- Multiple power centres prevailing
There is a growing perception that the government is not in control of some very important aspects of governance and that there is also a continuous erosion of its autonomy over other matters as well. A delegation of top business tycoons that form the backbone of the economy, for example, chose to meet with COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa first, ahead of Prime Minister Imran Khan, to complain about the prevailing harsh economic conditions and how the NAB was hounding them. It reflects quite poorly on Mr Khan and his economic team that it has come to this; the business community simply does not consider them as the ones calling the shots. Part of the problem is that the government over the past year has made promises to the business community that it has failed to keep, leaving the latter visibly disgruntled in the process. Coincidentally, the Chairman NAB, the very next day of the COAS-tycoons meeting, announced the transfer of current and future tax-related cases to the FBR and bank default cases to banking courts, providing the relief the business community was looking for. The impression therefore has formed that in order to get things done one needs to go to the appropriate authority, and it’s not the government.
Internationally, the same is happening; the presence of the COAS is necessary at most important foreign trips that the PM goes on. The PM is currently on his third official visit to China and the COAS, who left on an earlier separate flight, is also there albeit on a parallel foreign visit. However, the PM was accompanied by the COAS on his maiden visit to the USA where the latter met with top security and political figures in the Trump Administration. The situation is not dissimilar when it comes to the Middle East or Gulf countries either. In Pakistan it is essential for the smooth and successful progression of democracy that the government and Army be on the same page and this is currently the case. This however does not mean that the Army is diverted from its core function especially when there are significant problems at almost all borders. It is essential that Mr Khan realises and rationalises this soon in order to minimise his dependence on other institutions.