Pak Generals give up neutrality, steering events as always

The neutral Generals in Pakistan are back in the game, trying to force an early
election and get an upper hand in the process of selecting a government which
will be responsible for appointing the next Chief of Army Staff.
There are reports, credible, that the army had been talking to select political and
financial leaders about the possibility of creating a caretaker government before
declaring the elections.
These reports are more than rumours circulating the Capital. Former Finance
Ministers, Dr Hafiz Sheikh and Shaukat Tarin along with former State Bank
Governor Raja Baqir were called by the General for consultations on the IMF
deliberations. The Generals are keen on not losing out on the IMF deliberations
and urged a united approach to get an urgent bail out. The Generals and the
participants agreed that politics should be kept away from economic matters. Two
former diplomats have reportedly been called for a meeting by the Generals.
On the ground, the situation is getting worse. PTI leader and ousted Prime
Minister Imran Khan has become even more abusive in his public discourses and
has now threatened to launch a march to Islamabad on May 25. In response, the
interim government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has unleashed a
revenge campaign against PTI leaders like Shireen Mazari and journalists who
are pro-Imran Khan. Charges are flying thick and strong, all of which puts the
country’s future at dire straits.
The Shehbaz Sharif government has its own woes to deal with. It is at best a
coalition of convenience and offers no hope of a united front against the imminent
challenges facing the country. Even within the government, there is the problem
of elder Sharif in London and young one in Islamabad trying to pull a lame horse
to trot. This is reflected in the critical issue of the IMF bailout. Accepting the
bailout would necessarily mean ending of fuel subsidy, a highly unpopular
decision which would bury the electoral chances of the party or parties taking the
decision. There is talk that the Shehbaz Sharif government would rather quit than
end fuel subsidies. There is no unity in the PMLN and its allies in the party, hence
there are different voices being heard on this issue.
The factor which seems to spur such anxious confabulations and worries is time-
-the government has to take some hard decisions or else the economy is primed
for a nosedive. What worries the Generals the most is a Sri Lanka repeat in
Pakistan–angry people out on the road in protest. Imran Khan’s youthiyas, in
thousands, are already on the streets and are indoctrinated enough to take on the
state institutions which can turn out to be a civil war as the Prime Minister
The Generals have already warned the Imran Khan brigade to step back on
mudslinging. The Shireen Mazari incident is part of the game. Pro-Imran
journalists have been charged with sedition. The media authority has issued a
strict warning against casting slur on Generals and judges. The fear of the
gumboot is back in vogue and incidents of anonymous hits and abductions are
likely to follow in the days ahead.
The cloak of neutrality is off and the knives are out again in Pakistan.

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