In the days after former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s tough speech challenging the military leadership’s interference in Pakistani politics, a major opposition alliance formed to overthrow Imran Khan’s government appears to be crumbling.
Unsurprisingly, this came with little encouragement from the military.
Although the government was unable to fight the many accusations leveled by Nawaz Sharif, the army, acting with a series of media leaks and statements that created divisions not only in the political alliance but also in Sharif’s own PML-N party, pitted his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is also president. party, collided with her daughter Maryam Nawaz, who is the vice president of the party and political heir of Nawaz.
The first statement after the former prime minister’s speech at the alliance meeting came the following day from the military commander, General Qamar Bajwa, himself. Meeting elected lawmakers, Bajwa said the Pakistani military had no role in matters relating to politics.
He added that the military did not play any role in the recently passed FATF-related laws, the workings of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the political proposals for Gilgit Baltistan (GB).
The government has dismantled many bills related to compliance with the Financial Action Task Force, the global watchdog for money laundering and terror financing, in parliamentary joint sessions after some were defeated by the Senate.
Urging that the political leadership is responsible for all of these issues, Bajwa acknowledged that GB had strategic interests and therefore broad consultation was needed. The government is moving forward by holding elections and declaring provincial status for GB, both of which are opposed by India which views it as territory within Jammu and Kashmir illegally occupied by Pakistan.
While this debate is gathering momentum, it was leaked to the media two days ago that the main opposition party leaders had met with General Bajwa, and ISI chairman Lt. Gen. Faiz, days before the alliance’s fledgling All Parties Conference.
Railroad Minister Shaikh Rasheed, who appears to be close to the military, made this revelation when he taunted the opposition for criticizing the army on one side and meeting him on the other.
It turned out that the meeting was attended by Shahbaz Sharif, along with his party colleagues Khawaja Asif and Ahsan Iqbal on behalf of PML-N, while PPP was represented by party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and senator Sherry Rehman.
The leak embarrassed most of the people present. Shahbaz Sharif confirmed the meeting and said nothing more. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari clarified that they have attended briefings on national security and such briefings are usually kept secret.
In a so-called hastily press conference, he confirmed meetings with the military because Prime Minister Imran Khan had failed to engage with the opposition on national security issues that had arisen during his tenure, such as deteriorating relations with India after the Pulwama attacks. He also said that the Gilgit Baltistan issue was discussed at the meeting.
Soon after, PML-L leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif took this opportunity to criticize his ally and shoot his uncle and party president Shahbaz Sharif.
He told the media on Wednesday: “They (opposition leaders) were summoned (to GHQ, military headquarters) for the Gilgit Baltistan issue. This is a political issue that the representatives of the people need to solve …. This issue must be decided in parliament, not in GHQ. “
Asked if PML-N leaders who had gone to see the soldiers had Nawaz Sharif’s blessing, he denied knowing this. However, he said “political leadership should not be called upon or should go on to discuss such matters”.
Responding to Maryam’s statement, railway minister Sheikh Rasheed further revealed that the PML-N leadership held not one, but two meetings in the last two months with military leaders.
Meanwhile, Maryam’s remarks appeared to have hit their mark and the military retaliated within hours. Responding to his claim that Nawaz Sharif was not part of the meeting with the army, the head of the Pakistan Army’s media wing revealed that PML-N’s senior leader Mohammad Zubair had two meetings with General Bajwa in recent weeks about the former prime minister. and her daughter.
Babar Iftikhar told news channels on Wednesday evening that the two meetings were “requested” by Zubair, the former governor of Sindh. “In both meetings he (Zubair) spoke about Mian Nawaz Sharif sahib and Maryam Nawaz sahiba,” said Iftikhar, adding “The military commander explained to him (Zubair) that whatever their legal problems (Nawaz and Maryam) will be resolved in the Pakistani court. , while political issues will be resolved in parliament. “
The line of the army seems to be that they do not interfere in the politics of the country and that all the politicians are coming to them for help, including Nawaz Sharif.
When asked about it, Zubair said he had a personal relationship with General Bajwa for more than 40 years. “There’s nothing strange about the meeting,” he told interviewers, adding he never approached the military chief when the PML-N ran into difficulties.
“As a friend, I thought I should tell him (Bajwa) about the state of the Pakistani economy and the government problems. But I told him in clear words that I didn’t come to seek help for anyone in my party, nor did I come at anyone’s request – neither Nawaz nor anyone. “
Although the army appears to have won the final round, what is clear is that the issue of military interference in the country’s political landscape will continue to be debated. It has also rocked Imran Khan’s government, which is accused of coming to power on the basis of fraudulent elections.
Analyst Kamran Yousaf says that the days of Imran Khan’s reign are coming to an end, and that a government made by consensus can take over. But others strongly disagreed.
At the same time, most analysts say that Nawaz Sharif’s speech to APC via video link from London, where he is undergoing medical treatment, appears to have inflated a beehive. His view that the army is now a “country over a state” will echo down the corridors of power for a long time.