Ministers of the Government and the military officials are continuing their tirade against each other through the media. The latest one is on the nature of Pakistan’s economy.
During the last one month, the PML-N has made few statements hinting at military’s involvement in civilian governance. It started with Nawaz Sharif alluding to the role played by the Establishment leading to his ouster. His statements even hints at a collusion between the judiciary and the military. Later, Ahsan Iqbal, as the interior minister questioned the stationing of paramilitary on a court premise without his order and preventing him from entering. The Prime Minister made a statement that a government by technocrats may not solve the problems being faced by Pakistan. Ahsan Iqbal, again, this time as Finance Minister asked the military not to comment on Pakistan’s economy, as “such irresponsible statements can dent Pakistan’s global image.”
DG ISPR is on the other side of the War. The Army Chief Gen Bajwa last week in a conference commenting on the need for Pakistan to expand its tax base, was quoted to have said that “the economy is showing mixed indicators…Growth has picked up but the debts are sky high…infrastructure and energy have improved considerably but the current account balance is not in our favour.” He was addressing businessmen in a conference organised by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) in Karachi. The DG ISPR Maj Gen Ghafoor's in a TV interview later said: "If the economy is not bad, it is not doing so well either." Ahsan Iqbal exploded.
The DG ISPR could have let is pass. But he didn’t. There was another long press conference on Saturday. Disappointed as “a soldier and a citizen of Pakistan” by the comment made by the Ahsan, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said economy is linked to security.
He also commented that there should be “no reservations, fears or apprehensions.” But there is, as one could be seen from the front page stories and editorials in the leading news papers on the subject. Given the history and civil-military relations in Pakistan, it would not be easy for the PML-N to easily agree with Gen Ghafoor’s statement: “Everything is under civilian supremacy and the army does not take decisions on its own. Institutions do not operate in isolation.”
Pakistan is facing elections within a year. Any overt intervention by the military would only make things worse – both internally and externally. Unless, the Establishment has a plan, and what we see is a process in slow motion to achieve the same. It would be useful to forecast this plan, and the implications of the process.