The transfer of Lt-General Faiz Hameed from the post of DGISI to that of Corps Commander Peshawar is very significant. It was announced by ISPR last Wednesday but a notification from the Prime Minister’s Office is still awaited, as constitutionally required. Although the transfer was on the cards — because his subsequent professional ambition depended on commanding a Corps – it was also known that Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to hang on to his ISI coattails for as long as possible. Perhaps this is why there is a buzz about the delay in issuing the notification. Has Imran Khan changed his mind for some reason? Was there some misunderstanding between COAS and PM that has led to this confusion? If this is not sorted out quickly, we could face some serious turbulence.
General Faiz Hameed, it is commonly alleged, has provided valuable, often critical, services to Imran Khan during his journey from opposition leader to prime minister. Unfortunately for both of them, the mutually beneficial arrangement had progressively become tainted, discrediting the military and provoking a backlash in GHQ that finally led to this rupture.
It should be admitted that Nawaz and Maryam Sharif played a definite role in setting the ball rolling. By targeting the Miltablishment and repeatedly naming General Faiz for unconstitutional conduct, they changed the popular narrative from a well-entrenched pro-establishment one to an angry anti-establishment position, compelling the Miltablishment to review its political options. The coup de grace came when Maryam Nawaz filed a brave and hard-hitting petition in the Islamabad High Court last Monday citing General Faiz’s alleged role in subverting the judiciary to get both Nawaz and Maryam convicted on trumped up charges. A day later, when COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and PM Imran Khan were huddled discussing the transfer of General Faiz and the appointment of Lt-Gen Nadeem Anjum as DGISI, she launched a no-holds barred attack on General Faiz which may have served to strengthen General Bajwa’s hand in thwarting Imran Khan from continuing with General Faiz in the ISI or handpicking his successor.
it is now speculated that the new DGISI, Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, will not be inclined to follow too closely in the political footsteps of his predecessor for two reasons: one, he is General Bajwa’s nominee rather than the prime minister’s even though the appointment is supposed to originate in the PM’s office; two, the army chief means to direct the ISI to pursue his own objectives and priorities rather than those of the prime minister or General Faiz himself.
Shorn of his sturdy pillar of state, Imran Khan is desperately trying to entrench and protect himself by other means. The Amendment in the NAB law by Presidential Ordinance is aimed at providing an NRO to his teammates in cabinet and government, including himself — all of whom have been excluded from the ambit of NAB investigations and prosecutions — while continuing to witch hunt the opposition via the current NAB Chairman who has been effectively handed a new term despite howls of protest by the opposition. In the event of a deadlock between the government and opposition over the choice of a new Chairman NAB, a committee of six parliamentarians each from both sides is nominated to resolve the issue by majority vote – the chairman, a government nominee, has the casting vote, which means the government will always has its way – failing which there is no time limit during which such a decision is mandated, which means that the current chairman will continue in office with full powers under the shadow of a blackmailing video in the hands of the prime minister.
As if this is not security enough, Imran Khan has announced his intention to head a “cell” to investigate Pandora offshore companies and their Pakistani beneficiaries. There is no recourse to the Supreme Court to determine who isn’t “Sadiq or Ameen”, no JIT headed by an ISI nominee to probe money trails, no potential trials under a hawk-eyed judge bent on finding fault. All that was reserved only for Nawaz and Maryam Sharif.
Understandably, though, Nawaz and Maryam are elated by the departure of Gen Faiz. Instead of the Miltablishment proving successful in driving a wedge in the PMLN between the pro- and anti-Miltablishment factions, the father and daughter have spiked their detractors. This is not to say that the path to the prime minister’s house has been cleared for them and they can dethrone Imran Khan at will. But the necessary conditions for climbing back to office may now obtain. If a popular perception takes root that the Miltablishment will not go out of its way to protect and support Imran Khan, a significant number of PTI MNAs will read it as a sign to bolt from the PTI and prepare for the next government or elections under the winning banner of the PMLN. Certainly, if a severe foreign policy or economic crisis should overtake Pakistan – which is a real possibility — the Miltablishment will inevitably seek to scapegoat the sitting PTI government and clutch at the opposition to bail it out.
The PMLN’s jailbird stalwarts – Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Rana Sanaullah, Ahsan Iqbal, Javed Lateef, et al – are finally able to smile and exude some confidence. “Nawaz Sharif will be back in Lahore by December”, they wink, suggesting he will be “allowed” to lead the party to victory in the next elections which will be sooner than later. This may be premature or misplaced optimism, but it is a good strategy to instill confidence in the rank and file of the party that has been reeling from the confusion sowed by the opposite narratives of the two brothers. Meanwhile, Maulana Fazal ur Rahman and Nawaz Sharif are now scheduled to hold a party conference next week to lay down the agenda for rallies and marches to destabilize the government. Their aim is to test the resolve of the Miltablishment to protect Imran Khan or get ready to ditch him.
Pundits predict a cold winter. Shortages of essential goods. Rising energy and food prices; joblessness, alienation; criminality; indebtedness; industrial strikes; terrorism; foreign threats and sanctions. One spark is sufficient to change the political landscape from an icy one to a sizzler.