Army unofficially back in control in Pakistan : Bloomberg

The global leader in business and financial data, Bloomberg, speculates Army is slowly tightening its grip in Pakistan and is unofficially back in control. With Imran Khan’s dwindling popularity and more than a dozen military officials in prominent government roles, the idea seems plausible to many. Military has certainly been Pakistan’s most important institution, but the supporters of “New Pakistan” had not envisioned this.

Analysts have noticed since last year the military had already begun taking a more active role in policy making beyond foreign and national security policy with Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa meeting top business leaders privately to find ways to boost the economy. Three of major appointments of military officials happened in the last two months, such as running the state-owned air carrier, the power regulator and the National Institute of Health, which is leading the country’s pandemic response. Retired lieutenant general Asim Saleem Bajwa is now Khan’s communication adviser and also oversees the implementation of about $60 billion in Pakistan investments as part of China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative.

Questions over the army’s role in running the government came to the fore when the virus started escalating in March. While Khan addressed the nation and urged citizens to remain calm, it was the army spokesman who announced the lockdown the next day. Most of the press statements from the country’s virus nerve center, chaired by Planning Minister Asad Umar, are produced by the army’s media wing — complete with its byline and logo.

On March 24, Khan was visibly annoyed when reporters asked him “who is in charge here?” Although there was no reference to the military, he threatened to leave abruptly. The country’s Parliament adopted a law in January giving Bajwa a three-year extension starting from November 2019 and he was also made a member of a government’s economic board.

Source: Bloomberg