For nearly three years, every PTI leader repeated ad nauseam that the government was on the same page with the army. While people generally expect the government and the various organs of the state to be in harmony, the phrase parroted by PTI implied there was much more to it than met the eye, in fact a unanimity on all issues including the government’s policy of persecuting the opposition. Over a year back the repetition of the phrase suddenly came to an abrupt end without any explanation, leading to all types of kite flying. In October the PM’s keenness to retain the previous ISI chief despite the announcement of the schedule of routine appointments and transfers by the ISPR led to statements from government’s side emphasising that the authority to appoint the ISI chief rests with the prime minister. PTI’s chief whip even spilled the beans regarding what had transpired in PM’s meeting with the COAS. The issue of government-establishment relations became a popular subject for discussion in media.
When the PM told his team of spokesmen that “civil-military relations are unprecedented these days” and that the government’s relationship with the military was ‘exceptional’ while the Opposition’s narrative of civil-military rift was ‘dead and buried’, many took it to be a pep up talk to raise the sagging morale of the government’s propaganda team. Only time will show how far the assessment is realistic.
The PM took to heart the PTI’s discomfiture in the first phase of KP LG polls which is understandable. What is not is the punishment administered to the party. Imran Khan dissolved PTI’a organisational structure all over the country. What is more he appointed federal ministers as new party officials who are considered by many PTI workers to be the root cause of the debacle in KP. Some of the new provincial presidents are turncoats who joined the party in 2018. Some are known as bureaucratic misanthropes. On Monday newly appointed party general secretary Asad Umar briefed the lot on the plans for party reorganisation. With LG elections in Punjab on the horizon, this amounts to changing horses in midstream. Does the PM expect that those who matter would this time abandon their policy of neutrality that won public praise during the recent by-elections and KP LG polls?