Pakistan Army Command – Il Post

Pakistan Army Command – Il Post

A man kisses a soldier during a demonstration in support of the army (EPA / BILAWAL ARBAB)

The military has long played a disproportionate role in Pakistan’s politics and economy, as evidenced by the condemnation of former Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Throughout the independent history of Pakistan, which began in 1947 with the separation from India, the army has always played an exceptional role in the political, economic and social life of the country. He has played a (decisive in most cases) role in choosing all the prime ministers of the country, and for nearly half of Pakistan’s history (34 years out of 76) generals have ruled directly, through military coups. The Pakistani military has huge economic interests throughout the country, handles a large part of the media and propaganda and enjoys special laws that in fact allow very serious penalties to be imposed on anyone who criticizes the army.

The extraordinary influence of the army in the political, economic and social life of Pakistan has become evident during the very difficult political clash between former Prime Minister Imran Khan and the army chiefs that took place in recent months. After being ousted last year, Khan, who became prime minister in 2018 with military backing, launched a major public campaign against the military, which has led to him being repeatedly arrested. Last week, Khan was sentenced to three years in prison and will not be able to participate in the upcoming elections.

The military’s influence over Pakistan, of 240 million people, predates independence and separation from India, and is so pervasive that Pakistan is often referred to as “hybrid scheme‘, where the military is almost always behind the civilian governments. It has also been applied to Pakistan A famous aphorism used in the eighteenth century to describe the kingdom of Prussia: it is not a country with an army, but an army with a country.

Pakistani soldiers during a parade (EPA / SOHAIL SHAHZAD)

In Pakistan, the military has great influence due in part to the country’s history. After the separation from India and the many wars that took place between the two countries (in 1947, in 1965, in 1971, in 1984, in 1999) Pakistan always felt a state of inferiority and blockade which made it necessary to maintain the strength of an influential army. Compared to India, it was also a smaller, less populated country with a less prosperous economy. Moreover, during the Cold War, the United States saw Pakistan as an important ally against the Soviet Union, and supported the Pakistani generals economically and militarily.

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The obsession with war with India led the Pakistani military to adopt rather ambiguous strategies and positions: between the 1970s and 1980s the army pushed for the Islamization of the country and began to develop very close ties with Afghanistan, which remained even when the Taliban came to power in 1996. Even today, it is accused The Pakistani military is widely reported to have close ties to various jihadi groups.

However, over the decades, the military’s economic and political influence over Pakistan has increased. Today, the army’s assets are estimated at about $40 billion (Pakistan’s GDP is about $350 billion). The military also indirectly runs several media outlets, and has a powerful propaganda system that has also become very effective on social media in recent years.

But the influence of the Pakistani army is most visible in politics. Since 1947, no prime minister has completed a full five-year term. The army carried out three military coups: in 1958, 1977, and 1999. The coup in 1977 was particularly dangerous because the deposed prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was accused of a crime he may not have committed and executed by hanging. His daughter Benazir Bhutto, who became prime minister twice in the 1980s and 1990s, was assassinated in 2007 under mysterious circumstances while another military man, General Pervez Musharraf, was in power.

But even during civil governments, power has always been in the hands of the military, particularly in the hands of the Chief of Staff. The two main political parties in Pakistan, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), are formally independent, but their leaders seek the support of the army, knowing that without the army, no Pakistani government can. last.

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Omran Khan
The story of Imran Khan, who before becoming a politician and prime minister was a great cricket hero much loved in Pakistan and abroad, is an allegory for the army’s influence.

After a distinguished sports career, Khan entered politics in 1996 with the founding of a new party, the Justice Movement, but for nearly a decade he remained a fringe figure in Pakistani politics, with few or no seats in parliament. Things changed in the mid-1920s, when Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa decided to use Khan’s popularity to promote PTI as the third largest political force in the country and contain the influence of the two major parties, the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N).

Imrak Khan and Chief of Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa in 2019 (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

According to many army reconstruction Manipulating the results of the 2018 elections To take credit for Khan’s victory and make him prime minister. Within a few years, however, the relationship between Khan and Chief of Staff Bajwa began to deteriorate: the army was dissatisfied with the dire economic results of Khan’s government and the prime minister’s many attempts to make himself independent of military control. So at the end of last year, the military once again used its influence to persuade the PPP and PML-N to vote of no confidence in Parliament and impeach Khan.

After losing his premiership, Khan began a fierce campaign against the army, taking advantage of the enormous popularity he commanded. Between the second half of 2022 and the past few months, he has organized huge demonstrations across Pakistan, accusing the army of polluting democratic life in the country and calling for new free elections, which he is convinced he can win. It should be remembered that Khan himself is far from a sincere reformist and democratic leader: during his four years in government, he was repeatedly accused of authoritarian tendencies and an attempt to suppress dissent.

A rally in support of Imran Khan in November 2022 (EPA / RAHAT DAR)

At first, the khan’s rebellion caught the army by surprise. In May 2023, Khan was arrested on charges of corruption, but was soon released by a ruling from the Supreme Court, after huge protests from his supporters, who attacked several buildings belonging to the army.

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At that point, the army’s suppression had become extremely harsh. Thousands of Khan’s supporters have been arrested in recent months, as have nearly all of his party leaders. Khan was finally sentenced last week to three years in prison for corruption and, more importantly, banned from any active political activity for five years. For many analysts, at this point Khan’s uprising against the army You have already failed.

After Khan’s final conviction and his departure from politics, the government that replaced him, formed by a coalition of the PPP, PML-N and other parties, finally agreed to hold new elections: Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif (younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) dissolved Parliament and from Voting is expected by November.

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