Unlike his predecessor General Qamar Jawed Bajwa, Pakistan’s new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Syed Asim Munir has remained behind the screens though a role in the current political drama in Pakistan would be evident.
Has General Munir learnt lessons from the fate of his predecessor who had dabbled extensively, in politics to an extent of propping up Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf [PTI] and Mr Imran Khan as the prime minister in 2018 only to demolish the party in April last year paving the way for the present ruling coalition Pakistan Democratic Movement led by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz [PMLN].
Interestingly the party that the Army propelled to power and out of it the PTI has gained a constituency of its own in Punjab – Pakistan’s bellwether province and is expected to pose a major challenge to the PMLN which had considered this as its stronghold for decades.
Advantage in fresh elections in the province of Punjab will be to the Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf led alliance which has been able to make the most of the divisions within the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz and also build up a loyal cadre base using the almost 5 years in power in the province.
The PML N which has a strong presence in the province in the past on the other hand seems to have lost some of the sheen given lack of presence of Mr Nawaz Sharif the supremo who is in exile in London and thus does not have adequate leaders with the charisma at the grass roots. The PTI on the other hand has led the narrative using social media to effect.
The PML is rejigging its team in Punjab as Maryam Nawaz daughter of Nawaz has been appointed as the senior vice president of the PML-N, to “reorganise” the party “at all functional levels” as per a report in the Dawn news. “Pursuant to the powers conferred under the constitution of the PML-N, the undersigned is pleased to appoint Maryam Nawaz Sharif as senior vice president with immediate effect,” the notification said reports the Dawn.
Yet who will win an election in Punjab which is expected in the next three months and whether the Army will dictate the same remains to be seen? PTI leaders attempts to target General Bajwa the day he demitted office may not go down well with the establishment and Mr Khan and his party may not be in favour in Rawalpindi the GHQ of Pakistan Army as much as they believe they are with the Pakistani people and especially in Punjab.
In Sindh Pakistan’s second largest and strategic province economically as well as geographically resting on the Arabian Sea, the PTI despite claims came up third to the PPP and the JI in the local government elections. There is not much evidence to prove that the military or the Rangers who have a large presence in Karachi and Hyderabad may have intervened in favour of the PPP.
It is unlikely though that General Munir or the Pakistan Army will wash its hands of politics completely given force of habit and the urge to sustain the narrative that it is the last bastion of Pakistan’s existential security and the penchant to keep the political class destabilized may weigh in. Importantly it is this factor which has let down Pakistan as a nation time and again and one more cycle appears to be in the offing?