The Crucial Time in Politics
Never had the changing of the guard been so chaotic. A simple problem has evolved into a political game of chicken with huge implications. By the end of this week, the new army chief is anticipated to be announced. However, given how intensely politicized the entire process has become; the change may not put a stop to the debate. The political climate will be extremely polarized and unstable when the new leader assumes leadership.
Navigating through rough waters will be a significant challenge for the new occupant of what is thought to be the most powerful office in the nation. It is not just a matter of the security establishment’s role in the current political power struggle; it is also a matter of how to win back the public’s trust in the institution.
The military leadership has faced unprecedented public criticism as a result of the loss of trust, which has complicated the choice of the new army chief. The military’s extensive participation in political issues has cast doubt on its professionalism and disguised its primary duty of protecting the security of the country. Unsurprisingly, not many people are buying the late claim of “neutrality.”
The country’s political power has always been dominated by the security establishment, either directly or indirectly. Short and incompetent civilian administrations have alternated with protracted periods of authoritarian military control. The political influence of the military has also harmed civilian institutions and the development of the nation’s democratic political culture.
The new command will face difficulties in dealing with the numerous issues the military is currently experiencing.
The fundamental power structure of the nation hasn’t changed as a result throughout the past 75 years. The majority of political parties support dynastic family interests, making them convenient players in the ongoing political sway of the security establishment. Through political manipulation or extraconstitutional tactics, elected civilian governments have been overthrown. Political leaders were raised in the military’s hatchery and could be readily removed once they got out of hand.
The fact that few civilian governments have been able to finish their tenure is not surprising. The alternative has been simple to obtain. The political musical chairs game has continued to guarantee the security establishment’s control. Imran Khan’s ascent to power was also an expression of the same game. The up-and-coming politician was the former cricket star.
His ascent to power was facilitated by a corporate decision. The fact that the establishment actively participated in forging an alliance that allowed the PTI to form the government at the federal level and in Punjab in 2018 is no longer a mystery.
It was the first time that the military was in charge of hybrid rule. The only way a fledgling coalition could survive was with the support of the establishment. A senior security official claimed that Imran Khan had come to rely entirely on the security system for everything. In every field, the establishment’s influence could be seen. It is also obvious that pliant media segments were developed to support hybrid rule and thwart political opposition.
But there are inherent difficulties in the power dichotomy. Although maintaining their partnership may have been in their best interests, there were rising tensions within the hybrid relationship due to their divergent views on a number of local and international policy matters. When Imran Khan crossed the line in the ISI chief move, everything came to a breaking point. Time ran out for the protégé. He’d turned into a liability. The musical chairs game was restarted. Old enemies turned into new buddies.
The game, however, has not gone according to plan. The assertion of neutrality has not been proven. Khan confronted his former clients with an intensity unseen before. The game’s regulations have changed as a result of his populist appeal. His unrelenting campaign has made things difficult for the establishment. The establishment’s options have been limited by the impending change of command, working in the former leader’s favor.Khan has targeted some top army officers as part of his approach, while sparing others.
In an effort to exert pressure on the new military leadership, he has purposefully made the selection of the new army chief controversial. His main goal is to regain the backing of the establishment in order to take back control. But as his conceit rises, his estimates might be off.
He has escalated his conflict with the generals by designating a senior intelligence officer in the event of a firearms attack on him. After the army command change process is through, his game can be over. Despite the army’s assertion of neutrality, it might also be difficult for the establishment to contain him. The current civilian leaders are incapable of fending off the PTI’s assault and reestablishing political stability.
The new army command will have enormous difficulties in dealing with the institution’s numerous issues. The credibility of the security establishment is also at risk, in addition to its potential political role. The public perception of the security institution has been damaged by questions about the benefits and authority of the generals. Perceptions of financial misconduct at the top could not be more unpleasant.
Additionally, it is believed that the establishment’s purported engagement in the real estate industry has significantly impacted the institution’s national security obligations. Along with eroding professionalism, these expanding commercial and business interests are also thought to have a negative impact on the nation’s civil-military ties due to the concessions they have been able to secure.
The incoming army leadership must perform to the best of their abilities at this pivotal time in the course of the nation. It might be difficult to get over this damaging legacy.