Possible Coup in Pakistan?

Pakistan Army has literally taken over the Imran Khan government in what can be called a ‘creeping coup’.

It has been setting the political agenda for the country for a long time. Last year, the army had decided to become `part` of the Imran Khan government by facilitating the posting of own candidates on key positions. The Army chief, General Javed Bajwa took upon himself to guide the economic policy, though not with any success. He then got another of his protégé, Major General Asim Bajwa, appointed to the inner coterie of the Prime Minister.

In the latest move to capture even more power, the army has leaned on the Imran Khan government to pass a Bill giving over-riding powers of authority to the Generals over the $60 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor project. The CPEC Authority has been under the thumb of the army with General Bajwa as the Chairman but the ordinance giving the said authority had lapsed last year. The army wants it back, now with more powers.

In November this year, the government cleared the CPEC Authority Bill 2020. It is likely to be  put to vote in December. If the Bill gets passed, then Bajwa will be back as the head of the CPEC authority but with greater power—he will report to the Prime Minister and not to the Planning Minister as earlier. Bajwa, in the new role, will have greater influence on all development plans, besides the CPEC.

Moreover, the new law will offer legal immunity to CPECA officials which would make them unaccountable for tens of billions of dollars being pumped into the project. Bajwa, means the army, will also wield powers to order a probe against any official refusing to cooperate with the authority. This is significant because Bajwa himself was recently under the cloud for serious allegations of fraud and corruption and had to quit as the advisor to the Prime Minister.

Since the CPEC project involves large scale and lucrative infrastructure project, the army will have a firm hand and influence on almost all the provinces, commercial projects, land acquisition, services, security and, on top of it all, the relationship with China.

With this move, the army’s infiltration of the Imran Khan government would be complete. It already runs the National Highway Authority (NHA) and Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the Pakistan government’s two biggest departments. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)is likewise involved in the so-called “Karachi Transformation Plan.” The head of the ISI and Army Corp Commander for Karachi were part of a closed-door meeting held on December 5 this year to discuss big ticket construction and development plans for Karachi, Pakistan largest city.

The pandemic management too vests with the military.  The National Command and Control Centre, entrusted with overseeing the implementation of Covid-19 policy, is led by Lieutenant General Hamood-uz-Zaman Khan. He controls the purse strings for Covid containment measures. In Punjab, the army is equally involved in pandemic containment plans. On December 7, the meeting called by the Punjab government to discuss plans to contain the second wave of Covid was attended by Corps Commander Lahore Lieutenant General Majid Ehsan.

The army’s control of commercial activities like transport, aviation, shipping, infrastructure, telecom, power, fertiliser, food processing and agriculture has been well known. The military owns the biggest of commercial enterprises besides maximum arable farm land.

Wary of coups, which attract too much of attention and public anger, the army has found a new way to run the government—find a puppet leader and then quietly worm its way into the government, without firing a single bullet. This is the `naya` or new Pakistan.