Friday, August 15, 2014

Pakistan Army's Contingency Plans in Response to Escalation in Political Crisis

As the protest marchers led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan's PTI and powerful cleric Tahir ul Qadri's PAT enter Islamabad, the political crisis in Pakistan appears to be escalating amid serious attempts to defuse it. There has been some progress in averting street violence on the streets of the nation's capital but the outcome remains far from certain. 

Pakistan Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif
If Pakistan's history is any guide, the nation's military will most likely be the final arbiter in the event that the crisis continues for an extended period of time. The Atlantic Council's Shuja Nawaz is a younger brother of Pakistan's former Army Chief late General Asif Nawaz Janjua. He continues to have close ties with top military brass in Pakistan. He personally knows Pakistan's current Army Chief General Raheel Sharif and some of the corps commanders. Nawaz says the Pakistani military always has contingency plans to deal with all possible crises, including political unrest, that could threaten national security. Such plans are triggered into action by a series of events included in them. 

In the current crisis, there is a range of possible military responses. Military intervention could be soft as seen in Kakar model or the Kiyani model.  The Kakar model is named after General Abdul Waheed Kakar who forced the quarreling President and Prime Minister in 1990s to resign and hold fresh elections under a caretaker arrangement. The Kayani model refers to the phone call by Gen Kayani in 2009 to stop PMLN's march by assuring them the former Chief Justice Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry will be restored to his post by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. 

A soft intervention is much more likely given the military's current focus on Operation ZarbeArb in FATA to rid Pakistan of the Taliban and other terrorists who have claimed the lives of over 50,000 Pakistanis in recent years. 

In the unlikely event that soft intervention fails, the military could be forced into directly taking power for a period of time to bring back some semblance of order.   

Will escalating political crisis draw Pakistan Military into the fray? How will Gen Raheel Sharif and his corp commanders handle the situation if the politicians fail to resolve the crisis? Mr. Shuja Nawaz, Pakistan's top expert and author of books on civil-military ties, joins ViewPoint from Overseashost Faraz Darvesh and panelists Misbah Azam ( and Riaz Haq (

Here's a video discussion on the subject of possible military intervention in Pakistan: 

Pakistan Army's Contingency Plans to Handle Escalating Political Crisis; Future of Democracy After PTI Azadi March from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Iftikhar Chaudhry is No Angel

Nawaz Sharif's First 100 Days

Musharraf Trial

Democracy vs Dictatorship in Pakistan

Another Lost Decade in Pakistan

Terror Toll in Pakistan


Riaz Haq said...

ISLAMABAD - The powerful military establishment played its role in ending the apparent deadlock in the country and succeeded in brokering an unwritten agreement between the rival political parties and none other than Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif was its guarantor.
Well-placed official sources in the federal government divulged Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif played a key role in paving way for a major breakthrough between the government, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri.
The official sources said assurances had been taken from all sides that they would stick to each term and condition of the unwritten agreement.
The military establishment has got the assurances from both the protesting parties, PTI and PAT that their protest would be peaceful and they would not hold sit-in in Islamabad and peacefully disperse after holding the rallies. These assurances came as a result of the other day’s meeting of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and COAS General Raheel Sharif.
PTI has given the assurance to the government that it will not hold a sit-in in Islamabad and avoid paralysing life in the capital. The PTI chief would withdraw its demand of immediate resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and restrict himself to the verification of election results of some constituencies.
As a result, the ruling PML-N has also given some assurances to the government, including complete electoral reforms and opening of election results of as many constituencies as PTI will demand.
In their two-hour-long meeting with the COAS, all these assurances were taken from PTI and PAT and the army chief is the guarantor from both the sides. He will ensure that no side deviates from their commitments. According to the sources, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif discussed the political situation and the marches of PTI and PAT.
Some defence analysts are of the view that this has also dispelled the impression that the army was behind the present political turmoil. The sources privy to the development claimed that things had been settled and after that the federal government immediately allowed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tahreek (PAT) to stage their protest freely. Some announcements are also expected from the federal government during this week, the sources claimed.
They also claimed that protesters would neither stage a sit-in in Islamabad nor would they create law and order situation while the government would facilitate them.
According to the sources, both the leaders, Shahbaz and Nisar, were in contact with the prime minister during the meeting with the COAS. They conveyed the wish list of Imran Khan to the PM and a final decision was taken after the approval of Nawaz Sharif.
Later, both of the leaders called on PM Nawaz Sharif and personally apprised him of the consultation with the army chief.
The sources claimed that Imran Khan who was not ready to accept any offer less than the PM’s resignation, would leave Islamabad peacefully while PML-N would be still holding power at the Centre.

Suhail H. said...

You cannot compare Kakar and Kayani models. While Karar did influence in a "soft" way, Kayani did nothing of that sort. In one of Yousul Raza Gilani's recent speeches, he said that in the 2009 long march, Zardari was favoring a tough line with NS and it was Gilani himself who decided that CJ should be restored and asked Kayani to convey the message.

What Gilani said appears true as demonstrated by spineless character shown by Kayani on all matters later on till his exit. The most credible explanation is that Gilani did decide on CJ restoration, overruling Zardari probably because Gilani is from Punjab where he cannot afford to enter into a serious conflict with Sharifs and their loyal Punjab bureaucracy/ judiciary. However, Gilani had no credibility in terms of assurances that he'll do what he saying so a guarantor was needed whom NS could trust, and Kayani filled that role.

Raheel Sharif's decision to embark on Waziristan operation and the fact that there is no serious reaction from TTP as predicted by almost all Pakistani analysts and all the TTP supporters (NS, JI, Fazlur Rahman, Samiul Haq, Imran Khan, all media etc etc) are now fully supporting Army against TTP, indicates that TTP was never that strong and it was only because of the gutless Kayani that TTP was seen as a strong entity ready to take over Pakistan. If Raheel Sharif shows guts, perseverance and a little common sense, there is good chance that Pakistan is cleansed of TTP. If Sharif's need to be turned out, RS should have the guts to do so and not get influenced by the "derailing of democracy" rhetoric of analysts. NS has proved himself as totally unreliable in fulfilling agreements so the moment current public mobilization ends as a result of any "deal", he will violate the agreements and continue as he was doing a few months back. In the process, TTP and terrorism (significantly reduced since the operation) will return as NS was hand in hand with TTP in furthering his agenda.

Riaz Haq said...

Former additional secretary of the Election commission of Pakistan Muhammad Afzal Khan has alleged that the general elections in May 2013 were rigged and that the people's mandate was ‘stolen’.

He said that former chief justices Iftikhar Chaudhry and Tassadduq Jillani were also involved in rigging the vote.

Khan made the allegation during an interview on a private television channel, in which he said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not win the elections in a free and fair manner.

He said during the interview that the Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim had shut his eyes on the rigging.

The former additional secretary said that the Election Commission had been put under tremendous pressure during the alleged rigging.

Khan said that judges were also involved in fixing the vote and that hearings of voter fraud was deliberately delayed.

Reacting to the interview, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran khan commended Afzal Khan and said that the former additional secretary's remarks vindicates the stand that he has been taking.

Imran Khan said that Afzal Khan's statements show that the position for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was untenable and again reiterated his demand that the premier resign.

Former Law Minister Rana Sanaullah dismissed Afzal Khan's remarks and said, "people like this are specially prepared for occasions such as this".

Sanaullah said that Imran Khan's protest movement has been a flop and that Afzal Khan like the PTI chief was being used as a pawn.

Riaz Haq said...

Chronicle of a Political Suicide Foretold: Ask the army chief to act as mediator between government, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri, and stand guarantor to any agreement.

Chief agrees and separately meets both leaders who insist they will not back down from their demand for Nawaz’s resignation.

Nawaz discovers it hasn’t worked and tries to throw the chief under the bus by denying that he asked the chief to mediate.

The army spokesman confirms that the government asked the chief to do so.

Now wait for the army to throw Nawaz under the bus.

It is the best of times for the few beneficiaries of our anti-democratic system and the worst of times for its many victims who are hoping that it will give way to genuine democracy, participatory, representative, inclusive and pluralistic with empowerment of the people that unleashes improvement in the human condition. I wouldn’t be anywhere else but Islamabad. A city that was pejoratively called “smaller than Arlington but twice as dead” has suddenly become a most happening place. I wouldn’t be anywhere else for all the world. No longer is it five miles away from Pakistan but its heartbeat: throbbing, pulsating, rushing blood into the anemic veins of the wretched of the earth.

I write this on Friday the 29th of August – my 39th wedding anniversary by the way – so I don’t know what would have happened by the time you read this on Sunday. Whatever, PM Nawaz Sharif has successfully turned himself into DM Nawaz Sharif by his own hand – ‘DM’ as in Deputy Commissioner. His best bet is to douse the fire while he can.

As I write this I hear unbelievable bombast, bluster and falsehoods from Nawaz Sharif, the interior minister, the opposition leader and the head of a small Baloch-Pukhtoon Party. How alienated from reality can they get? Such improbable harangues lead to tears. They should be seeking political solutions, not challenging the mob to storm the Bastille, telling it that you can destroy everything but the Constitution, as if it were divine.

Nawaz Sharif’s U-turn makes one wonder: is this part of a plan to make the army look rogue after its image had improved with the anti-terrorist operation in North Waziristan? Could well be because the Nawaz gang is too clever by half. They know not that they are doing. Or are they trying to force a classic coup so that they can go down as ‘martyrs of democracy’? They should learn to make their tongues follow their challenged brains instead of the other way round for this time a coup may not be gentlemanly. In truth, these politicians are the real assassins of democracy. It’s a false democracy anyway that creates such assassins. Unwittingly, they are doing the right thing. The system is dead and these assassin politicians are trying to bring it back to life to save the scaffold on which they thrive. Do they think they are Jesus Christ? Lies and deception weaves a web that traps you. They should understand that the previously somnambulant people have awoken and found courage and voice. These political assassins should fear the rod of God, ask for forgiveness, break from the past and enter into a contract with the future never to do such things again – Taubah.

Riaz Haq said...

Excerpt from Wall Street Journal: Pakistan Army Chief Names New Head of ISI

The new head of the ISI was among six appointments made Monday by Gen. Sharif, all promoted from major-general rank to lieutenant-general. The six include a new commander for the army corps in Peshawar, which runs operations in the militant-plagued tribal areas, and a commander for the India-facing strike corps at Mangla.

Previously, Gen. Sharif's top commanders were his near-peers, many of whom had joined the army about the same time as him and had been appointed by the previous army chief.

"These appointees are taking key positions and they owe their jobs to Raheel Sharif," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a defense analyst. "This is Raheel's first set of senior appointments and it strengthens his position."

The ISI chief, in particular, is a crucial player in both internal security and Pakistan's dealings with its neighbors, especially Afghanistan and India.


Relations between the government and the military were put under further tension in April, when Geo, Pakistan's leading news channel, broadcast accusations that Lt. Gen. Islam was behind the shooting of its star news anchor. The military protested against the allegations, while the government was seen to side with Geo over the affair.

According to some senior aides of Mr. Sharif, Lt. Gen. Islam is backing the political protest, along with some other outgoing generals. Gen. Sharif, however, has told the prime minister that he isn't involved, these aides say. Many security analysts believe it would be impossible for an ISI chief to run such an initiative without the army chief's consent.

The information minister, Parvaiz Rashid, has publicly alleged that former ISI chief Mr. Pasha is "advising" protest leader Imran Khan. Mr. Pasha, who retired from the ISI in 2012, hasn't responded to the charge. Mr. Khan has denied any links with the military.

In a press briefing on Sept. 12, the military's spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, said that "the army has nothing to do with the ongoing political crisis." He also said that "the army strictly follows the directions of the army chief."

The new ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Akhtar, has also previously served in the tribal areas, as an infantry division commander, giving him experience of both counterinsurgency and, with his experience in Karachi, counterterrorism.

Political parties are deeply involved in the criminality in Karachi, including extortion and land-grabbing, police say. Security forces come under intense pressure from politicians not to arrest their supporters in the city. However, Lt. Gen. Akhtar is credited with carrying out an operation in the giant metropolis that didn't favor any side. The operation, in its later stages, also tackled the presence of Pakistani Taliban militants, who had come to dominate Karachi's fringe areas.

"He's honest, straightforward but very tough when needed," said Shahid Hayat, a senior Sindh police officer and Karachi's former city police chief who worked closely with Lt. Gen. Akhtar. "There is no compromise as far as the enforcement of the law is concerned—he will take whoever breaks it to task. He's totally committed to that."

Lt. Gen. Akhtar's training includes a 2008 course, as a brigadier, at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. There, his research paper—entitled "U.S.-Pakistan Trust Deficit and the War on Terror"—said that Pakistan "must reform its governance, improve the economy, confront and eliminate Islamic extremism, and create a more tolerant society. Most important, it must aggressively pursue rapprochement with India."

Riaz Haq said...

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had “solid information” about the alleged involvement of former DG ISI Lt Gen (retd) Zaheerul Islam in the 2014 ‘Dharna’ show to destabilise the government yet he avoided proceeding against the spymaster to avoid any civil-military tension, it has been learnt.

Credible government sources told The News that the prime minister, in the presence of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, had directed the-then DG ISI Gen Zaheer to get the situation defused but he did otherwise.

These sources said that the PM had also discussed this situation with the army chief General Raheel Sharif, who unlike the former spymaster has been fully cooperative with the government and did not support any move to destabilise the elected constitutional government.

During those days, some of Nawaz Sharif’s associates had advised him to proceed against Zaheerul Islam but he exercised maximum restraint and remained patient. According to one source, the PM was of the view that his action against Gen Zaheer might increase uncertainty to the advantage of those who wanted to dent the democratic and constitutional rule.

Although, much was speculated by the media including a report saying that the army chief had sought Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation, in reality General Raheel has been fully cooperative in helping to defuse the tension and bringing the situation back to normal.

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had recently named the former DG ISI for his alleged role in destabilising the Nawaz Sharif government through the PAT-PTI sit-ins.Khawaja Asif said that General Zaheer had pushed up the ‘London Plan’ conspiracy against the government. In a TV interview, the minister said that the 2014 London Plan against the Nawaz Sharif government was the work of two former ISI chiefs — Lt General (retd) Shuja Pasha and Lt Gen (retd) Zaheerul Islam.

According to the defence minister, Gen Zaheer had a grudge against the government for its stance on the Geo issue. To settle his personal grudge, Khawaja said, Gen Zaheer had hurt the national interest. Khawaja, however, said that the situation was handled well by the prime minister, who remained patient.

In September last year, Reuters had also reported that weeks of mounting anti-government protests in Pakistan had been enough to convince five of the powerful Lt Generals (believed to have retired now) that it was time for them to step in and force the embattled Nawaz Sharif to resign.

The five corps commanders were though not named by the Reuters, it was claimed that top generals had met in the garrison city of Rawalpindi at the end of August as demonstrations raged in Islamabad.

It was reported, “At the tense four-hour conclave, Pakistan’s democratic process was once again in peril, with the military pondering another intervention in a country that has seen power change hands more often through coups than elections.”

Reuters further said, “But army chief Raheel Sharif decided the time was not right to overthrow the civilian leadership, and moved to quell any disagreement in his ranks by overruling the hawks and declaring the crisis must be solved through politics, not force.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s army: Hail to the chief. Military riding wave of popularity via @TheEconomist

THE image of a mustachioed man with peaked cap and a chest full of medals is becoming hard to avoid in Pakistan. It is splashed across the posters of a politician competing in a by-election in the eastern city of Lahore. It looms large on giant billboards in the port city of Karachi, apparently paid for by adoring citizens. And it is a rare day when Pakistan’s chief of army staff is not pictured on a newspaper front page. He has even entered the colourful repertoire of artists who decorate the nation’s trucks and rickshaws.

The apotheosis of General Raheel Sharif (pictured, wearing beret) makes it harder than ever for his unrelated namesake, Nawaz Sharif, who is prime minister, to claw back powers from an army that has directly and indirectly controlled Pakistan for most of its history. Nawaz Sharif’s election victory in 2013 resulted in the country’s first transfer of power from one civilian government to another. But the extent of his authority is debatable: the army is reasserting itself.

This marks quite a turnaround for an institution that eight years ago was so unpopular that off-duty soldiers in the most restive areas were advised not to wear their uniforms in public. The long rule of General Pervez Musharraf, a coup-maker, had seriously tarnished the army’s prestige. A particular setback was the violence unleashed in central Islamabad in 2007 when General Musharraf decided to clear out a pro-Taliban mosque in the heart of the city. The army was humiliated in 2011 when the public discovered Osama bin Laden had been hiding next to the country’s officer-training school and that American special forces had been able to penetrate deep into Pakistan to kill him.

Today the army is riding high, buoyed by an improvement in security following a decision in June 2014 to launch an all-out campaign against the Pakistani Taliban. Many credit General Sharif with taking the initiative. Operation Zarb-e-Azb has seen key towns in the former Taliban sanctuary of North Waziristan retaken by the state. Militants have been hunted down elsewhere, particularly in Karachi, which had been a major centre of Taliban activity. All this work has helped cut militant violence by nearly half in the last nine months, according to the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, a think-tank in Islamabad.

At the same time the army has been waging a public-relations war, promoting General Sharif as a star. The media dutifully report on his every visit to the front lines and publish photographs of every honour-guard he inspects during his numerous overseas trips.

That General Sharif should receive more than usual publicity is understandable given the country remains mired in a bloody internal conflict. On September 18th 13 Taliban suicide-fighters fought their way into a residential compound of Pakistan’s air force near the city of Peshawar and killed 29 people. Sustaining public support for a war against Islamist militants is tricky given that many on the religious right sympathise with the Taliban’s goal of a strict sharia state and often avoid condemning their means of achieving it.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's Military-Democracy Complex. #NawazSharif being pragmatic in current civil-military balance | Stratfor …


Pakistan's power-sharing deal between civilian and military leaders will keep the potential for a military coup low.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will pragmatically accommodate the army by giving Gen. Raheel Sharif substantial influence over the country's foreign policy and national security.
However, terrorism, the army's economic interests and the conflict in Afghanistan will ensure Pakistan's military a prominent political role through 2016.

The Pakistani military has always played an important role in Pakistani politics. For nearly 70 years, the army has defined the country's national security priorities, sometimes from the seat of government itself, and many commanders have been placed in prominent economic and political positions. In keeping with that tradition, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed Gen. Raheel Sharif as the chief of army staff, the most visible and powerful position in the country, in November 2013. The general wasted no time gaining influence in Pakistan's foreign and defense affairs.

This is certainly not the first time a general has attained such power in Pakistan, and it is unlikely to be the last. However, civilian leaders such as the prime minister are gaining political power of their own lately, using the military to reinforce their burgeoning democratic ideals. This satisfies the military's desire for influence while also lowering the likelihood of a coup, but the military will nonetheless try to maintain its relevance in the economy and the government, all while continuing its historical role as protector of the country.


Democracy Resurgent

In light of such history, Gen. Sharif's sudden rise to political prominence could be disconcerting for the government. Many of the conditions under which previous coups occurred — economic stagnation, weak civilian institutions, complications with India — are relevant today, while escalating Taliban attacks continue to threaten Pakistan's national security.

But even though the military is the most powerful institution in the country, the potential for another military takeover of the government is low. First, the military's image was tarnished by Musharraf's controversial nine-year tenure. His decision to liberalize the media early in his term helped to undermine his efforts to sack Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in March 2007. Media coverage shifted public opinion against Musharraf, and the Supreme Court reinstated Chaudhry four months later. Musharraf's decision to suspend the constitution on Nov. 3, 2007, further galvanized public opinion against him, and, by extension, against military rule.


Second, Prime Minister Sharif is a pragmatist — something that lowers the chances of a coup. Mindful of the events of 1999, he will accommodate the army's desire for influence. For example, after winning his third term in 2013, he tried expanding civilian control over defense. But the protests of August 2014 — in which Tehreek-e-Insaaf party leader Imran Khan demanded that the military dismiss Sharif's government on charges of election fraud — forced the prime minister to give back some influence over foreign policy and national security to the military.