By Sankar Ray
The principal ruling party of Pakistan, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf under the Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi, is, to say the least, facing a crisis of existence and identify as the PTI-led government in Islamabad sets its foot into the last year of four-year tenure. The state is towards bankruptcy as its aggregate debt shot up vertically to Rs 149 trillion. On the other hand, signs of strained relationship between the PTI government and miltablishment are more than manifest on the choice of Director General, Inter-Services International, country’s top intelligence outfit and an arm of armed forces. Thus the PTI government has a two-sided battle for existence.
Pakistan entered a state of severe debt crisis when the public debt shot up by over eight per cent in 11 months of the fiscal year ended in June. It was inevitable due to increased government borrowing to meet the unforeseen expenditure that had to be incurred to combat COVID-19 pandemic. The financial crunch deepened as Pakistan had to cough up US$ 2.75 billion as part of debt-service commitment to the International Monetary Fund under a Special Drawing Rights programme. The debt raised by the PTI government amounts to 80 per cent of total debts raised by governments, run by the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League in ten years together.
Grapevine had it that the PM and the General Qamar Javed Bajwa had altercations over the substitution of DG-ISI. Maybe – hinted a retired Lt general – the PM didn’t like the virtually,-demoted Faiz Hameed to mediate between the hardliner Haqqani group, commanded by Sirajuddin Haqqan, minister for interior in the new emirate and the relatively moderate section, led by Taliban co-founder, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, second-in-command of Taliban 2.0.
At one time, the civil-military stand-off took an unseemly turn over the haste by the army top brass in removing Lt. General Faiz Hameed from the post of DG-ISI. He was shunted out to the post of commander-in-chief – Corps Commander of Peshawar – without caring for the PM’s consent. He was replaced by Lt. General Nadeem Anjum as if to show that whoever becomes the premier has to condescend to the gunpoint. But this time, King Khan is believed to have played with a straight bat, having told the Chief of Armed Services General Qamar Javed Bajwa that he would like the Lt. General Faiz Hameed to stay on.
But King Khan’s image is no bright any more and is increasingly being slapped as another political power-monger. ‘Imran Khan deliberately did not broach the real factors and darkening financial scenario. The government got no cash to pay its bills. We are on the brim of financial declivity and bankruptcy’, said acknowledgeable Pakistan watcher. Based in Karachi he is a trained economist as well. Another Hyderabad (Sind)-resident and an academic, associated with the Pakistan’s People’s Party banteringly termed Imran Khan as ‘a clown who dances to military tune and one who tries hard but in vain to divert people’s concern for a country pushing towards bankruptcy onto Afghanistan as if we will reap substantial diplomatic benefit and emerge as the SAARC leader edging out India.”
PTI biggies were prepared for a showdown albeit temporarily with the miltablishment. Despite announcement by the Inter-Services Public Relations, communications wing of the Pakistani army about new DG-ISI, the PM’s office sat over the matter, didn’t issue official orders for new – DG-ISI .But it ended with a whimper. The information minister Fawad Chaudhry in a statement assured that on the choice of DG-ISI, the civil and military authorities ‘are on the same page.
It is evident that there was no civil-military patch-up. .Rather the miltablishment continues to call the shots in Islamabad. Rather the impression -in-vogue gathers further strength among the democracy-craving intelligentsia in Pakistan that Imran Khan and PTI brass are desperately keen on returning to power by reviving pro-mullah political strategy, woven by General Zia-ul Haq, whose protégé was Khan. Which was why he has ‘shoved one dimensional Islamist curriculum in school and colleges’. There is no denying that the ‘elite class and militablishment use religion to tame the children of lumpen class while ensuring that these children have no access to cadet colleges and Aitcheson’. Appeasing the clerics and the army brass comprise PTI’s survival strategy.
Imran Khan’s frantic bid to stay in power by clinging to coat-tail hangers of Muslim clerics as a tactical way of restraining miltablishment is into the open. He has assigned more legitimacy and authority to clerics by announcing the establishment of the Rehmatulil Alameen Authority which is committed to convey the ‘true’ message and ‘face’ of Islam. Further this new body is to organise research (including on ‘Muslim heroes’) in universities, monitor curriculum being taught at schools to ensure it is in line with Islamic teachings, and keep vigil on whether the Islamic content is being shared via the media in order to ensure the ‘real face’ of Islam is portrayed domestically as well. How far this move of the crisis-hit Pakistan Prime Minister is able to placate the clerics, is yet to be seen. (IPA Service)