Uncertain Paths

Pakistan is as rudderless today as it was seventy years ago. The politicians
and the armed forces have taken turns at the controls but without much success.

By Sadia Ahmad Butt | December 2020

Poverty, inflation and unemployment have increased considerably in the last two years. Earlier, Fazul Rehman and now the PDM wants to oust the sitting government. The PML-N leadership has resorted to bashing the Pakistan Army openly for its alleged involvement in the political and administrative processes. Nawaz Sharif seems to have burnt all his boats and is now resorting to maligning state institutions. The remarks of Ayaz Sadiq, the former speaker of the National Assembly, reflect the PML-N’s deep-rooted acrimony against the establishment; it depicts a sheer disregard for national interests and an established victory against India.

The military establishment in Pakistan has also strengthened patronage of political thinking compatible with its own interests. Pakistan’s history supports this. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was in Ayub Khan’s cabinet and it is said that there was a father and son relationship between the two. Nawaz Sharif was also nurtured by General Zia ul Haq. Many political dynasties in Pakistan were incubated under military establishments. They supported military rulers for protecting their personal interests. They call Imran Khan a ‘selected’ Prime Minister while their own leaders were fostered by military rulers. With no sense of remorse, it has now become a stance of both the PPP and the PML-N to criticize the military establishment directly for supporting the PTI.

Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari had always wanted to control the military establishment a la Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey. However, they were oblivious of the fact that Tayyip Erdogan was not nurtured and groomed under the military. In fact, he ran a military coup to the ground through public support.

Pakistan’s opposition parties should understand that the establishment has learnt constructive lessons from its past mistakes. Owing to the changing geo-political landscape and the onslaught of a hybrid war, the Pakistani establishment does not want full-fledged military rule. Instead, it is trying to assume a distant surveillance role that is reinforced with checks over the system. In the South Asian context after 2001, the military establishments in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka have been seen paving the way for selection of their favourite political players.

In Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia’s party (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and the Jamaat-e-Islami were sidelined under the will of the military junta. In India, the Congress Party was rejected because it did not favour a war against Pakistan. The armed services have a presence in the Sri Lankan polity today which they did not have earlier.

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The writer is a freelance journalist and writes blogs and articles. She has Masters qualifications in mass communications, international relations and Islamic history and can be reached at

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2 thoughts on “Uncertain Paths

  • December 3, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    Well-articulated and balanced thoughts towards the topic.

  • December 3, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    Very well-written. A very concise article. Good content.