Pak army a state above the state, says Nawaz Sharif as Oppn unites against military leaders

Updated on Sep 20, 2020 07:36 PM IST

From being a state within a state, it was now a state above the state, says former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Pakistan's Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, center, watches a parade with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.(AP)
Pakistan's Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, center, watches a parade with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.(AP)
Hindustan Times, Islamabad | ByImtiaz Ahmad

Pakistan’s major opposition parties on Sunday demanded an end to interference by the country’s military leaders in politics, with former premier Nawaz Sharif saying the army has gone from a ‘state within a state’ to a ‘state above the state’.

For most of Pakistan’s history, there has been either a military dictator at the helm of affairs or, when there was an elected government, a parallel government was being run by the military, Sharif said in a hard-hitting speech to the conference which was attended by leaders of nearly all major opposition parties.

The PML-N leader addressed the All Parties Conference, organised by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party, via video link from London where he is undergoing medical treatment. Significantly, some parts of the proceedings of the conference were censored on most local TV channels.

The military’s interference has reached a point where, from being a state within a state, it was now a state above the state, Sharif said. “This is the root cause of all our problems.”

“Our struggle isn’t against (Prime Minister) Imran Khan but with the forces that have installed his illegitimate government to power,” said Sharif. While political leaders were consistently victimised in the name of accountability, army dictators got away despite subverting the Constitution and committing all sorts of crimes, he added.

In contrast, he said, there were no accountability proceedings against army generals and gave the example of Asim Saleem Bajwa, a retired general and now head of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority, whose undeclared holdings were exposed by the media but no action was taken.

“We want elected leaders to run the affairs of the country, to manage the economy and to decide on the foreign policy.” said Sharif.

The former PM said that under the Imran Khan government, Pakistan has become internationally isolated. “The Indian government took advantage of the weak and incompetent government to swallow Kashmir,” he alleged, adding, “even Pakistan’s friends did not stand by it when it protested.”

Sharif asked whose agenda foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was working on when he attacked Saudi Arabia and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. He was referring to the minister’s comments attacking the Saudi leadership of OIC over what he called its ‘dilly-dallying’ on the Kashmir issue, which led to souring of relations with Riyadh.

“When we pointed out that our friendly countries were warning us about our involvement in external issues which was being done at the behest of the military, we were attacked and it was turned into a scandal,” Sharif noted. Now, Pakistan has to deal with the shame of trying to meet targets set by platforms like the FATF, he said, referring to Financial Action Task Force, the global watchdog on money laundering and terror financing.

Sharif said the country’s economy had crashed, inflation is up while the Pakistani rupee is at a historic low and economic growth had significantly fallen.

He warned his audience that in such a situation, “when the economy is weak, the country will be unable to defend itself from external aggression.”

Sharif demanded accountability of Khan’s own assets, the overseas assets of his sister and of those close to the prime minister who had benefited from the sugar shortage in the country.

He said that state interference in public life in Pakistan had increased manifold. He lamented attacks on the media and the harassment of journalists. “The policy to divide and rule has been extended from politicians to the media, lawyers, industrialists and even the judiciary.”

Sharif called for the supremacy of parliament and the sanctity of the vote.

Earlier, while welcoming the participants to the conference, former president Asif Ali Zardari of PPP said the witch hunt being conducted by the present government against politicians should end. “They have even dragged the womenfolk of our families into these false cases,” he said.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told the conference the time has come for a united opposition platform to fight the selected government of prime minister Imran Khan.

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