Pakistan Army’s Gravest Challenge Since 1971 Dismemberment Of Nation – OpEd


The Pakistan Army in 2023 faces its gravest challenge in the manner of 1971 dismemberment of the Pakistan Nation State due to anarchic violence unleashed eating into the entrails of Pakistan’s very continuance as a Nation State by former PM Imran Khan, constitutionally ousted in April 2022. 

Reminiscent of the 1971 preceding events then too yet another impulsive Pakistani political leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with a megalomaniac ego fed by populism, refused to accept the verdict of constitutionally held elections won by Awami League Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. The events so unleashed in its wake forced East Pakistan to breakaway and form Bangladesh.

In 2023, PTI Supremo Imran Khan has refused to come to terms with his constitutional ouster as Prime Minister of Pakistan in April 2022 arising from a verdict of Pakistan Supreme Court to face a ‘No Confidence Motion I Parliament., which he did not.

In the months leading to May 9 2023, ousted PM Imran Khan has resorted to attack incessantly every constitutional organ of the Pakistan State and whipped up hysteria among his cadres. His strategy has been to portray himself as a ‘political martyr’ wronged by his former patrons, namely, the Pakistan Army.

 Former PM Imran Khan, disregarding that Pakistan already reeling under economic and political meltdown impulsively chose to target the incumbent Shahbaz Sharif Government, and more pointedly, two successive Pakistan Army Chief’s, ever since his ouster.

Former Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa was lampooned for nearly a year by Imran Khan for staying “neutral” on his ouster. Imran Khan conveniently forgot that it was the Pakistan Army which brought him into political power.

Pakistan Army’s present Chief General Asim Munir also has been incessantly targeted by Imran Khan. 

Imran Khan’s impulsive targeting of two successive Pakistan Army Chiefs perceptionaly emerges from his obsession that it is the Pakistan Army which has stood like a rock in his blueprint to regain his Premiership buoyed by his electoral successes I Punjab.

Pakistan Army has rightly termed the vandalising violence unleashed by Imran Khan’s PTI supporters on Pakistan Army’s GHQ, ISI HQs and Lahore Corps Commanders on being burnt as a ‘Dark Day’ in Pakistan’s history. The [Pakistan Army Chief has warned of harsh action against [perpetrators of violence.

The direct violent assaults by Imran Khan’s PTI on the Pakistan Army GHQ and military installations were frenzied and unprecedented. The Pakistan Army is a hallowed and powerful institution in Pakistan. The Pakistan Army has been famously termed as “The Glue which Holds Pakistan Together”.

Imran Khan having been many times in the past of being labelled as “Taliban Khan” literally exhibited Talibanisque traits with his PTI supporters indulging in arson on Pakistan Army GHQ and facilities without a word of condemnation. It took President of Pakistan Alvi, a PTI nominee, to publicly call on Imran Khan to condemn May 9 violence.

Imran Khan cannot afford to condemn May 9 violence as per TV shows discussions in Pakistan because the entire narrative of confrontation and violence was scripted for the last one year by Imran Khan himself.

Within Pakistan, May 9 violent attacks on the “Citadels of Power’ “in Pakistan, namely the Pakistan Amy, is being compared to the 9//1   moment in United States. It is being opined that Pakistan can never be the same again. Retribution for the perpetrators then was not long in coming. The same can be expected in Pakistan from the Pakistan Army.

Analytically, it can be safely asserted that the Pakistan Army will not compromise on its “Honour” sought to be trampled upon by Imran Khan’s scripted assault on the Army’s “Honour” and pride. The retribution should be forthcoming hard on Imran Khan and his PTI hard core supporters not numbering above 15,000.

So what are the options open to Pakistan Army Chief General Munir as the Pakistan Army faces its gravest challenge since 1971? Compromising with Imran Khan and his PTI cabal with propensities for political violence can be ruled out. Moreso, because Imran Khan’s political mind-set is megalomaniac and over the last year he has painted himself into a “Messianic Mould” projecting the uncompromising stance of being a God-sent saviour of Pakistan. The word ‘compromise does not exist in his vocabulary.

Flowing from the above, two options arise for the Pakistan Army (1) patiently await Imran Khan Exhaust all his judicial options and let him discredit himself in public perceptions by the further use of scripted violent ‘street power’. At the same time be the ‘power behind the throne’ by letting the existing civilian Government provide the façade of Pakistan Army not intervening in democratic processes (2) Direct military intervention posing Martial Law , arrest Imran Khan and a severe crackdown on PTI party cadres. In tandem, Imran Khan is awarded ‘political disqualification’ or given the option of political exile.

Concluding, currently both options are on the tale Pakistan Army Chief. Switching from the first option to the second option can be swiftly executed, should PTI Supremo feels no impulse of restraint and recklessly unleashes further ‘Street Power’ to attain his delusionary end aim of re-emerging as PM of Pakistan

Pointed out in my last year’s write-up on this website was that should by some uncanny chance Imran Khan return to power, his longevity in power would again be limited as he would again end up in even a more intense confrontation with Pakistan Army  which then would be his nemesis.

Dr. Subhash Kapila

Dr Subhash Kapila combines a rich and varied professional experience of Indian Army Brigadier ( Veteran), diplomatic assignments in the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Bhutan. Served in India's Cabinet Secretariat also. He is a Graduate of Royal British Army Staff College, Camberley, UK, Msc Defence Studies from Madras University and a Doctorate in Strategic Studies from Allahabad University. Papers have been presented by him in International Seminars in Japan,Turkey, Russia and Vietnam. Credited to him are over 1,500 Papers on geopolitical & strategic topical issues and foreign policies of USA, Japan, India, China and Indo Pacific Asia. He has authored two Books : "India's Defence Policies & Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis" and "China-India Military Confrontation: 21st Century Perspectives"

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