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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 347, 13 May 2022

Pakistan’s Establishment is upset: Four reasons why



The Establishment is no more a sacrosanct, holy, and unassailable.

D. Suba Chandran

The Establishment is no more a sacrosanct, holy, and unassailable. Contemporary political developments in Pakistan will only make this worse. This should be the Establishment’s greatest worry.


The ISPR statement over Peshawar Corps Commander
On 13 May, Dawn had quoted an ISPR statement saying: “Recent statements by senior politicians regarding the Peshawar Corps Commander are highly inappropriate. Such statements negatively affect the morale and dignity of the army and the leadership.” The same statement also underlined the importance of the Peshawar Corps Commander. It read: “The Peshawar Corps is a prominent formation of the Pakistan army. It has been playing a leading role in the national war on terror for two decades. The leadership of this important corps has always been in the hands of the best professionals.” 

The Establishment is upset: Four issues 
First, on the latest statement by the ISPR supporting the Peshawar Corps Commander. There were two recent statements over Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, who is currently heading the Peshawar Corps. Gen Hameed earlier served as the DG-ISI during 2019-21. Maryam Nawaz, answering a question about whether Gen Hameed would be considered as the next army chief, was quoted to have stated that the person should have a “flawless reputation.” 

An earlier statement from her on Gen Hameed was worse. In a public meeting, while referring to a statement by Imran Khan that the intelligence chief was government’s “eyes and ears,” Maryam Nawaz was quoted to have stated: “We know that he wasn't your eyes and ears [rather] he was your hands through which you throttled your political opponents.” Earlier, in a different context, Zardari was quoted to have mentioned that “the helpless Faiz Hameed has been sidelined.”

Clearly, the Establishment is not happy about the public statements by the political leadership.

But the issue is not just that. The Establishment is worried that it is getting dragged into the nasty politics between the parties and leaders – with the PTI on the one side and the rest on the other side. This is the second issue. Though the DG-ISPR Major General Babar Iftikhar meniotned that “We, as an institution, have nothing to do with the political situation of the country,” the Establishment is very much in the centre of the political situation, that is getting worse every day. The Establishment, though, would want to believe that it stayed neutral in the recent change in Pakistan’s political equation, Imran Khan may not. One is not sure, whom he was referring to Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq. Though he explained he referred to Shehbaz, a debate in the national assembly objected to it as linking it to the armed forces. The Establishment may have a short memory, or want to believe otherwise, but the political leaders, people and the rest of the world see the Establishment as in the middle of Pakistan’s politics. 

Third, the political debate over the appointment of the army chief, the ISI chief and also their extensions. The Establishment would like to have the appointments and the extensions as a given, and a non-partisian approval of the same in the Parliament. The Establishment would have preferred to get the above done, without any debate – either in the Parliament or in public. The appointment of the last DG-ISI and the extension of Gen Bajwa were anything but that. The debate was not only political but also legal. The Imran government wanted to have its own space in appointing the DG-ISI, whereas the Establishment wanted him to sign on the dotted lines. He did, but after a big drama. Same thing happened in 2019, with the extension of the army chief’s tenure. The extension got delayed, and the case went up to the Supreme Court. 

Fourth, the larger image of the Establishment outside the political debate. Many in the media have been questioning the Establishment's role over the last few years. For the majority within Pakistan, the Establishment was an Institution that should not be touched. This position is sinking now, which should be a more significant worry for the military. 

The Establishment is no more a sacrosanct, holy, and unassailable, in the public eye. Contemporary political developments in Pakistan will make this worse further. This should be the Establishment’s greatest worry.

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