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Crossing the Line

Since the PML (N) has crossed the red line, it will be interesting to witness
a far-reaching transformation in the politics of Pakistan and Punjab.

By Dr. Moonis Ahmar | December 2020


History is made in civil-military relations in Pakistan when a major opposition party like the Pakistan Muslim League (N) targets the senior-most military officers, such as the Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Jawed Bajwa and Director General, ISI Lt. General Faiz Hameed, of playing a partisan role by supporting the anti-opposition acts of PTI government of Imran Khan. Three time Prime Minister of Pakistan and the patron of PML (N), Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, during his speeches at public meetings held under the auspices of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Gujranwala and Quetta through video link, blamed the Bajwa-Faiz duo of stealing the 2018 general elections; playing a role of ‘selector’ and imposing the puppet regime of Imran Khan.

It is for the first time in the post-Zia political history of Pakistan that the top army leadership has been blamed by a major political party of undermining democracy. Earlier, it was Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which, during the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq, was at loggerheads with the army since the overthrow of Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto’s regime on July 5, 1977, imposition of martial law and hanging of Bhutto through a judicial trial. But, since Nawaz Sharif is perceived to be a product of General Zia-ul-Haq and was patronized by the military establishment to deal with Benazir Bhutto and the PPP, his turning against the generals and portraying himself as a vanguard of democracy is amazing.

How and why is the PML (N)’s narrative about the military termed as crossing the ‘red line’? Why is the PTI-led government dubbing Nawaz Sharif and PML (N) as a bunch of traitors who are serving the agenda and interests of the enemies of Pakistan, particularly India? Why is the PML (N), which has a large following in Punjab, the bastion of the Pakistani military, pursuing a totally different narrative which negates its earlier general elections stance? Is the culture of Punjab, which traditionally reflected a pro-military posture, changing and how will such a transformation impact Pakistan’s political scene?

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The writer is Meritorious Professor of International Relations and former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi. He can be reached at

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