Pakistan Army: Blighted By Politics, Driven By Ambitions – Analysis


By Sushant Sareen*

Late night on May 12, the official spokesperson of the Pakistan military, Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, came on Geo TV to dispel rumours about resignations and dismissals of officers of the Pakistan Army. Since the events of May 9—the large scale violence that broke out after the arrest of Imran Khan, much of it targeted against the Pakistan Army and its installations and establishments—there have been reports that the Corps Commander of IV Corps along with some other senior officers were removed from their posts.

On May 12, a former army major who has been running a relentless campaign against the current army leadership from the United Kingdom, revealed names of officers who had been sacked for disobeying orders. There were also rumours that a number of other Corps Commanders who were believed to be part of the Imran Khan cult were on the firing line and would soon be sacked. It was amidst such sensational ‘news’ spreading like wild fire over the last few days that the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief came out with a somewhat perfunctory clarification that is really not going to silence the jungle telegraph that has gone into an overdrive.

Clearly, all is not well within the Pakistan Army. That the Pakistan Army is a divided house is not breaking news. Over the last one year, there are straws in the wind, whispers in corridors of power, insinuations and inferences that suggest that the divisions in the rank and file, and even in the top brass, are not just personality driven but also ideologically and politically. Imran Khan appears to have achieved what was supposed to be impossible and unacceptable—dividing the Pakistan Army. If General Asim Munir is now trying to stamp his authority over the Army and restore the command and control system of the only somewhat functional institution in an otherwise dysfunctional country, then this is an exercise fraught with risk.

Drastic steps to enforce discipline and reassert the authority of the Army Chief at this stage could either precipitate the crisis in the Army or consolidate it behind the chief. In case of the former, the crisis of the state in Pakistan will become deeper. The institutional integrity and coherence of the Pakistan Army will be irretrievably damaged. If a cabal of generals succeed in defying the Army Chief, then it will be a template that will be followed by others as well. Forget about coups against civilian governments, the new normal will be coups against the Army Chiefs. In the worst case scenario, Islamabad might even witness Khartoum like scenes. But even if General Munir manages to hold on, the discontent in the rank and file will be palpable and could hobble him and his command.

In the past also, the much vaunted discipline and unity of Pakistan Army has come under tremendous strain with ambitious generals trying to grab power and middle ranking and junior officers questioning their superiors. After the 1971 debacle, the junior officers literally abused the top brass openly which forced them to not stay in office. In the 1970s, some young officers planned a coup against the army leadership. In the mid-1990s, a group of officers led by Major General Zaheerul Islam Abbasi plotted to wipe out the entire top rung of the military and grab power. In the early 2000s, there were arrests made of disgruntled officers who were linked with the Hizbut Tehrir. Among other officers, a brigadier was arrested.

At that time, the then Director General of ISPR, Major General Athar Abbas, had said the Army cannot allow officers to become members of another group or cult, which is precisely what is happening today where officers appear more loyal to the Imran cult than to their own institution. There was also a conspiracy hatched by a cabal of generals, including the Inter-Services Intelligence chief and a couple of Corps Commanders, against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif when they used Imran Khan’s 2014 ‘dharna’ to create conditions in which the PM would sack Raheel Sharif, and the Army would move in doing a double regime change—in the government and in the army.

Although all these plots failed, they suggest a persistent problem in the Pakistan Army, of officers tempted to usurp power. Something similar is underway now. Only this time, things appear to be far more fraught than ever in the past.

*About the author: Sushant Sareen is Senior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation.

Source: This article was published by Observer Research Foundation

Observer Research Foundation

ORF was established on 5 September 1990 as a private, not for profit, ’think tank’ to influence public policy formulation. The Foundation brought together, for the first time, leading Indian economists and policymakers to present An Agenda for Economic Reforms in India. The idea was to help develop a consensus in favour of economic reforms.

One thought on “Pakistan Army: Blighted By Politics, Driven By Ambitions – Analysis

  • May 20, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    In Pakistan the Army cannot solve the problems in the country because the Army itself has caused the problems and benefiting from them.


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