October 17th, 2020

By Munizae Jahangir 


In an unprecedented first, Punjab’s most popular leader called out a sitting army head, Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa, and an ISI Chief General Faiz Hameed on meddling in politics, kidnapping journalists, pressurizing the judiciary to influence the outcome of cases and of ousting him through a conspiracy that began with ‘Dawn Leaks’ and ended with rigging the 2018 general elections.

Even in a country like Pakistan, where everyday politics is full of surprises, this full-frontal attack on the military is something the citizens had never seen, especially coming from a Punjabi leader.

However, Mian Nawaz Sharif, three times elected Prime Minister was also cautious in not painting the entire army as his enemy. He paid tribute to the soldiers but blamed the army chief and ISI chief for dragging the institution of the military in politics for their own personal gains and making it “controversial.”

There is a strong sense of curiosity about what will happen next, after that the leader of the largest political party in Pakistan has taken on the most powerful men in the military.

Will the military rally behind their chiefs – or is there something else at play here? Nawaz Sharif has always had deep links with the establishment and many analysts are asking whether he is sensing disgruntled voices within the army, unhappy over the way their leadership has handled political matters. But one thing stood out clearly in Friday night’s Jalsa.

Nawaz Sharif in his new avatar as a bold democrat made a compromise: he did not include Mohsin Dawar or Ali Wazir the two young members of the National Assembly in the Pakistan Democratic Movement’s first power show.

Was it because their presence would have made Maulana Fazlur Rehman uncomfortable, as both are contesting each other in the same constituencies? If that is what the reason is, it still does not explain why then Mohsin Dawar has been invited to the Karachi gathering where PPP will be seen flexing its muscles on October 18.

Or is it perhaps that the PML N, having just challenged the military, are not yet willing to go for the jugular just yet and prefer to only beat the drum of civilian supremacy when they are personally attacked?

The true test of a democrat is when he or she is willing to take an unpopular stand for the most vulnerable in society and take the blow on their behalf.

There is no doubt that Nawaz Sharif has risen to fight the final battle for civilian supremacy, however, it is not yet clear whether he will be willing to take on the establishment for its repressive policies towards citizens from the smaller provinces.