When I read the news that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had suspended the extension given to Gen Bajwa as Army Chief, a coin dropped in the slot. The question which came to my mind – Is this happening? Where will it lead? Is it the beginning of the disintegration of Pakistan? Will this unnatural country finally break? Seen alone it means nothing. However, viewed in the larger context of its politics, leadership, economy and other major problems there is something happening in Pakistan which is not normal. It needs some focus and analysis.
The Military Judicial Divide
“Let us also discuss, without mincing words or feeling shy, the role of the armed forces and the intelligence agencies in the governance paradigm”. This statement was made by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Jun 2019 ( https://www.dawn.com/news/1491032 ). Six months back. Tension between the Armed Forces and the Judiciary has been building for some time. I wrote about it earlier. The suspension, by the Supreme Court, of the extension in service given to the Army Chief has not started suddenly. However, it has far reaching consequences and has probably altered the power dynamics of Pakistan forever. The Chief Justice has made three points which the courts will consider. These are the law, the procedure involved and the grounds to give the Army Chief an extension. Pretty strong stance. There are three possible outcomes. Change of the Army Chief, A coup or his continuance. Change of the Chief or a coup will only add to instability in Pakistan. It is well possible that the Army and Government might work overtime and force the Judiciary to give the go ahead to Gen Bajwa to continue as the Army Chief for the next three years. Even if Gen Bajwa continues there is always the issue that he can be challenged in court. This is a first for Pakistan. This limits the Army options in running the country the way they want it. The Army might not be able to call the shots completely.
The Political Landscape
The internal political scene is bleak. It is very clear that Imran is that kind of a Moses who is going to lead his flock to disaster. His government is in a non-government mode. The opposition is ragged. Nawaz Sharif and his daughter have been eased out of the equation. The JUI Rasta Roko has fizzled out. The PPP is in no shape to assume any leadership role. Overall there is no other option than Imran Khan and he is no option. What is emerging very clearly it that the political scene is dismal. The Army is in the dock. There is no one at the helm of the Chaos! So, let us see the Chaos.
Tomatoes- Rs 400 per kilo. Cost of a Naan capped at Rs 10 by government order. Occasional reports of shortage of Atta. Petrol over Rs 100 per liter. Double digit inflation for over three months. Hot money pouring into the market. GDP growth is sub 3%. The Pakistani economy is totally adrift. That is a total understatement. It is in shambles without any repair in sight. Where is it heading? I doubt even if IMF can fix it. However, the Army has been trying to fix it with the Army Chief having extensive interactions with the business community and heading the national panel to effect economic recovery. What will the effect of this judgement be? Will the Army Chief be able to enter the economic arena again? Not that he was working miracles with the economy.
The CPEC is in trouble and it portends bigger trouble for Pakistan. The Americans have finally come out with all guns blazing to highlight the pit falls of the Debt Trap which Pakistan is going into. At a micro level, a CPEC Authority has been formulated to ensure that CPEC is well coordinated and executed in time. This authority is to clear all the roadblocks at the Patwari and lower level bureaucracy. Two years back I had predicted that the failure of CPEC will begin at the Patwari and land shark level who will not miss this opportunity to make a killing. A retired General has been put at the helm to clear the mess. Probably to appease the Chinese. All political parties are up in arms against the move since it culls their take. It is obvious that Pakistan is staring down a chute. How much affect the Army Chief’s suspension of extension will have is to be seen. If the Army’s authority is diminished its shadow will be cast on CPEC. If there is a coup, it will have other collateral effects on the economy.
The first part of Imran Khans ramble in UN was all about melting and receding glaciers. Very significant. I read a report in Dawn where in there was an article in Prism Section that the Indus water is not reaching the sea. The sea water is coming in. The coastline ecology is changing. It tells us that the werewolf called water is coming to the door. In five years, water scarcity is going to hit Pakistan squarely. When that happens, agriculture which constitutes 20-25 % of its economy is going to get hit. Add to that woes of lack of water due to rapid urbanization. The picture is grim since there is no funding for an iota of a solution to the water crisis. Not in the IMF bailout. Not in the CPEC. Not in the doles from Gulf.
The FATF is still unhappy with Pakistan. The danger of blacklisting is still on the cards. The insurgencies and other separatist movements are still simmering. Even POK is unhappy with the Central Government. Open any news paper and you will see what is troubling Pakistan. Kashmir Banega Pakistan does not appear in the news anymore. The troubled neighborhood of Iran and Afghanistan do not make headlines. No more fancy frontline state talk.
Pakistan is fighting with its back to the wall. However, the wall is not moving. Suspension of the extension in service given by the Government is a far-reaching issue. Till now the civil – judicial divide was a given in Pakistani society. The Military – Judicial divide is new. The Judiciary was always known as the B team of the military. For the first time the civil government is working overtime to save the military the blushes. I feel some fundamental equations have changed. If the Army comes through with diminished powers, then CPEC and the economy are at high risk. The economy anyway cannot recover for the next 5-10 years. The rest of the issues will not vanish. Slowly but steadily, Pakistan has moved past the failed state stage. Confusion in the Army. Political Vacuum. Disgruntled people. Pakistan is on the edge of a cliff. If the state falls off the cliff it is disintegration. Will it happen? Time will tell.
IF MUSHHARAF GETS CONVICTED AND BAJWAS EXTENSION IS NOT GIVEN, THE FAT WILL BE IN THE FIRE!
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