Pakistan’s polity is fractured and dysfunctional, which allows the army to exercise excessive control over the country.
Narrative control has been the hallmark of the Pakistan Army – from propagating false claims of victory in wars with India, hiding its casualties in operations, and even to the point of disowning its dead in Kargil.
It has always maintained a façade of being a highly disciplined and efficient organisation in the eyes of its citizens. However, this mirage of an efficient institution now seems to be cracking in the face of prolonged operations by its troops.
Crumbling Ethos in Pakistan Army
The army is managing multiple fronts, both internally and externally.
Internally, it is involved in the internal security operations in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
It is also handling COVID-19 and domestic law.
Externally, the mercenary role of its troops in Afghanistan, along with border tensions with India and Afghanistan, have started to have a physical and psychological toll on them.
To add to the woes, the duplicitous policies of the Pakistan intelligence agency – in the form of ‘Good Taliban’ and ‘Bad Taliban’ – help terrorists like Ehasanulla Ehsan escape justice.
Ehsan escaped justice despite his involvement in the killing of children of Army personnel in a Peshawar school in December 2001.
Radicalization in the Pakistani’s military rank and file have further created chaos in the minds of the soldiers and officers alike.
Commercialisation at the cost of Espirit de Corps
“The Army is into every business in this country except Hairdressing.”
In the fast changing world of information and global networks, the scandals of the elite senior officers of the Army range from their involvement in the land, housing, commercial ventures to illicit relationships.
These have contributed to the erosion of their morals and ethics.
There is now a visible schism between the officer class and the men.
While the Generals are busy fighting for lucrative posts, both pre and post-retirement, the soldier’s welfare has been grossly overlooked. The mounting casualties on borders and internal security operations are eroding the faith of the soldier on his command.
The impact of all these factors is now clearly visible, from videos of soldiers requesting Chief Bajwa to address their problems to pleas of stopping action against the infamous Tehreek-e-Labbaik Islamist protestors, all have been surfaced in the Pakistani media.
However, what is significant is the latest developments, such as the growing cases of indiscipline, high handedness, lack of tolerance within the organisation in its interactions with civil authorities like the Police.
In the last two months itself, the Army has faced two incidents of fratricide involving two different infantry regiments of the Baloch (the regiment of the COAS Bajwa).
In the first incident on 08-09 May, a soldier of Baloch regiment fired on his colleagues in the dining hall of the 71 Punjab regiment.
It resulted in the death of nine soldiers and injury to at least six others. In the other recent incident, a soldier from a Baluch unit was shot dead by his so-called comrades in the Lahore area.
These developments have placed the Army under the direct scrutiny of both its citizens but also its soldiers.
In the era of the information revolution, the Army will find it more challenging to hide its misconducts from the eyes of both its men and its civilians.
The consequences of these developments might lead to increasing discord and disharmony within its rank and file.
But amongst all this, Pakistan is still finding new ways to antagonize Greece and Cyprus on behalf of Turkey, such as violating Greek airspace and threatening to recognize the s0-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”