General Munir’s plan for hybrid regime could backfire

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The decision of the hybrid regime of Sharif-Munir to oust Imran Khan from politics might just boomerang in the next few weeks.

The objective of locking up former Prime Minister Imran Khan in prison on the Toshakhana case might be to clear the ground for the next favourite of the Generals but public opinion and anger brewing among the serving and retired military personnel could undo the Munir-Sharif plan.

The Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society, a well-known association of retired military personnel, called it another “low in the history of Pakistan“.The association decried that it was unfortunate to note that the military high command was repeating the mistakes it made prior to the fall of Dhaka in 1971. The society said : “The high command is playing with fire and walking in unchartered territory. Young officers and troops are demoralised and angry. The faith in the high command’s ability to lead is almost non-existent. Wake up before any rude awakening…“

Several retired Brigadiers and Generals have expressed similar sentiments on their social media handles, a sign of anger and dissension brewing within the force. But this time the anger is silent and seething, largely because of the draconian powers invested in the army through recently amended Army Act, forbidding retired and serving personnel from criticising the armed forces in any manner. The mass arrest and military trial of May 9 protesters have so far prevented any outburst among the people.

But the signs are clear–in the election results of two tehsil councils in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, PTI emerged victorious. This could be a minor victory but Imran Khan’s popularity is unquestionable. Or else, the hybrid regime should not have been so desperate to imprison Imran Khan. The regime has already broken his party and forced his leaders to desert him. The sheer effort put into breaking Imran Khan shows his power.

The military plan is much more devious. The reason for using the Toshakhana case to sideline Imran Khan is clear–it wants to use the same stick to beat other contenders and keep them in place. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is one among the many who had benefited from Toshakhana gifts. So his chances of return and politicking too are over. So are the chances of Asif Ali Zardari who too has been generous in usurping state gifts. His son, Bilawal Bhutto, however stands a chance. Shehbaz Sharif’s name is also included in the list released by the government but the gifts retained are fewer in number and inexpensive besides many were either deposited in the Toshakhana or displayed at the Prime Minister’s residence. In short, he is least likely to be prosecuted under corruption and he has time to undo many things.

In the end, it is not difficult to see where is the military going–it wants someone like Shehbaz Sharif to remain in government simply because he is known to have worked harmoniously with the military in the past and can be a malleable premier, much like Imran Khan was before his sacking. General Asim Munir and Shehbaz Sharif have been seen together on various occasions in the recent past where the Army chief had no business to be. The Prime Minister has also been quite vocal about praising the Army chief even when he had no role to play like the IMF loan.

But these plans might just face a blowback from the people. It is not a secret that if there were to be a “free and fair “ elections, a term which nobody is using in Pakistan, Imran Khan and his party would win Islamabad. But Khan will be in prison and his party is in tatters. So who will rule Islamabad, besides Asim Munir?

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024