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Pakistan Political Security – Military Continues Dominance

Pakistan Army has a major role in political security in the country. Having being directly in power for the past many decades, the Army has evolved a new model post 2007 wherein control is exercised by placing a Party in power which is aligned with the military’s interests. After failing to influence – two traditionally major parties - Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) the Army is backing Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) a right wing conservative party led by former cricket captain of the country which is in power with smooth relations with the military.

The PTI has a strong base in Punjab – the largest province in Pakistan and in the tribal belt of Khyber Pakhtoonwa. Given reins of the federal government, the PTI is also governing in Balochistan and the two blocks of what India names as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) – Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.

The opposition parties in Pakistan coalesced through formation of the Pakistan Democratic Movement which held large rallies in 2020 across the country but collapsed after two parties left the coalition, Awami National Party (ANP) which mainly has presence in the tribal belt of Khyber Pakhtoonwa and PPP dominant in Sindh.

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) the largest and possibly most influential party in Pakistan in Punjab province is facing headwinds due to confrontation of the party Supremo and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who is presently in exile in the UK.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s and his daughter Maryam Nawaz’s relentless attack on the military leadership and their insistence on bringing down the entire system has been opposed by the PMLN Party President and brother of Shahbaz Sharif. This has led to emergence of major differences in the two blocks of the main opposition party. Shahbaz is calling for a moderate line while Nawaz is continuing with the tirade against the military. Some opponents of the PML N have predicted that there would be a split and PML-Shahbaz [PML-S] would part ways with the PML-Nawaz [PML-N].

Nawaz Sharifs attempts for civilian supremacy has led to differences with the Establishment and many in his Party believe that this may be the cause for the losses faced in elections in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and bye elections in Punjab.

The interview of the party’s president, Shehbaz Sharif, to Geo TV’s Saleem Safi where he called for a median line with the Establishment though stating this obliquely was countered by Nawaz Sharif and his supporters former prime minister and party’s senior vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

However there is resentment in the leaders who are fearing that such an attitude against the Establishment will result in a rout in the elections now two years away. The portends were ominous in recent bye elections in Sialkot. PTI managed to successfully wrest the seat by clever politics.

The return of Shahbaz Sharif President of the PML N to active politics after bail led to attempts for revival of the PDM. Sharif had called a reception of parliamentarians of the opposition parties where the PPP and ANP attended and agreed to return to the fold of the alliance. However there was no forward movement in their joining so far.

PDM president and chief of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) Maulana Fazlur Rehman on August 11 said the opposition alliance had decided to focus "all its attention and energies" on ensuring that transparent elections were held in the country.

This after holding PDM's first high-level meeting since May in which PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Vice President Maryam Nawaz participated via video link. The PDM seems to have dropped the agenda of resignation of parliamentarians and is looking at the worsening economic situation.

The rift between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Pakistan Army over shifting of ISI Chief Faiz Hameed in October has led to serious differences which if expanded could even lead to fall of the Khan government.

The PDM is attempting to revive the agitation against this backdrop and also likely to stand up against electoral reforms. PDM also believed that the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) have become "political organisations and lost their independence and objectivity" and were being used to take "political revenge" from the opposition.

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