Puppet. Photo: iStock

A new party, the Baluchistan Awami Party ( BAP), which is comprised of PMLN dissidents and members of the political and tribal elites, has finally been officially launched in Baluchistan.

A few weeks back, Sadiq Sanjrani, an establishment-backed candidate who helped topple Baluchistan’s PML-N government, was appointed chairman of the Senate.

Invisible forces have managed to install puppets as chairman and deputy chairman of the Senate with the help of Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan. The alliance of Zardari and Khan would not have been deemed undemocratic had the establishment not been involved. Khan is a pawn and politically irrelevant without the support of the establishment, but Zardari has damaged the credibility of the PPP and negated the sacrifices it has made for democracy.

The plan is simple and clear. While the Senate is being controlled through the puppets, the aim now is to forge an alliance of Khan and Zardari in Punjab so they can defeat Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N party. According to the plan, PML-N candidates will be brought to both the PPP and PTI, and instead of joining hands formally, both Zardari and Khan will make seat adjustments in the coming elections.

In a surprising move,  army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa told  selected journalists off the record that he is of the view that the 18th amendment should be changed. He further stated that the current government is responsible for the failure of Pakistan’s National Action Plan, which was devised to counter terrorism. He blamed former finance minister Ishaq Dar for the inclusion of Pakistan’s name on the Financial Action Task Force grey list. He also told the selected journalists that the army will stand with the judiciary, giving a clear signal that if Sharif is thinking of a campaign or agitation against the judiciary, the army will not allow it.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations, categorically stated in a presser that the Bajwa doctrine is not about politics as it is not the army’s domain. But if the information leaked to the press is correct and the army chief said those words to the selected journalists, then Sharif and his party have some very tough days ahead. On the other hand, it raises a question about how General Qamar Bajwa, a servant of the federal government, can blame his own bosses for the failure of the policies that were never actually in the hands of the civilian governments. It also raises suspicions concerning the possible nexus of the military and judiciary and strengthens the narrative pushed by Sharif and his party.

As for the Senate election, the defeat of Sharif and his party is not a concern, as the battle for civilian supremacy and democracy is nerve-wracking, and a temporary victory or a defeat cannot decide the final outcome of this battle. In fact, it does not matter whether Sharif and his allies come to power again or not as the real point to winning the battle is making the narrative of democracy stronger. Sharif and his allies can strengthen the pro-democracy and progressive narrative even when they are sitting in the opposition. It is the narrative and its popularity that has dented the establishment heavily and the damage is now beyond their control. The masses are gradually learning that the actual power does not lie with the elected representative, and they are starting to question the forces pulling the strings from behind.

Even the diehard supporters of the PTI and PPP are finding it difficult to justify their parties aligning with the establishment

The senators from Baluchistan, including the chairman and deputy chairman, are called “Askari senators” (military senators) by a segment of the masses. Even the diehard supporters of the PTI and PPP are finding it difficult to justify their parties aligning with the establishment. The masses have begun asking on social media and in private conversations why the courts cannot take up the cases of  Defense Housing Authority (DHA) and Bahria Town housing estates, and why Adnan Kayani and the generals involved in the NLC scams cannot be brought to justice.

Kyani, being the brother of former army chief General Ashfq Parvez Kyani, is still roaming freely even though he is allegedly involved in the DHA scam in Lahore. While the four generals involved in the NLC scam, which reportedly caused the exchequer losses of Rs1.8 billion (as the accused generals borrowed loans from the commercial banks at high interest rates) were not significantly punished. Only one of them was fired. The courts in Pakistan have traditionally failed to bring members of the military establishment to justice.

The role of the establishment in undermining elected governments and democracy is being discussed everywhere in the country and this is a step forward. This is a sign that the narrative of democratic and progressive forces is winning, and if Sharif and his party are sincere about the democracy and progressive narrative, then they should not be worried about grabbing power or surviving in the corridors of power.

The anti-establishment path and fight for civilian supremacy are not easy and demand sacrifices. Sharif can only expect the masses to sacrifice if he is ready to face the music and not be afraid of losing power. There will be a lot of difficulties throughout and attempts will be made to eliminate his party from the political stage, but if he can sustain the pressure and survives this hard time, he will surely emerge as victor.

While the PPP and PTI may enjoy short-term benefits, they have actually played a role in undermining democracy

While the PPP and PTI may enjoy short-term benefits, they have actually played a role in undermining democracy. The only way both Khan and Zardari can win Punjab in the next elections is if Sharif’s PML-N is dismantled and Sharif is not allowed to run the election campaign. Any election without the largest political party and the most popular leader of the country will not be credible or have the support of the masses.

Only time will tell whose narrative will prevail, but the hegemony of the invisible forces over state affairs and their status of “holy cow” is already being questioned and criticized. This is a step towards a democratic society, and the fact that people are challenging the hegemony of the faith merchants over the religious interpretations and the use of contempt laws for their own gain is also a positive sign for progressives. A tactical retreat or minor defeat does not determine the outcome of the battle. The puppets can never earn respect nor can they legitimize the undermining of democracy and social progress.

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Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.