In the intricate labyrinth of political strategies of Pakistan, every move holds the utmost significance. It is clear that ongoing efforts to salvage the economy and the nation align closely with Mian Nawaz Sharif's (MNS) line of action and objectives. His demands reportedly go even further, encompassing action against General (Retired) Qamar Javed Bajwa (QB) and a crackdown on General (Retired) Faiz Hameed (FH) and his extensive network, rooted in FH's long-standing tenure in the top spy position. This network infiltrated crucial governmental positions and the criminal underbelly of the country.
A common question for many Pakistanis is why MNS' brother, Mian Shehbaz Sharif (MSS), despite his staunch loyalty, did not take these steps.
Here, it is crucial to understand Pakistan's unique power dynamics.
MSS hesitated to confront influential figures within the establishment, often the origins of various mafias eroding Pakistan's economy. This could be attributed to a variety of motives.
The current COAS, Gen Hafiz Asim Munir (HAM), has now taken up what MNS advocated. However, even he refrained from such actions when MSS held the prime minister's position, citing internal resistance within their ranks, which may have emboldened figures like Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial (now retired) and like-minded judges.
Internal resistance within the military can be attributed to a multitude of factors. One prevailing element is the anti-MNS sentiment instilled in the minds of younger officers during the turbulent years of the 1990s and early 2000s when the then army chief, (late) Gen Mushy (Pervez Musharraf), removed MNS as the PM in a bloodless coup d'état. This sentiment persists, especially among those who now constitute the upper echelons of the military leadership.
Yet, another lesser-known but significant factor is the perception of General HAM as an outsider within the army. His educational background sets him apart, having graduated from the Urdu Medium school in Mangla rather than the prestigious SBM or the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) long course at Kakul. This unique position necessitates a cautious approach on his part because openly aligning with MNS could give the pro-Imran Khan Niazi (IKN) and disgruntled elements a reason to join hands and risk taking ambitious steps, potentially leading to a mutiny that would be fatal for both the army and the country, in my opinion.
While our generals may not give great weight to public sentiment, they cannot afford a complete lack of support in Punjab, the province which constitutes 60% of Pakistan’s population and serves as the primary source of Army recruitment.
Hence, the “Boyz” are faced a choice between MNS and IKN, the two most popular leaders in Punjab.
Some argue that the "Boyz" will never accept MNS and will install a new figurehead as PM, which could include MSS, MNS's younger brother and the last PM, or Bilawal Bhutto Zardari (BBZ), another promising leader and the son of former President Asif Ali Zardari (AAZ) and the slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto. BBZ holds considerable support from his home province of Sindh and performed well as the foreign minister in the last coalition government.
Another perspective suggests they might take direct control, with "Hafizul Quran" potentially becoming an "Amir ul Momineen".
I lean towards the belief that HAM will remain aligned with MNS. Let me briefly explain my reasons for this belief.
Given the current circumstances and his previous well-known encounter as the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with IKN, when the latter was the prime minister and dismissed HAM from his position upon his s audacious move of informing the prime minister about his wife and family’s alleged corruption, HAM will view IKN as unreliable, unstable, and potentially untrustworthy with his dubious "global" connections.
Reinstating IKN’s authority could not only erode Gen HAM's influence significantly but also potentially endanger Pakistan’s sovereignty and security. Moreover, keep in mind the events of May 9th, the black day of Pakistan, as named by the armed forces.
There is a dominant opinion, though not necessarily a consensus, that IKN was the mastermind behind it. It's imperative to remember that recently, Sections 120 and 121 were invoked in the FIRs tied to the events of May 9th, ostensibly under the influence of the current caretaker setup, possibly at the behest of the establishment or the army.
IKN's political adversaries no longer hold sway, and these sections bear grave consequences, potentially extending to capital punishment. It seems Imran Khan Niazi's political prospects are on shaky grounds, as even the staunchest of "Imrandar" generals may hesitate to endorse his return to the prime minister's post.
While BBZ and his party, the PPP, may be very popular in Sindh, as I mentioned earlier, popularity in the most populous province is going to be the key factor in the upcoming elections and post-election scenario. The chessboard may be set in advance accordingly.
Secondly, the viability of the Charter of Economy hinges on a robust PML-N leadership both at the helm of the Central and Punjab governments. Any shift towards the PPP would likely undermine the effectiveness of any charter initiative, given their track record of leaning away from development-centric policies, unlike MNS's PML-N.
It's imperative and must be in the minds of anyone interested in Pakistan's existence and well-being that one party emerges decisively as the victor, one whose credibility and esteem resonate with foreign powers. In this regard, MNS stands alone; he commands respect from every nation he's engaged with, even earning the trust of figures such as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Furthermore, introducing a new and untested framework in these critical times could prove perilous. What we require is a seasoned leader, tried and true, at the helm of the nation. Anything less might jeopardise our trajectory.
Let's delve into another option that's been a topic of political discourse, both on social media and in informal discussions: the idea of employing PML-N without its titular head, thus reinstating MSS as PM. To his credit, MSS carries a distinct perspective, one that leans towards the adage "Let sleeping dogs lie" as he forges ahead in the pursuit of progress.
This approach, if adopted, could secure prolonged tenure for the PMLN, paving the way for sustained growth in Pakistan. However, a potential drawback lies in his lack of direct experience as a Prime Minister, elected through the democratic process like his elder brother MNS. This means he hasn't directly navigated the complexities of foreign policy.
When adversaries disrupt the delicate fabric of foreign policy, it poses significant challenges for a sitting Prime Minister. This is why MNS contends that it's crucial to address such issues promptly; neglecting them could diminish Pakistan's standing on the global stage, irrespective of our nuclear capabilities.
Let me quickly add a caveat here. For the same reason, when the body meddles in foreign policy, it is the most risky time for the civilian prime minister because it becomes hard for a premier to function. That’s why MNS feels that such tendencies of the "Boyz" should be nipped in the bud now, but paradoxically, this becomes his demerit in the eyes of the boys. This stance may be a "con" in our context. However, it may not be a make-or-break right at this point.
Considering the aforementioned intricacies from a broader perspective, it becomes evident that MNS emerges as the most pragmatic choice for General HAM and the 'Boyz'.
While some may have legitimate reasons to argue for an alternative "fourth" choice, the stark reality remains: there is none. In these tumultuous times, venturing into uncharted territory with a new system is a perilous gamble. What we direly need is the stewardship of a proven, seasoned leader at the helm of the nation. Anything else would be a precarious endeavour with far-reaching consequences for our trajectory.
I personally find the "fourth" choice least likely given the current circumstances as discussed above, but we know sometimes the "Boyz" seem to believe they possess a hidden "tactical brilliance" or "strategic genius" beyond anyone's estimation, so nobody can predict that.
In conclusion, the air is thick with uncertainty, for a misstep could lead to a formidable backlash, especially in the event of a contentious transition of power post-election. This delicate balance has placed the situation at a critical juncture, where the fate of an entire nation seems to hinge on the decisions of a few key players.