week after several weeks of political turbulence. In a statement, Blinken said, "We value our relationship. The United States congratulates newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and we look forward to continuing our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan’s government."

The remarks come even as Imran Khan continues to hurl allegations of "foreign conspiracy" over his ouster as he became the first prime minister in the country on Sunday to lose power through a no confidence motion. 174 lawmakers in the 342-member National Assembly voted in favour of the no-trust vote.

"The United States views a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as essential for the interests of both of our countries," Blinken said in his remarks.

Khan, 69, had repeatedly alleged that billions were being spent by his rivals to ensure the fall of his government as he was accused of derailing the country's economy. He even named a US diplomat, Donald LU, linking him to the alleged plot.

However, Shehbaz Sharif, brother of three-time former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif, had rebuffed the claims. So did the US.

Earlier this week, as Pakistan's new government was elected, White House's Jen Psaki, at a media briefing, said: “We value our long standing cooperation with Pakistan and have always viewed a prosperous and democratic Pakistan as critical to the US interests. That remains unchanged regardless of who the leadership is." The White House press secretary also stressed that the US "does not prefer one party over the other".

Responding to the White House's remarks, Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement cited by local media: "The new government wishes to constructively and positively engage with the US to promote shared goals of peace, security and development in the region."
Riaz Haq said…
"Hands Were Tied, Blackmailed": Imran Khan's All-Out Attack On Pak Army
Imran Khan, who came to power in 2018, reportedly with the backing of the military, is the only Pakistani Prime Minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He was replaced by PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif.

In an unusual attack on Pakistan's military, ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan has admitted that his government was a "weak one" which was "blackmailed from everywhere" as the power was not with him and "everyone knows where that is".
Imran Khan was ousted from power in April after losing a no-confidence vote in his leadership, which he alleged was part of a US-led conspiracy targeting him because of his independent foreign policy decisions on Russia, China and Afghanistan.

In an interview to Pakistan's Bol News on Wednesday, Imran Khan was asked to recall the events of the night of the no-confidence vote against him, who was issuing orders and who had impeded the cases against the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief said his government had been "weak" when it came to power and had to seek coalition partners, adding that if the same situation were to arise again, he would opt for re-elections and seek a majority government or none at all.

"Our hands were tied. We were blackmailed from everywhere. Power wasn't with us. Everyone knows where the power lies in Pakistan so we had to rely on them," the 69-year-old cricketer-turned-politician said, without elaborating any further who he was referring to.

Imran Khan, who came to power in 2018, reportedly with the backing of the military, is the only Pakistani Prime Minister to be ousted in a no-confidence vote in Parliament. He was replaced by PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif.

He said it was imperative for the country to have a "strong army" due to the threat posed by the enemies but said there was also the need to strike a "balance" between having a strong army and a strong government.

"We relied on them all the time. They did a lot of good things too but they didn't do many things that should've been done. They have the power because they control institutions such as NAB (National Accountability Bureau), which wasn't in our control," he said.

The former Prime Minister said while his government had the responsibility, it did not have all the power and the authority.

The Pakistan Army, which has ruled the coup-prone country for more than half of its 73 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy. However, the army has continuously denied its involvement in politics.

According to experts, Imran Khan, who was ousted on April 10 after the National Assembly passed a no-confidence motion against him, had apparently lost support of the Army after he refused to endorse the appointment of Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum as the ISI spy agency chief last year. Finally, he agreed but it soured his ties with the Army.

During the interview, Imran Khan said, "No management works if I have responsibility but have no complete power and authority. A system works only when responsibility and authority are in one place."

Mr Khan said the current political situation was a problem for the country as well as the establishment.

"If the establishment doesn't make the right decisions then I can assure in writing that (before everyone else) they and the army will be destroyed because of what will become of the country if it goes bankrupt," he said.

"Pakistan is going towards a default. If that happens then which institution will be (the worst) hit? The army. After it is hit, what concession will be taken from us? Denuclearisation," Mr Khan said.
Riaz Haq said…
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Monday took strong exception to the recent remarks by PTI Chairman Imran Khan regarding the appointment of the new army chief, saying that it was “aghast at the defamatory and uncalled for” statement about the institution’s senior leadership.

“Regrettably, an attempt has been made to discredit and undermine [the] senior leadership of [the] Pakistan Army at a time when the institution is laying lives for the security and safety of the people of Pakistan every day.

Senior politicians trying to stir controversies on the appointment of the chief of army staff (COAS), the procedure for which is well defined in the constitution, is most unfortunate and disappointing, the ISPR said.

It went on to say that the army’s senior leadership had a decades-long, impeccable and meritorious service to prove its patriotic and professional credentials beyond any doubt.

“Politicising the senior leadership of Pakistan Army and scandalising the process of selection of [the] COAS is neither in the interest of the state of Pakistan nor of the institution. Pakistan Army reiterates its commitment to uphold the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the statement concluded.

The development comes a day after Imran, at a rally in Faisalabad, alleged that the PPP and PML-N were opposing fresh elections, because they wanted to “appoint an army chief of their choice” in November to save their skin in corruption cases.

“They want to bring their own army chief…they are afraid that if a strong and patriotic army chief is appointed then he would ask them about the looted wealth,” the former prime minister said.

“They are sitting [in the government] because they want to bring in an army chief of their choice through joint efforts,” Imran claimed, adding that the army chief should be “appointed on merit … whoever is on the top of the merit list should be appointed” to head the institution.

COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was appointed in 2016, is set to retire in the last week of November. The army chief’s appointment is meant to be for three years, but Gen Bajwa was given an additional three-year term in 2019 after a bit of political drama.

She said the press release was “of concern because it seems to have misunderstood what Imran said despite clarifications”. The ex-human rights minister maintained that the PTI chief had not criticised the military or its leadership in his Faisalabad speech.

PTI’s Asad Umar said the context of Imran’s statement had already been clarified. “There was never an intent to cause harm to the reputation of the institution or its senior leadership,” he said.

He went on to say that the party and its chief had always “fully appreciated” the professionalism and sacrifices of army personnel.

“The emphasis on upholding the principle of merit is consistent with the desire to protect the professionalism of the force which provides security to the nation,” he said.

PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry said the ISPR would not have felt the need to issue the press release if it had listened to what he had said in Islamabad earlier today.

In his press conference, Chaudhry had attempted to explain and defend Imran’s remarks.

Criticising the coalition government and its leaders, Chaudhry said Imran had meant that the decision to appoint the next COAS could not be left to the government since it lacked “political legitimacy”.

“We have raised questions on the legitimacy of the politicians who are making decisions,” Chaudhry said.

He added that the PTI felt the army should not be involved in the political process.

“There is no doubt about the patriotism of the army’s leadership. There can be no doubt or suspicion about it,” Chaudhry asserted.

Coalition govt slams Imran
Earlier today, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other coalition leaders castigated Imran for levelling “poisonous allegations” against the armed forces and “putting blots” on the appointment of the new army chief.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s Military Is Here To Stay
Imran Khan’s agitations won’t change how his country functions.
By Husain Haqqani

Pakistani politics have always revolved around the country’s military. Civilian politicians compete for support while criticizing—or seeking covert help from—a ubiquitous security establishment. Since his ouster as prime minister last April, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has become the latest to challenge this system. But Khan’s polarizing rhetoric is only adding to Pakistan’s chaos—not marking the advent of a revolution.

The government elected after Khan’s removal via a no-confidence vote initially tolerated the former prime minister’s attacks on generals, judges, and political rivals in addition to his conspiracy theories about his ouster being the result of a U.S.-backed plot. Unlike previous civilian leaders who fell afoul of the military, Khan was not immediately arrested, charged with corruption, or disqualified from future elections by judicial fiat. But now, Khan and his close aides are beginning to face the wrath of the state apparatus. Both the security establishment and the civilian government seem to have realized that Khan’s populist influence will not diminish without prosecuting him and his associates.

On Oct. 12, Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency charged Khan with violating laws barring foreign funding for political parties. Since Khan first ran for public office in 1997, he has raised funds for his Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from foreigners and overseas Pakistanis, many of whom had donated to charities he started after retiring from cricket in 1992. Although some of this fundraising has likely always violated Pakistani law, prosecutors long held off disciplining Khan or his party because they enjoyed the establishment’s blessings.

Khan’s support base comprises middle-class urban Pakistanis disenchanted with the country’s two traditional political parties, the center-right Pakistan Muslim League (PML)—dominated since the 1980s by the family of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif—and the center-left Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by members of the family of late Prime Ministers Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

Prime ministers from both the PML and PPP have been ousted from office multiple times by the Pakistani military, which routinely influences Pakistan’s superior judiciary. Supreme Court judges then often provide legal cover for otherwise undemocratic and unconstitutional actions initiated by generals. The Supreme Court endorsed Pakistan’s four military coups in 1958, 1969, 1977, and 1999, as well as accepted the generals’ right to suspend the constitution under its so-called doctrine of necessity. On other occasions, the military orchestrated palace coups in 1990, 1993, and 1996, resulting in dismissal of elected prime ministers by the president and with the support of the Supreme Court. In 2012 and 2017, prime ministers were removed from office at the behest of the military through direct intervention by the Supreme Court. Together, the Pakistani military and judiciary have never allowed a PML or PPP prime minister to stay in office for the full five-year term of parliament.

Khan presented himself as the military-backed alternative to the PML and PPP’s perceived corrupt, dynastic politics. His populist rhetoric appealed to young middle-class Pakistanis as well as those who had been more comfortable during the country’s past periods of military rule than under its civilian democrats.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s Military Is Here To Stay
Imran Khan’s agitations won’t change how his country functions.
By Husain Haqqani

Khan at first failed to get traction as a politician, losing all seats his party contested in the 1997 parliamentary elections. He managed to enter parliament in 2002 in elections organized by the military regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Only in 2013 did Khan’s party win a significant number of seats in parliament for the first time. In 2018, he finally translated his celebrity status into high political office with direct help from Pakistan’s intelligence services and the military. In that year’s elections, the PTI emerged as the single-largest party in the lower house of parliament, but it could not form a government without the support of smaller parties. The military overcame this last hurdle by advising three such groups to form a coalition with the PTI.

Khan’s ascent to the office of prime minister became possible because of a controversial Supreme Court ruling that disqualified Nawaz Sharif without trial as well as a spate of corruption cases hobbling most of Khan’s other opponents in the PML and PPP. To get to this point, the military had ensured favorable media coverage for Khan and his party, helped prosecute his opponents, and directed locally influential candidates to join the PTI. Opponents and foreign observers also alleged selective rigging on election day.

Those corruption cases against PML and PPP leaders failed to make much headway in trial courts and are currently being thrown out for lack of evidence. But Khan continued to rail against his opponents, telling his supporters that Pakistan was destined for greatness under his leadership. Like most populist leaders, however, he had no answers for Pakistan’s problems and governed poorly. Khan often addressed the nation on television and rallied his supporters with a mix of Islamist and nationalist grandiloquence. The military gradually lost faith in the former prime minister as Pakistan’s economy took a nosedive and its foreign relations suffered.

The value of the Pakistani rupee eroded after Khan reinstated fuel subsidies that had been eliminated as part of the country’s commitments under an International Monetary Fund program. Khan had managed to antagonize the leaders of China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates so much so that these traditionally friendly countries would not help Pakistan service its $126 billion in foreign debt. His open support for the Taliban and criticism of U.S. leaders and policy, meanwhile, left Pakistan with little support in the United States.

Ever the narcissist, Khan ran a one-man show­—shuffling his cabinet often and skipping sessions of parliament. He also displayed little respect for lawmakers or the generals who helped bring him to office. Meanwhile, Khan’s opponents peeled off support from his coalition and—once the military withdrew its backing by publicly declaring itself politically neutral—ousted him in the April no-confidence vote. Khan’s effort to nullify the vote by claiming that it was U.S.-backed regime change did not survive legal challenges.

Out of office, Khan has turned on his former benefactor, the military high command, claiming that Pakistan’s army chief ousted him to bring “traitors” back to power at the behest of the United States. Khan feels no need to offer evidence of his conspiracy-mongering because his followers have become a personality cult, willing to follow him to the gates of hell. But despite Khan’s vaunted popular support and vast social media presence, his promises to mobilize a revolution will most likely remain unfulfilled.
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan’s Military Is Here To Stay
Imran Khan’s agitations won’t change how his country functions.
By Husain Haqqani

Out of office, Khan has turned on his former benefactor, the military high command, claiming that Pakistan’s army chief ousted him to bring “traitors” back to power at the behest of the United States. Khan feels no need to offer evidence of his conspiracy-mongering because his followers have become a personality cult, willing to follow him to the gates of hell. But despite Khan’s vaunted popular support and vast social media presence, his promises to mobilize a revolution will most likely remain unfulfilled.

Pakistan has had popular leaders who challenged the military’s dominance on politics and policy before. They did not succeed in weakening this stranglehold—and Khan’s chances are no better. In railing against the military leadership, Khan is simply doing what Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif did before him. All three of them rose to power with the help of the military and then turned around to confront it.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif attracted huge crowds at rallies, yet their parties survived only through compromises with the Pakistan Army. However, unlike them, Khan’s opposition to the military’s role in Pakistani politics is not rooted in conviction. Bhutto and Sharif, as well as their supporters, firmly believed in democracy and civilian supremacy over the military rooted in Pakistan’s constitution; their collaboration with the military was strategic and did not reflect ideology. Khan and his supporters, by contrast, hope that the Islamist, anti-American elements of the military will intervene to help Khan return to power.

That is unlikely to happen. Pakistan’s military is not prone to factional divisions and remains unified despite Khan’s provocations. The former prime minister’s cult followers might believe he is the only patriotic and honest political leader in Pakistan, but the military seems to have moved on.

Unlike Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, or many other Pakistani politicians, Khan has never faced adversity in his career—so far. He has never faced criminal cases or gone to prison. Nor has he been banned from holding public office, appearing on television, or traveling—restrictions that others daring to take on Pakistan’s establishment have faced in the past. Khan may have a political future if he gets through the hardships that await him. He remains popular with his base and was recently able to win back most—though not all—of the parliamentary seats in recent by-elections on seats vacated by the PTI.

As Khan and others nurtured by Pakistan’s military establishment turn against it, some might be tempted to write the obituary of military dominance in the country’s politics. As someone who has advocated and fought for the supremacy of civilian rule and constitutional democracy in Pakistan for decades, I am not sure Khan’s agitation will truly change how Pakistan functions. The country is likely to witness some more chaos—rallies and media noise by Khan’s supporters, political disputes playing out in court, the specter of debt defaults, continuing inflation and erosion of the value of the Pakistani rupee, threats of violence by the Pakistani Taliban, and extreme political polarization—before the military steps in again, most likely indirectly, to restore order.
Riaz Haq said…
Army, ISI in unprecedented presser question Arshad Sharif's exit from Pakistan, point to PTI's involvement

In an explosive and unexpected press conference, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Nadeem Ahmed Anjum joined Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) DG Lt Gen Babar Iftikhar to speak about journalist Arshad Sharif’s killing and former premier Imran Khan’s confrontational narrative against the military, as well as a host of other related topics.

This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that the head of the country’s spy agency has directly addressed the media.

At the outset of the press conference, Gen Iftikhar said the purpose of today’s media talk was to shed light on the killing of journalist Arshad Sharif in Kenya and the circumstances surrounding it.

This press conference is being held in the context of presenting facts so that “facts, fiction and opinion can be differentiated”, he said, adding that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had been “specially informed” about the sensitivity of the press conference.

Key points from joint presser

March 27 narrative built through a piece of paper ‘far from reality’
Arshad Sharif was fed propaganda on cypher by Imran Khan
Facts behind the cypher and Sharif’s death have to be determined
ARY News played the role of a spin doctor in targeting the army; CEO Salman Iqbal should be brought back to Pakistan
KP govt in August issued a letter stating TTP splinter group was looking to target Sharif
No one forced Arshad Sharif to leave Dubai
Sharif did not face any threat in Pakistan
COAS presented ’lucrative offer“ for extension in March
Besides, it is necessary to determine the factors due to which a particular narrative is being built and people are being misled, he said.

“Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was also targeted and faced criticism. An attempt was made to create a divide in society.”

He said that Sharif’s death was an “unfortunate incident” and called him an “icon of journalism in Pakistan”. He noted that members of the late journalist’s family had served in the army, adding that he always felt the pain of martyred officers.

Gen Iftikhar went on to say that Sharif’s popularity was based on being an investigative journalist and when the cypher — which PTI chief Imran Khan has touted as evidence of a foreign conspiracy to oust his government — surfaced, he conducted several programmes on the issue.

He held several meetings with the former premier and interviewed him, the DG ISPR said. “As a result, it was stated that he was shown meeting minutes and the cypher.”

The facts behind the cypher and Sharif’s death have to be determined, he said.

Talking about the cypher, Gen Iftikhar said that the army chief had discussed it with Imran on March 11 when the latter had termed it to be “not a big thing”.

“It was surprising for us when on March 27 a piece of paper was waved and an attempt was made to build a narrative that was far from reality.”

He said that several facts had come to light regarding the cypher revealing the “baseless and unfounded” narrative surrounding it. The ISPR informed the National Security Committee that no proof was found regarding the conspiracy against the PTI government, he said, adding that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) also did not find any evidence regarding the conspiracy.

“This is all part of the record. We wanted to bring this to the public. And we left the decision to the-then government.”

However, this did not happen and more rumours were spread for political mileage, he said, adding that the Pakistan Army was also targeted.

At this time, Sharif and other journalists were fed a particular narrative and an attempt was made to defame Pakistan and the country’s institutions across the world, he said.

“In this media trial, ARY News played the role of a spin doctor in targeting the army and promoting a false narrative […] the NSC meeting was presented in the wrong context.”

Riaz Haq said…
Army, ISI in unprecedented presser question Arshad Sharif's exit from Pakistan, point to PTI's involvement

Gen Iftikhar stated that the army was expected to intervene in domestic politics. “The word neutral and apolitical was turned into an abuse. To all this baseless narrative, the army chief and the institution showed restraint and we tried our level best that politicians sit together to resolve their issues.”

He noted that Sharif made strong comments regarding the army during this time but added that “we did not have any negative sentiments about him and we don’t have such feelings now”.

Threat letter for KP
During the press conference, the DG ISPR revealed that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on August 5 issued a threat letter on the directives of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan which stated that a Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter group was looking to target Sharif.

“In this regard, no info was shared with the institutions who provided them the information.”

This shows the threat alert was issued with the aim to force Sharif to leave the country, Gen Iftikhar said.

“There was reports that he (Sharif) did not want to leave the country but he kept being reminded that he was facing a threat” to his life, he said.

He went on to say that on August 8, Shahbaz Gill’s statement on ARY News regarding the country’s institutions was condemned and the politician was arrested a day later.

He said that when ARY News head Ammad Yousuf was arrested in August, it emerged that ARY CEO Salman Iqbal had asked the former to send Sharif abroad as soon as possible.

The DG ISPR stated that a manager in the ARY Group booked a ticket for Sharif for Dubai, according to which he was supposed to be back on September 9.

“On Aug 10, he left Peshawar airport thorough EK-637 for Dubai. He was provided complete protocol by the KP government,” he said, adding that the late journalist was escorted by KP officers to the airport.

“Arshad remained in the UAE until he had a valid visa. He left for Kenya when his visa for Dubai expired.”

He said that no one “forced” Sharif to leave Dubai at a government level and questioned who exactly forced him to leave. He also questioned who processed the journalist’s documents in the UAE, who looked after his accommodation, who forced him to not return to Pakistan and who assured him that he was safe in Kenya.

He also questioned who was in contact with Sharif from Pakistan and who was hosting him in Kenya.

“Kenyan police accepted their mistake and it has to be examined whether this is a case of mistaken identity or one of targeted killing. There are several questions that have to be answered,” he said, calling for a “transparent and fair probe”.

Therefore, the government has been requested to form a high-level inquiry commission, he said.

‘Salman Iqbal should be brought back’
The DG ISPR went on to say that the name of the ARY CEO was surfacing again and again. “He should be brought back to Pakistan and made part of the probe.”

He said that after Sharif’s death, people had started pointing fingers at the army. “It has to be determined who exactly benefitted from his killing.”

“It’s your responsibility now unearth the facts and bring them to light. We have to wait for the report from the inquiry commission. Until the report is released, it is not appropriate to make allegations”.

He said that Pakistan was a “dignified and independent nation”, urging people to “have belief in your institutions”.

“No one wants to be labelled a traitor after serving for 30-40 years. We can be weak, we can make mistakes, but we can never be a traitor or conspirator. The army is nothing without the people,” he said, adding that now was the time for “unity and discipline”.

Riaz Haq said…
Army, ISI in unprecedented presser question Arshad Sharif's exit from Pakistan, point to PTI's involvement

DG ISI’s first public appearance, says COAS presented ‘lucrative offer’ for extension in March
In an unprecedented move, the ISI chief also made an appearance in today’s press conference — the first time in Pakistan’s history.

“I am aware that you are surprised by my presence,” he said, adding that he had appeared for his institution and the officers who were sacrificing their lives. “As chief of this agency, I cannot remain silent when they are targeted for no reason.”

Lt Gen Anjum said the nation had given him the responsibility to take secrets to the grave. “But when needed and when necessary, I will bring those facts to light”.

Talking about the officers martyred in Lasbela, he said that they were mocked. Therefore, it is highly condemnable to speak without proof, he said, adding that words like “neutral and janwar” were meant to illustrate that the institution was indulging in sedition.

He added that these words were also being used because the institution refused to bend to an “unconstitutional and illegal act”.

“Last year, the establishment decided that it would restrict itself to its constitutional role […] The army had an intense discussion and we reached the conclusion that the country’s benefit lies in us restricting ourselves to our constitutional role and remaining out of politics.”

He said that in March, there was “a lot of pressure” but the institution and the army chief decided to limit the military to its constitutional role.

If Gen Bajwa wanted, he could have spent the last few months of his tenure comfortably but he made sacrifices in the country’s best interest, he said, adding that the army chief’s family was also targeted.

Lt Gen Anjum also made the revelation that in March, Gen Bajwa was given a “lucrative offer” for an extension in his tenure. “It was made in front of me. He rejected it because he wanted the institution to move forward from a controversial role to a constitutional role.”

Seemingly talking about former premier Imran, the ISI chief said that while citizens had the right to their opinion, why did “you praise him so much in the past if he was a traitor?”

“If you see him as a traitor, then why do you meet him through the back door? […] Don’t do this where you meet quietly at night through the back door and express your unconstitutional wishes but call [the army chief] a traitor in broad daylight. That’s a big contradiction between your words and your actions.”

Later in response to a question about who offered the extension to the COAS, he said that it was “evident” that it was the government in power at the time.

“The offer was made because the no-confidence motion was at its peak,” he said.

“Pakistan is a democratic country and deciding [about its] friends and foes is the domain of democratically elected government. The institution’s role is to present their analysis on the basis of their information. The decision will be the government’s.”

He went on to say that politics of hatred created instability and lamented that this was divisive in society.

The ISI chief said that when he was appointed, he was asked about the country’s main issue. “I said it was our economic woes, But those who asked the question did not agree. In their view, the opposition was the biggest problem.”

‘Not here for personal reasons’
He said that political intolerance causes instability, stating that constitutional and legal ways needed to be pursued. “When we go through the back door, it causes anarchy in the country.”

Talking about the decision to appear during today’s press conference, Lt Gen Anjum stated that it was in defence of the country’s institutions.

“I would often see that lies [were being perpetuated] and the youth was accepting it. I did not make an appearance for personal reasons. I saw the way the country and institutions were facing threats due to lies which is why I broke my silence.”

Riaz Haq said…
Army, ISI in unprecedented presser question Arshad Sharif's exit from Pakistan, point to PTI's involvement

Later during the presser, he said that he was not here for personal reasons.

“There were campaigns against me in March on social media. I got a call from the agency that a campaign was underway against me. I told them get in touch when the retweets exceed eight thousand million. Before that, I don’t care about myself”

He said that he would have addressed the media earlier if it was for personal reasons. “Those sacrificing their lives should not have to face these lies. Hence, remaining silence was morally unacceptable to me.”

‘Sharif was in contact with establishment’
Talking about Sharif, the ISI chief said he was a “competent, hardworking and able journalist”. “Some quarters may have differences with his political views but his dedication for work is undeniable.”

However, he stated that as per his reports, Sharif did not face any threat in Pakistan. Lt Gen Anjum said that members of Sharif’s family were martyred officers and the journalist had contacts with the establishment.

“When he went abroad, he was still in contact [with the establishment].”

The DG ISI said he was in contact with his Kenyan counterpart regarding the probe, adding that initial investigations said it was a case of mistaken identity.

“Perhaps we and the government are not fully convinced. That’s why the government has formed a team that will head to Kenya.”

He went on to say that intelligence officers had been removed from the probe teams so that a “fair probe” could be conducted. “Whatever conclusion is reached, the DG ISPR will inform you about it.”

In response to a question about the journalist receiving threats from the ISI, he reiterated that Sharif had “good contacts” with his subordinates. He also said that if the establishment did not want the journalist to leave the country, he would not be able to do so.

“We had no personal enmity with him. He had old contacts with our officers. Other journalists also say they receive calls. This is a lie,” he said, adding that there were apps that allowed the caller to conceal their identity.
Riaz Haq said…
Imran Khan has Pakistani army ducking & defending. Why it’s a historic moment for the subcontinent
The army's word used to be a command for any government of the day. It could hire, fire, jail, exile, or murder prime ministers. But now it fears defeat at the hands of politicians.
By Shekhar Gupta, The Print, India

Now, we had the ISI chief, institutionally among the most powerful men in the world at any time, at a press conference with a hand-picked friendly audience (most of the respected publications were excluded). Usually, his word and his chief’s were an order for Pakistan’s media, politicians, and often also the judiciary. The chief of ISPR was his constant messenger.

Now, both of them, speaking on behalf of their institution, were claiming victimhood. When the Pakistani army goes to the media complaining about a political leader who they evidently fear, you know that its politics has taken a historic turn.

Pakistan’s army is brilliant at scrapping with its political class and winning. Now it fears defeat at the hands of its politicians too. To that extent, Imran Khan might be on the verge of a victory that would mean even more in political terms than his team’s cricket World Cup win in 1992. If the Pakistani army can finally be defeated by a popular, if populist, civilian force, it’s a history-defining moment for the subcontinent.

It’s history-defining because an institution that was never denied its supreme power except for a few years after the 1971 defeat is now seeking public sympathy with its back to the wall under a mere civilian’s onslaught. Its word used to be a command for any government of the day. It could hire, fire, jail, exile, or murder prime ministers serving, former and prospective. To understand that, you do not have to go far.

In 2007, it looked as if Benazir Bhutto was on the ascendant, after her return from her second long exile (the first return was in 1986, which I had covered in this India Today cover story from Pakistan). She was assassinated despite so many warnings that her life was in danger. Nobody has been punished yet. It’s buried in Pakistan’s history of conspiracies and eternal mysteries like so many others. Her party’s government was kneecapped and her husband subsequently reduced to an inconsequential, titular president.

Nawaz Sharif came back with a comfortable majority. He too grew “delusional”, from his army’s point of view, in beginning to believe that he was a real prime minister. By 2018, this army, under a chief he had appointed, had conspired and contrived to get rid of him, jail and exile him. It ensured that his party didn’t get a majority in the election that followed. In the process, they also built, strengthened and employed Pakistan’s most regressive Sunni Islamist group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik.
Riaz Haq said…
Imran Khan Pushes Pakistan to the Edge
The former prime minister challenges the idea that it isn’t a state with an army but an army with a state.
By Sadanand Dhume

Despite this malign record, the army has also earned a reputation as the most functional institution in a dysfunctional country. Its officer corps has largely resisted factionalism and remains bound to its chain of command by intense unity and discipline. Moreover, though the army controls vast business interests, it is generally regarded as immune to the kind of day-to-day bribery that marks the country’s civilian institutions. Some scholars regard the military as the glue that holds the country together. If the army collapses, Pakistan might collapse along with it.

Mr. Khan’s public broadsides leave the generals with few good options. Firing or transferring Gen. Naseer, the ISI official responsible for domestic politics, would signal weakness in the face of Mr. Khan’s bullying. But not acting places them on a collision course with arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician. In either case, ordinary Pakistanis—already reeling this year from floods and a tanking economy—likely face even more instability.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan ordered an immediate investigation Monday into what the government said was an "illegal" and "unwarranted leakage" of confidential tax documents of the family of the country's powerful military chief.

The move came a day after an online investigative news portal FactFocus published a story about the accumulation of wealth and property worth nearly $56 million by family members of General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his extended six-year term in office ending later this month

Pakistani Finance Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar's office said in a statement he had taken "serious notice" of the leak, calling it a violation of the tax law and breach of official confidential data.

Dar directed the chief investigator officer, an adviser to the prime minister on revenue, to "affix responsibility and submit a report within 24-hours," the statement concluded.

FactFocus alleged in its report Sunday that Bajwa's immediate and extended family members had exponentially expanded their domestic as well as foreign property and businesses since he took command of the Pakistan military in 2016.

The report went on to claim, citing leaked tax documents, that Bajwa's wife transferred funds overseas, making investments in oil business and the real estate, even though she was not an income tax filer until her husband's appointment to the office of the chief of army staff.

A spokesman at the military's media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations, referred VOA to the finance ministry statement when asked for a response to the allegations.

The author of the report is a Pakistani journalist, Ahmad Noorani, who lives in the United States. Pakistani authorities allegedly blocked access to the online portal shortly after the report was published. Noorani also published the alleged wealth statements of Bajwa and his family from 2013 to 2021.

The FactFocus website calls itself a data-based investigative journalist platform. It has previously also published stories alleging corrupt practices of Pakistani officials and politicians while in power.

Bajwa is due to retire on November 29 and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's coalition government said Monday it was in the process of appointing the new military chief, possibly by the end of this week.

Criticizing the military or its leadership is an extremely sensitive issue in Pakistan. The army has staged four coups and ruled the nuclear-armed South Asian nation for about 33 years since it gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Former prime ministers and political parties lately and publicly have been regularly alleging the military institution continues to influence security and foreign policy matters and orchestrates the removal of elected governments if they don't fall in line.

Last month, the Pakistani spy chief, Lieutenant General Nadeem Ahmed Anjum, in a rare, televised news conference, stopped short of admitting the military had until last year been meddling in national political affairs.

"The army had an intense internal discussion, and [last year] we reached the conclusion the country's interest lies in us restricting ourselves to our constitutional role and remaining out of politics," said Anjum, the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI.

Critics remain skeptical about those claims and stress the need for the military to end its involvement in political affairs if democracy is to take solid root in Pakistan. Politicians are also accused of secretly forming alliances with the military to destabilize and eventually topple governments of their rivals.

Riaz Haq said…
Pakistani former spymaster Asim Munir takes over as country’s army chief
Appointment for three-year term gives general a central role in decision making over national challenges

Low-profile Pakistani former spymaster General Asim Munir donned his dress uniform this week for a parade-ground ceremony marking his rise to what is arguably his nation’s most powerful position: army chief.

The 500,000-strong army is widely considered Pakistan’s dominant institution, playing a crucial behind-the-scenes role in decision making in the nuclear-armed south Asian nation of 220mn people.

Munir, a former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, took control of the military for a three-year term at a ceremony on Tuesday that was attended by retiring head Qamar Javed Bajwa and top officers, ministers and diplomats.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif selected Munir, the most senior general, from a shortlist of candidates supplied by the army. Pakistani leaders, diplomats and analysts will now look to him for signs of policy direction not only on security, but also on a host of domestic issues and on the future of relations with friends and foes including the US, China and India.

Munir steps into the position as Pakistan grapples with political and economic crises and with talks with the IMF that observers say are crucial to avoid it defaulting on its debts.

One of Munir’s most important challenges, however, will be to defend the army itself, following months of intense public criticism from the wildly popular former prime minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.

“Munir will have to try to restore confidence in the institution with a polarised public,” said Elizabeth Threlkeld, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center think-tank in Washington.

Since Khan was ousted from office in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April, his supporters have alleged, without offering evidence, that the military enabled his removal. And Khan has blamed an attempt on his life earlier this month on a conspiracy involving a military official and his arch-rival Sharif.

Both strongly deny Khan’s allegations. But Hasan Askari Rizvi, a commentator on national affairs, said Munir would be under pressure to counter the view the military meddled in civilian politics. The new chief needed the armed forces to be “seen to have stepped back from politics and appear to be neutral”, Rizvi said.

Yet former generals acknowledge the army is central to national decision making. And they argue that it is the only institution with the clout to manage Pakistan’s competing political, ethnic and economic interests.

“There has to be someone who can bring diverse opinions on to a common platform,” said Ghulam Mustafa, a former lieutenant general. “In Pakistan, that duty has fallen on the army to hold things together.”

The army’s central role in governing Pakistan is not new. Generals have ruled openly through martial law for nearly half of the country’s 75-year history.

Since the last military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, stepped down in 2008, the country has moved towards what political scientists call a “hybrid” model that blends civilian electoral politics with military rule.

The military’s outsize role has long been subject to scrutiny at home and overseas. For example, while it was an important Nato partner during the war in Afghanistan, foreign officials repeatedly accused elements within the armed forces of quietly supporting Taliban militants.

After Bajwa was appointed for the first of two terms in 2016, he tried to restore western confidence in the army and also helped broker a ceasefire along the country’s contested border with India, with which Pakistan has fought multiple wars.

“Foreign policy [and] security issues inevitably bring the army to the table,” said Abdul Basit, a former Pakistani ambassador to India.

Riaz Haq said…
The end of the affair: How Imran Khan went from the Pakistan Army’s saviour to its nemesis

The army's headquarters, General Headquarters (GHQ), probably the most secure place in Pakistan, was breached and people trampled on the signboards with military logos.

A senior general's house in Lahore was ransacked - Khan's supporters videoed themselves while setting his furniture and cars on fire. One protester walked away wearing the general's uniform, another made away with his pet peacock.
It had all the symbols of a revolution, except that it wasn't. Imran Khan was first loved by the army, then shunned by them, now his supporters were settling their scores. It was less of a revolution and more of a lovers' spat.

It's almost a rite of passage for every prime minister to fall out with the Pakistan army.

The country's first elected Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged, his daughter Benazir Bhutto was dismissed twice as a prime minister and her assassination, by a teenage suicide bomber, was never fully investigated. Nawaz Sharif was dismissed, jailed, exiled - now again in exile, he rules by proxy via his younger brother Shehbaz, but still can't return to the country.

After Imran Khan's arrest his supporters did what no mainstream political force has done before. Instead of taking to the streets in protest, they invaded the cantonment areas and showed the citizens how Pakistani generals live: in huge mansions with swimming pools and acres of lawns where peacocks roam.

Just before he was picked up, Khan singled out Pakistan Army's chief of staff General Asim Munir as the man trying to crush his political party.

Before that he had called the former army chief General Bajwa, who was instrumental in bringing and sustaining him in power, a traitor. He also named an ISI general for being responsible for a failed assassination on him. He and his supporters repeatedly called the accused general Dirty Harry in public rallies.

Many Pakistani politicians in the past have named and shamed the army as an institution but Pakistanis are not used to seeing the images of a Corps Commander's house on fire, women protesters rattling the gates of GHQ, and the statues of decorated soldiers being toppled.

This was exactly what the current government, a coalition of almost all the political parties opposed to Khan, needed to hit back.

The government has been trying to get out of an impending national election, which according to many opinion polls Khan is likely to win. Now many government politicians are calling for an outright ban on his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) - its name means Movement for Justice.

In the past, reprisals against politicians who have taken on the army have been swift.

Ali Wazir, an elected assembly member who called out the army's sympathies for the Taliban, was in jail for two years and was not even allowed to attend the National Assembly. Thousands of political workers from Balochistan have been forcibly disappeared and no Pakistani court or mainstream political party is interested in their plight.

So how come Imran Khan, despite facing dozens of charges, is still roaming free?

The perception is that he has polarised the establishment itself. There are officers and their families within the army who are enamoured by him. There is the judiciary which has been extending his bail. After spending one day in a lock-up, Pakistan's highest judge called him to court, said "happy to see you", and put him in a state guest house. The next day another judge released him.

Imran Khan has won over a massive constituency in Pakistan that abhorred politics and politicians before he came along. His message of clean governance and justice has popular appeal - although when Khan was in power corruption actually increased and he put many of his political opponents in jail.

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