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The brass hats are watching in Pakistan

As Political Chess Unfolds, Uncertainty Looms Over Governance and Military Relations

(L) Nawaz Sharif (R) Shehbaz Sharif /

Was it worth it? That will be the question many people in Pakistan will be asking of the recently concluded elections where millions of rupees that the country could ill afford were spent and scores killed in violence.

And a result that was really difficult to stomach. Sitting in jail on what he and his party see are on trumped up charges, Imran Khan’s supporters under the banner of Independents won 101 seats with Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari coming in second and third respectively.

As Khan’s luck would have it, his Independents will not be able to form the government as they continue to be a loose assortment of individuals who would have to either merge collectively or individually offer support.

That is not about to happen before the deadline of February 29. And after noisily demanding the Prime Ministership, Bhutto has apparently agreed to throw his support behind the Pakistan Muslim League( Nawaz Sharif faction).

Even now it is not clear if the elder Sharif will crown himself or let his younger sibling Shehbaz Sharif to again be at the helm of affairs. There are legal hurdles along the way.

Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf, is claiming that many more Independents would have come out on top if not for manipulation. And it also remains to be seen if the Independents decide to come together as a Party and if that would and could be recognized by the Election Commission.

One bottom line assessment has been that the people of Pakistan have spoken by way of sending a message to the Generals that their “civilian hope” was pushed into a distant second and third.

But before any celebrations can start, Pakistanis are also painfully aware of the political track record over the last 76 years. Aside from being in direct control for three or so decades, the brass hats have had their way for the remaining years.

For all his rants now against the military Imran Khan knows that he himself was a beneficiary in 2018. And the Sharifs also are aware of the fact that they need the blessing of the Generals to keep their seat warm as Prime Minister.

And for this to happen a civilian leader has to do two things: write cheques for military acquisitions and unlimited spending for cross border terrorist activities. Of course all these happen under a phony cover of Pakistan being a “victim” of terrorism, something politicians and military will not be able to able to say with a straight face.

 “The more things change, the more they remain the same” is an aphorism attributed to French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in 1849. But things have come to such a tragic pass in Pakistan that neither the military nor the civilians can afford to believe that it is fine if things continued to remain the same.

The country is economically in a mess and tottering with known lenders reluctant to dip into their pockets. In all the apprehension, the last thing politically wounded Generals need at this time is an unwitting invitation to come out of the barracks.

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