Saturday, November 5, 2022

Attempt on Imran Khan's Life: Has Pakistan Army Lost Popular Support?

Multiple polls over the years have found that the Pakistani military has traditionally enjoyed widespread popular support in the country. This support has been particularly strong among the urban middle class Pakistanis who have now become the backbone of Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party which has accused the Pakistani military of orchestrating an assassination attempt against the former Prime Minister. The events of the last several months, particularly this week's assassination attempt on the PTI chief's life, are forcing the people to choose sides. By-election results and huge attendance of the PTI rallies confirm that most of the people are supporting Imran Khan over the military.  

Pakistan's Ex PM Imran Khan and Current Army Chief General Bajwa

Some Pakistani political analysts have long speculated about the possibility of the loss of public support for the Pakistani military.  Back in 2019, I met Sohail Warraich, a senior journalist and political analyst as well as a popular host of "Ek Din Geo K Sath" aired on Geo TV channel. Warraich was visiting Silicon Valley to record an episode of "Ek Din Geo K Sath" with a successful Pakistani entrepreneur named Osman Rashid.  Warraich said he believes the rise of Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) were enabled by the support of the military and the middle class. Middle class support for the military will eventually fade and there will eventually be conflict between the two. It could lead to significant political changes in the country. 

Osman Rashid invited me and a few other Pakistani-American friends to meet Warraich over dinner at his Los Altos home.  In response to my question about about the current state of affairs in Pakistan, Warraich shared his insights below:

1. Pakistan's middle class is rising and increasingly asserting itself in politics.

2. The Pakistani military is the most dominant force in the country. It enjoys broad support among the middle class Pakistanis.

3. The rise of Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) have been enabled by the support of the military and the middle class.

4. Middle class support for the military will eventually fade and there will be conflict between the two. It could lead to significant political changes in the country. 

Will there be yet another Martial Law in the country? Past Martial Laws in Pakistan have had the support of the people. A Gallup poll conducted immediately after the 1999 coup showed that 75% of respondents supported the military takeover, while less than 10% supported restoring Mr. Nawaz Sharif's government. The situation today is very different.  It is more likely today that the Pakistani military will back down and concede to Imran Khan's demand for fresh elections. 

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13 comments:

Anonymous said...

The fauj elite today are not Musharaff era gentlemen officers but country bumpkins recruited en masse during Zia era.It is extremely obvious today.

Bhutto Sharif family members look like geniuses in comparison.

Indians need to look at this and be very thankful to Nehru for dismantling their feudals and putting the army in their place within 5 years of independence.

Also spending the bare minimum on the army and the maximum possible on heavy industry and high end technical education against the advice of imf World Bank etc was a visionary move which baked in future Indian economic success .

He was a true patriotic leader which few countries are blessed with.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the advantage Nehru had of a much better educated Hindu professional and business elite.

Congress was financed by Hindu and Parsi industrialists.Nehru had no problems screwing over Indian feudals since they had ZERO influence over the congress party.

The Muslim league was financed by feudal families so dismantling feudalism was never a realistic option.

Also Nehru's heavy industry first industrial policy was ghost written by Tata and Birla not something he thought up himself.There was a document known as The Bombay Plan drafted by 8 leading industrialists led by GD Birla on the eve of independence. Nehrus first two 5 year plans were more or less directly in line with this document. It worked, though Nehru to his credit implemented this knowing that the fruits of this policy would come long after he was dead and he would be unpopular in his lifetime for letting Pakistan 'win' the economic race by going against recommendations of the World Bank and IMF.

But yes overall he was not personally corrupt and a patriot who planted the seed of Indian economic success which is very visible today.

Muzaffar Ahmed Khan said...

The Pakistan Military did historically enjoy widespread support, but that is not the case now; its reputation and popularity have rapidly declined.
In his delusional belief, the General believes he comprehends global economics, world politics, and how to run the country, but he is simply crazy. He and his cronies fail to understand the game the Super Power and its western allies play in South Asia. America has always used its puppets for its purposes and discarded them afterward like used tissue paper. Anyway, how would our enlightened, educated, and brighter youth view the army and its security agencies' treacherous games against the country's interests which is, unfortunately, leading the country to bankruptcy and to, God Forbid once again, its further dismemberment? Our youth and the general public of Pakistan cannot be fooled anymore in this age and time. Those days are gone when the military establishment did stupid things and justified those wrongdoings, and the public accepted them

Rukhsana said...

No. We still support army. But fresh and fair elections are needed urgently.

Shan said...

We need to rally around IK and give him every shot to make the reforms needed to save the republic.

Riaz Haq said...

The attempt on his life, Mr Khan repeated this week, only underscores the malignancy of the establishment he sets his face against, and the urgent need for a general election. One is due by next autumn at the latest. Mr Khan has momentum on his side: his party has triumphed in by-election after by-election. Now he vows to rejoin his caravan and bring out more anti-government crowds.

https://www.economist.com/asia/2022/11/10/pakistans-political-crisis-is-also-a-dilemma-for-its-top-brass

Facts in Pakistan are often hard to come by. Investigations run into the sand and reports get buried. But it is striking that the shooting has not generated more shock. Mr Khan and his allies say they expected such an attempt by his opponents. They, for their part, can readily imagine Mr Khan as a ripe target for any hothead. The mutual insouciance is alarming. Pakistan has a gruesome history of political violence. The first prime minister was killed at a rally in 1951. Fifteen years ago Benazir Bhutto, a former leader and heir to a political dynasty, was assassinated shortly after her return from exile. In an attempt on her life two months earlier, 180 died. Widening political divisions today look ominous.

Mr Khan’s brand of populism plays on those divisions. It requires impressive cognitive dissonance to believe that Pakistan’s economic crisis, with high inflation and crippling external debt, much of it owed to China, is all the fault of Mr Sharif and his “cabal of crooks”. As prime minister, Mr Khan blew up a rescue package from the imf with ill-considered subsidies. Mr Sharif, too, has struggled to impose fiscal discipline. But he is starting to see some success in filling Pakistan’s financial holes, including by reviving that imf deal. It is hard to believe that Mr Khan would have handled this summer’s catastrophic flooding any better, either.

It is true that the 70-year-old Mr Khan is a born-again Muslim, which appeals to that redemptive part of followers’ natures. Some of his anti-Americanism is grounded in a reasonable belief that the United States has done more harm than good in Pakistan’s region. It stings, too, that in America’s titanic struggle with China, Pakistan is expected to line up behind India, the eternal enemy. Yet it still requires dissonance to consider Mr Khan as outside the (largely pro-Western) establishment: he is an Oxford-educated former cricketing star.

Running parallel to the political crisis is a military one. The army enforces a long-standing taboo on anyone speaking about its powerful role in politics. Mr Khan, despite coming to power with support from the army, has done more than any politician in memory to shatter this taboo. For though generals smoothed his path to power in 2018, they also hastened his exit after he fell out with the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, over who should make key military appointments. Mr Khan’s attacks on him now seem outrageous to officers used to deference from mere civilians.


The revival in Mr Khan’s political fortunes unsettles the generals, who hate being dragged publicly into the political turmoil. General Bajwa, whom Mr Khan has encouraged Pakistanis to scorn, is supposed to retire at the end of this month. Yet the political crisis complicates the naming of a successor. Mr Khan’s gamble may be to engender such popular opposition to his despised “establishment” that the generals, wanting an end to big protests, will help him back to power. Yet all sides know how fraught such a bet might prove.

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


https://www.wsj.com/articles/imran-khan-pushes-pakistan-to-the-edge-inter-services-intelligence-army-parliament-assassinations-election-taliban-11668115875?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1

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...

After Imran Khan’s Ouster, Pakistan Is Going Through an Unprecedented Political Crisis by Ayyaz Mallick


https://jacobin.com/2022/11/imran-khan-pakistan-military-generals-political-crisis-assassination

Pakistan’s ousted leader, Imran Khan, is continuing his bid to regain power after surviving an assassination attempt last week. With the traditional parties discredited and divisions opening up in the military, the country is entering uncharted waters.

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In late 2021, a row developed between Khan and army chief General Bajwa, who had up to this point been the PTI leader’s chief benefactor and ally. Bajwa attempted to transfer the intelligence chief, Lt General Faiz Hameed, who was the Khan government’s de facto whip and organizational muscle man. Khan dithered and resisted, intimating that he might be planning to appoint Hameed as the next army chief so as to secure another term in power.


However, Bajwa had made up his mind. The opposition sensed an opening as relations soured between the two men, and Khan’s political allies now jumped ship. A vote of no confidence in Pakistan’s parliament forced him out of office. Khan claimed that he was the victim of a US-sponsored regime-change conspiracy on the basis of an unpleasant meeting that Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington had held with a State Department official.

The post-Khan administration brought together political has-beens with their progenies and protégés under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). Fearing Khan’s substantial reserves of popularity, they did not call for fresh elections to get over the taint of the highly manipulated 2018 ones. Instead, they took the reins of power so they could enjoy the perks of office, cuddle up to General Bajwa, and have some say in the appointment of the next army chief.

The PDM government has also implemented austerity policies with the same ruthlessness as its predecessor. Cuts to Pakistan’s already threadbare fuel and electricity subsidies have compounded the impact of soaring inflation, which has been fueled by global trends as well as the depreciation of the Pakistani rupee in the name of market adjustment.

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As Antonio Gramsci reminds us, a crisis can sometimes last for decades, revealing incurable structural contradictions. The current political turbulence in Pakistan arises from a deep-rooted and long-standing structural crisis of this nature. Only a political force with social depth and programmatic coherence can permanently resolve this crisis by fundamentally transforming the socioeconomic order.

In the absence of such a force, the constant jockeying for position between different factions of the country’s ruling bloc will continue, occasionally resulting in deadlock. The United States is not playing the same role as imperial sponsor or mediator that it did in similar crises of the past, and Pakistan’s relationship with China will not offer a substitute for its leaders.

We thus appear to be hurtling toward the kind of catastrophic equilibrium that Gramsci once warned about, in which large sections of the masses and key pillars of the hegemonic order become detached from their traditional vehicles. Khan, who was the latest (and perhaps last) popular figure working in coordination with the ruling bloc, now seems intractably opposed to it.

With political maneuvers no longer capable of papering over the structural fault lines, we are entering a context where, as Gramsci put it, the field becomes “open for violent solutions, for the activities of unknown forces, represented by charismatic ‘men of destiny.’” Now may be the time of monsters.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan army chief admits military’s meddling in politics
But General Qamar Javed Bajwa reveals that the country’s most powerful institution has decided to stay away from politics.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/11/23/pakistans-army-chief-vows-to-keep-military-out-of-politics

Pakistan’s outgoing army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, says the military has unlawfully meddled in politics for decades and it will no longer do so.

In his last address as army chief, Bajwa on Wednesday defended the country’s most powerful institution, which has come in for criticism, particularly from former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has accused the army of a role in his removal in April.

Speaking at an event at army headquarters in the eastern city of Rawalpindi, the 62-year-old general wondered why the army in neighbouring India was not criticised by the public.

“In my opinion, the reason for this is the constant meddling by the army in politics for the last 70 years, which is unconstitutional,” he said. “That is why, since February last year, the military has decided they will not interfere in any political matter.”

He added that the military has started its “catharsis” and expressed hope that political parties will also “introspect their behaviour.”

“The reality is that in Pakistan, institutions, political parties and civil society – they have all made mistakes,” Bajwa said. “It is time we learn from them and move forward.”

Bajwa highlighted Pakistan’s precarious economic situation and called on all stakeholders to put aside their egos, work in tandem and learn to accept their victories and losses.

The 62-year-old general has been at the helm of the 600,000-strong nuclear-armed military since 2016. He was granted an extension of three years in August 2019 by then-Prime Minister Khan. He is set to retire on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif is expected to announce his successor in the coming days.

In a speech lasting roughly 10 minutes, Bajwa spent considerable time on the subject of politics and condemned the outpouring of negativity and harsh criticism towards the military, which has run the country for more than half the time since its independence in 1947.


The army has major stakes in the economy and wields considerable influence in deciding the South Asian country’s policy on foreign affairs and national security. No prime minister has ever completed his tenure.


Bajwa admitted that criticism of the military from political parties and the public is their right but warned against the use of undignified words against the army.

“Everybody should keep … in mind that there are limits to this patience,” he said. “I want to overlook this aggressive criticism towards myself and my army because Pakistan is most paramount for all of us.”

Riaz Haq said...

Appointment of a new Pakistan Army chief is a big deal
Marvin G. Weinbaum
Director, Afghanistan and Pakistan Studies

Middle East Institute in Washington DC

The general at the Pakistan Army’s helm is arguably the single most powerful man in the country.

Under a new army chief, the chances may improve that Pakistan’s military will broker a compromise agreement, setting a date for holding national elections


https://www.mei.edu/blog/monday-briefing-qatar-world-cup-begins-controversies-highlight-limits-sportswashing

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New army chief can end political crisis in Pakistan: US scholar


https://www.dawn.com/news/1722769

WASHINGTON: The new army chief could broker a compromise agreement in Pakistan, setting a date for holding national elections, says Marvin Weinbaum, a senior US scholar who has written several books on Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In a piece published by the US Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), another US scholar, Andrew Gordan, urges the Biden administration to increase aid to Pakistan.

“Under a new army chief, the chances may improve that the military will broker a compromise agreement, setting a date for holding national elections,” says Mr Weinbaum in a piece he wrote for the Middle East Institute (MEI), Washington.

By increasing aid to Pakistan, “the United States will propel forward its own strategic interests and fulfil humanitarian obligations while simultaneously helping this South Asian nation avert crisis,” Mr Gordan writes.

While the CFR article deals with the larger question of US-Pakistan relations, the MEI paper focuses on the appointment of a new army chief in Pakistan.

Mr Weinbaum notes that while the current Pakistani government would “prefer to name a new chief believed likely to protect the interests of the governing coalition, the prime minister is hemmed in by a military establishment anxious for the selection to be seen as based solely on seniority and merit”.

Another US scholar of Pakistani origin, Shuja Nawaz, whose books on Pakistan Army are taught at universities in the US and Pakistan, tackles another issue — the retirement of one of the six possible candidates for the top slot on Nov 27, two days before the current chief.

He says that elevating one of the candidates before Nov 27 to deal with the retirement issue “may provoke legal challenges as we cannot have two chiefs simultaneously”.

Prof Hassan Abbas of the US National Defence University says the most likely scenario would be choosing “the two senior most generals” as the chief and the chairman joint chiefs of staff, while the third “may come out as a compromise candidate”.

Mr Weinbaum notes that the army’s top brass “appears determined to avoid taking sides in the brewing political showdown” as Imran Khan’s long march descends on Islamabad. “With much of the officer corps sympathetic to the former prime minister, the army is currently leaving the maintenance of order to the local police, the federal paramilitary Rangers, and the country’s tribal constabulary,” he adds.

Mr Weinbaum, however, says Mr Khan “must make peace with the military establishment if he hopes to again clear a path to taking power and holding it”.

For its part, “the military has come to appreciate that Mr Khan has succeeded in mobilising a popular movement that, if not accommodated, could threaten the military’s long-exalted special relationship with the people of Pakistan,” he adds.

Mr Weinbaum sees Imran Khan “emerging from new elections with a massive ego-boosting mandate,” but says that “it will take a steady, skillful new army chief to lead to a reestablishment of the civilian-military governing condominium with the former prime minister that had existed until last April”.

In the meantime, he suggests maintaining “cool heads on all sides to avoid the violence that could destabilise an economically struggling Pakistan”.


Riaz Haq said...

Who is Asim Munir, Pakistan’s new army chief?
Lieutenant General Asim Munir will take charge of the 600,000-strong nuclear-armed army on November 29.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/11/24/who-is-asim-munir-pakistans-new-army-chief

Munir, who currently serves as the quartermaster general at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, is considered an officer with an “impeccable reputation” within the Pakistani military.

He was made the head of Military Intelligence (MI) in 2017, the unit mandated to look after the army’s internal affairs. After his promotion as a three-star general the next year, he was given charge of the country’s premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

However, his eight-month stint as the head of ISI remains one of the shortest in the army’s history. Political commentators said he was removed after falling out with former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“Given his stint as head of intelligence [ISI] was shortened by Prime Minister Khan, after both reportedly fell out, PTI [Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party] believes, Munir could be tilted against them,” Muhammed Faisal Khan, an Islamabad-based security analyst, told Al Jazeera.

“The government, thus, feared that Khan through President Alvi would attempt to jeopardise the process and make the selection of Munir controversial before it could actually take effect,” he said. Alvi is a founding member of the PTI.

A military source told Al Jazeera that Munir has a “clear line of thinking” and is considered apolitical in his approach.

“He is a rare officer in the sense that he has led both the MI and the ISI. He is the first army chief who has headed both the intelligence agencies,” the source said.

“The MI experience will help him look at the army’s internal dynamics, while the ISI experience will serve him well for a global outlook in future.”

Singapore-based Pakistan analyst Abdul Basit said contrary to the reservations of Khan’s PTI party, Munir is a professional soldier who will keep the institution away from politics.

“It is a fact that the military wants to leave politics but will the politics leave the military is a question to ponder over,” he told Al Jazeera.

Munir has previously served in Saudi Arabia, one of Pakistan’s key allies, Basit added.

Munir was deputed in Saudi Arabia as part of the Pakistan army’s close defence cooperation.

“Being a familiar face in Riyadh could well be one of the factors that may have influenced his appointment for the top job,” he said.

Retired army official Muhammed Zeeshan said Munir was his senior in the military and has served on prominent operational and instructional appointments.

Zeeshan, currently the director general of the Centre for Peace, Security and Developmental Studies think-tank in Islamabad, said Munir’s career postings show he was groomed for senior positions throughout his career.

“Based on his postings and the results of his courses, it is pretty evident that he proved himself worthy of where he is today,” he told Al Jazeera.

Zeeshan said Munir served as MI head when Bajwa was the army chief and performed well.

“As the head of ISI, however, he was a bit unfortunate to be caught in an evolving political environment. But the fact that he departed in such a graceful manner when asked to leave speaks volumes about his maturity,” Zeeshan said.

On the challenges ahead for Munir, the retired brigadier said these are difficult times in the country.

“In my opinion, his biggest challenge would be to restore the trust and confidence of the nation regarding the army,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

COAS pick: Lt Gen Asim Munir — a brief profile
Lieutenant General Asim Munir is the next army chief designate of Pakistan

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/1013247-lt-gen-asim-munir-a-brief-profile

Lt Gen Munir was commissioned in the 23 Frontier Force Regiment in 1986. He passed out with 17 Officers Training course, Mangla and was awarded the coveted sword of honour.

He is currently posted as the quartermaster general at the General Head Quarters.

The army chief-designate graduated from Fuji school japan, Command and Staff College, Quetta, Malaysian Armed Forces College, Kuala Lumpur and National Defence University, Islamabad.

The lieutenant general also has M Phil in Public Policy and Strategic Security Management from National Defence University.

The quartermaster general was also posted as a directing staff in Command and Staff College, Quetta, brigade major of a deployed infantry brigade in Kel, general staff officer, grade-2, CGS secretariat and chief of staff of Mangla corps.

Lt Gen Munir has commanded 23 Frontier Force Regiment, Infantry Brigade, remained as a force commander in Northern Areas, Gilgit and Corps Commander 30 Corps, Gujranwala.

The incoming army chief has also served as the director general of Military Intelligence (MI).

In 2018, Lt Gen Munir was appointed as the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).


The most anticipated decision in the current scenario of the country's politics came Thursday, with President Dr Arif Alvi signing the summary sent by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for the appointment of Lt Gen Asim Munir as Pakistan's next army chief.

Here is a brief look at his career.


Lt Gen Munir was commissioned in the 23 Frontier Force Regiment in 1986. He passed out with 17 Officers Training course, Mangla and was awarded the coveted sword of honour.

He is currently posted as the quartermaster general at the General Head Quarters.

The army chief-designate graduated from Fuji school japan, Command and Staff College, Quetta, Malaysian Armed Forces College, Kuala Lumpur and National Defence University, Islamabad.

The lieutenant general also has M Phil in Public Policy and Strategic Security Management from National Defence University.

The quartermaster general was also posted as a directing staff in Command and Staff College, Quetta, brigade major of a deployed infantry brigade in Kel, general staff officer, grade-2, CGS secretariat and chief of staff of Mangla corps.

Lt Gen Munir has commanded 23 Frontier Force Regiment, Infantry Brigade, remained as a force commander in Northern Areas, Gilgit and Corps Commander 30 Corps, Gujranwala.

The incoming army chief has also served as the director general of Military Intelligence (MI).

In 2018, Lt Gen Munir was appointed as the director-general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

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Following this, he was posted as corps commander Gujranwala for two years. After heading the Gujranwala corps he was posted at his present assignment at the GHQ.

Lt Gen Munir will become the first army chief who has headed both — the MI and the ISI. He will also be the first army chief awarded the Sword of Honour.

The army chief designate is a keen sportsman, avid reader and traveller. Lt Gen Munir is also a Hafiz e Quran.

Riaz Haq said...

Bilal I Gilani
@bilalgilani
PTI has at least an upswing in vote bank by an additional 7-8 per cent and most of this has shifted from the PML-N (which indirectly also means that this shift has happened in Punjab).

https://twitter.com/bilalgilani/status/1597094654549557248?s=20&t=CW59h_Iwr1H98fLWjC9jWA

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Lastly, the military in Pakistan has traditionally been a popular and loved institution. In the recent stand-off between the military and the PTI and not so long ago between the military and the PML-N, some have argued for a major reduction in ratings for the army. The public opinion polls in recent months paint a more nuanced picture. In a recent survey done only a few weeks ago, as high as 90 per cent Pakistanis, including supporters of all political parties, said that they loved the Pakistan Army. Similarly, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the public naming of serving generals by politicians: 2 in 3 Pakistanis disapproved of PTI Chief Imran Khan naming an army official as an accused in his attack.

Having said this, the needle has indeed moved with respect to popular public opinion supporting the military to remain restricted to their role as guardians of the borders and leaving politics and economy to the civilians. More importantly, at the elite level the support for civilian vs military rule has significantly moved in favour of the civilians. Overall a significant majority in Pakistan would like to avoid major confrontation between politicians and the structures of the state. Even a very popular politician like Imran Khan would therefore find himself in a difficult spot with the everyday voter in taking a confrontational posture against the establishment.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/1014446-what-do-the-people-think