Existential threat to Pakistan

Shehbaz Sharif.(photo:instagram)/IANS

Malladi Rama Rao

New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) Finally, after some wailing, Pakistan has received the badly-needed bail out from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The three-billion-dollar aid announced on Friday, June 30, is a little more than the expectations but brings little cheer to the nation that has been skirting the edges of a catastrophic default.

This is not the first bail out for Pakistan. In fact. it is the 23 from the global lender of last resort.  For Pakistan, going to the IMF has become an unwavering habit since 1958.       

IMF lifeline is never a panacea to all of Pakistan’s problems. Neither in the past, nor now.  It only offers some breathing space. Learning from history or from its own follies is not Pakistan’s trait. It remains reluctant to follow lenders’ prescription for restoration of fiscal health. Moreover, Pakistan has never tried to come to grips with its problems rooted in corruption, poor governance, poor public welfare system, and poor farm yields. A turnaround in Pakistan scrip is possible not by following IMF diktats but if Pakistan learns to get over a much bigger problem that poses existential threat to the country. It does not come from India though Islamabad compulsively blames New Delhi for all its problems, but from the L’affaire Imran Khan who has dented the image of the military. 

Right from the day Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947, military has become the omnipotent institution, and enjoys the status of a “holy cow”.  It has also been the master of the political theatre deciding the fortunes of all players, including Khan.   

But Khan’s delusions of grandeur have shaken Pakistan Army from its reverie.  A manifestation of his megalomania was the May 9 mayhem that plunged the country into a mutiny-like situation compounding the miseries of the people on the economic front.  

The GHQ and many other military installations were attacked by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) cadres. The residence of a military commander in Lahore was set on fire while the three-star occupant and his family had fled to safety.  The General has since been sacked in a post-riot army purge. 
And Khan’s gamble has backfired. Army Chief General Syed Asim Munir is gunning for Khan instead of succumbing to his pressure for a new lifeline to re-emerge as the messiah of the masses.

Along with the Shehbaz Sharif government, the military establishment is trying to “teach a lesson” to him and to his “miscreant” supporters.  Hundreds have been rounded up across the country. 

Khan himself was hauled to the jail though on a charge of corruption. The crisis only deepened when the Supreme Court held his arrest “illegal”.  And military courts have sprung up to try civilian “miscreants” of Khan.

Trial of civilians in army courts is not new to Pakistan, and took place during Khan’s regime as well.  
The laws of the land allow such trail even for taking photos of “prohibited” places. 

It is only a matter of time when these Kangaroo courts punish Khan, and keep him behind the bars.  It will be a powerful lesson against “denigrating” the image of the most powerful institution in the “land of the Pure” as the Pakistanis describe their country.  
For Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership, the dent in the military image is no more than an existential threat. And have begun frantic efforts to repair the damage.  
The army has initiated action aimed at restoring discipline in the forces. It ordered the dismissal of a serving lieutenant general and court martial of over 100. Those facing the heat include serving and retired major generals, brigadiers and colonels and their families sympathetic to Khan.  
This is a clear give away to the deep-rooted divisions within the Pakistan Army, which are heard in whispers so far. Both at senior and junior levels of the Army, many are taken in by Khan’s pledge to usher in ‘Riyasat-e-Madina’.

Khan’s popularity with the Pakistani “awam” (people) rests on two planks. One his open sympathies for the militant Islamists, who want to herald the new Caliphate based on Sharia.  Two his penchant for US bashing.  

He saw US hand in the conspiracy to unseat him as Prime Minister. He has since rolled back his anti-US rhetoric. It is a part of his survival mantra.  
For all the love the Pakistanis vow for China, they cannot do without US aid and sympathy, especially because their economic crisis is not going to disappear any day too soon.  
This is the message from Friday’s bail out package that came amidst nail baiting suspense and drama that had all the ingredients of a Hitchcock movie.
Adding to Pakistan’s anxieties is the Modi-Biden joint statement  that has asked Pakistan to take immediate action to end trans-border terrorism and to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai and Pathankot attacks. Also, its call to Paris – based upon the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to tighten measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. 

Islamabad could barely stomach this insult and uttered angry words which were completely ignored by Washington, adding further insult to injury.

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