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Pakistan: Army Chief Admits Military's Political Interference

    Pakistan: Army Chief Admits Military's Political Interference
    Updated Nov 25, 2022
    Image credit: Abid Hussein, Al Jazeera

    Facts

    • In his last address as army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa defended the role of Pakistan's military, which has faced heavy criticism, particularly from former PM Imran Khan, who has accused it of being instrumental in his removal from office in April. Bajwa said the military had unlawfully meddled in politics for 70 years, but wasn't doing so any longer.[1]
    • Speaking at the Defense and Martyr's Day ceremony in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, Bajwa questioned why other armies are rarely criticized, while the Pakistani military faces frequent condemnation. “I think the reason for this is the army’s interference in politics. That’s why the army decided in February not to get involved in politics,” he said.[2]
    • He also rejected claims from Khan that the US had played a role in toppling his government as "fake and false." During the 75 years since the independence and formation of Pakistan, the nation's army has seized power three times through military coups, leading to more than three decades of dictatorial rule.[3]
    • Bajwa also said that the army has started an internal process to review its actions, and expressed hope that Pakistan's political parties will do the same. "The reality is that in Pakistan, institutions, political parties and civil society - they have all made mistakes," He said, continuing: "It's time we learn from them and move forward."[1]
    • Pakistan's generals maintain a dominant role over security matters and foreign affairs, even under civilian government rule. Bajwa has sought to balance ties with China and the US and has also played an important role in securing financial assistance for Pakistan.[4]
    • On Thursday, Pakistan's government named General Asim Munir, a former spy chief, as Bajwa's replacement. The appointment ended months of speculation over who would land what many consider the country's most powerful job.[5]

    Spin

    Narrative A

    It's best to take Bajwa’s claim that the army intends to cease their unconstitutional interference in politics with a large grain of salt. The military institution is so deeply entrenched in the fabric of Pakistan's politics that it would be near impossible to engineer such a sharp exit. Bajwa's successor will play a key role in reducing tensions between the government and opposition leader Imran Khan due to the decades of meddling by senior military figures in the country's political governance.

    Narrative B

    While it's true that Pakistan's army has a history of illegitimately interfering in politics, it's clear that Bajwa is using the end of his tenure as an opportunity to openly discuss the truth for the sake of the country's stability. This is a rare and candid admission by a senior leader who is concerned about the potential for ongoing turmoil, and believes that his influence — including through negotiating better relationships between political parties — was motivated by a desire to maintain the functioning of democracy and political health of the nation.

    Nerd narrative

    There is a 43% risk that Pakistan will default on its debt in 2022, according to the Metaculus Prediction Community.

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