Why Army Generals in Pakistan Taking Up Top Civilian Posts?
Members of the Pakistani military have taken various civilian positions in the last two years, which boosts concerns that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s nonmilitary government is giving up the maximum power to the militia.
The recent crash of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft has lighted a discussion about whether armed officers should operate essential civilian duties.
An aircraft bearing 91 passengers and eight crew crashed into a residential neighborhood near the southern Pakistani city of Karachi on May 22. Ninety-seven people died, and two survived when flight PK8303 from Lahore ran down near to the city’s international airport.
Reports imply the aircraft was in bad condition before it took off from Lahore. This has motivated some people to challenge the authority of PIA, Pakistan’s state-owned airline.
At the wheel of the flagship airliner is Air Marshall Arshad Malik. He was appointed to head the establishment in October 2018, a little over two months after Imran Khan became Pakistan’s prime minister.
PIA, once a flourishing airline, has been experiencing substantial financial losses for several years. Passengers complain about bad service and numerous flight delays.
Malik was taken in to rectify the condition and shift PIA’s fortunes around. Many people in Pakistan consider that the military can better run state institutions as army executives are not fraudulent, unlike elected civilian rulers. At the same time, others say that the army is increasingly getting overall valuable civilian posts and is almost managing the government.
Last month, PM Khan removed Firdous Ashiq Awan as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Information, replacing her with General Asim Saleem, a retired general. Asim Saleem earlier commanded Pakistan Army’s media unit.
“It’s the latest implication of the Pakistan Army, mounting up its command in policy,” Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Wilson Center, tweeted on April 27.
Since Khan came to power, both serving and retired military officials are given a variety of state portfolios that have traditionally been civilian roles, analysts say. Rights activists accuse the military of rigging the 2018 election in Khan’s favor, a charge both the army and therefore the premier denies.
A recent article by the European Foundation of South Asian Studies, states that the army dominance in Pakistan has grown much within the last two years.
“It’s a fact, rather the military has moved far ahead of the usual domains of state defense and foreign policy and extended its grasp over other regards of state rule, including finance, economics, interior, railways, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and even media administration,” the think tank wrote in a recent analysis.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a London-based Pakistani researcher, told German top news agency that the present political setup in Pakistan is a “hybrid martial law.”
“I believe the military craves to instantly become engaged in governance because it appears that Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf body can’t rule the country without its assistance,” Siddiqa stated. “They want to control everything.”
Siddiqa fears that more ministries are going to be appropriated by the military officials within the coming years.
Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a Karachi-based political analyst, told that earlier governments attempted to counter the military’s dominance in policymaking, but Khan’s government has no problem with it.
Amjad Shoaib, a retired general and defense analyst, rejects critique that the military is power-hungry.
“All designation in civilian establishment are made genuinely on calibre. It is the civilian government that has appointed military officials to those posts,” he told German top press agency.
General Qayyum did an equivalent with an ailing Pakistan Steel Mills. Many other government institutions began performing more beneficial when military officials took command,” Shoaib marked.