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Ahsan Iqbal takes a U-turn: Says democracy is not under threat in Pakistan

democracy

News Analysis |

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, after being the fulcrum of the exchange of words between the civilian and military leadership in the past week, has said that democracy is not under threat in Pakistan. He said this while addressing PML-N workers and journalists at the residence of the party’s president in New York.

Iqbal, who is currently on a visit to the US said that the issue over two-way statements involving him and the spokesman of the Pakistan Army, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor has been resolved and he did not mean to offend anyone. The tiff was precipitated by a recent statement of the Army Chief, General Bajwa on the country’s skyrocketing debt.

It is fully in control of the government so much so that it used its majority in the National Assembly to ratify the Elections Bill 2017 which paved the way for Nawaz’s reinstatement as the head of the PML-N

According to pundits, Iqbal’s reaction to the statement was in-line with PML-N’s bid to strengthen the narrative regarding the subversive role played by anti-democratic forces. Thereafter, Iqbal and Maj Gen Asif exchanged statements over it with the former terming the latter’s references to the economy beyond his purview.

Read more: Ahsan Iqbal regrets Safdar’s hate speech but will the PML-N take…

Fulfill the Requirements 

Iqbal’s remarks came a day after Maj Gen Asif held a tell-all press conference where he categorically asserted that democracy is not under any threat from the army. The two-star artillery general iterated: “There is no threat to democracy from the Pakistan Army; [but] there could be a threat to democracy if its [democracy’s] requirements are not being met.”

They believe that the former prime minister, ably supported by his party to include his handpicked successor, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is trying to create a situation which may invoke an intervention

Dispelling all rumors of martial law Asif enunciated: “I want to add that there needs to be stability. The government needs to continue and an established democratic system needs to continue.” He added: “I have to say this because there are a lot of rumors about martial law and  [the establishment of a] technocratic government.”

Maj Gen Asif went on to say that he speaks on behalf of the military and hence whatever he says is the word of the armed forces as a whole. “When I say something here, I am speaking on behalf of the armed forces. I am not speaking in a personal capacity, as I am the spokesperson of the armed forces,” he said.

Read more: Ahsan Iqbal’s beef with the military escalates

Commentaries on the political situation in the country have been effectively molded from debates to hold the rulers to account to those about the historical civil-military imbalance. Watchers have assessed the strategy of the PML-N after the Panama Papers came to the fore as being confrontational.

Commentaries on the political situation in the country have been effectively molded from debates to hold the rulers to account to those about the historical civil-military imbalance

This viewpoint has been strengthened by the post-Panama verdict campaign by the PML-N. The ruling party has termed the accountability of the Sharif family as an effort to subvert democracy. The ” mujhey kyun nikala” narrative that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif developed during his ‘Tour de GT Road’ has led to speculations galore about high tensions between the civilian and military leadership.

Pundits have labeled the ISPR press conference as a setback for Sharif’s politic strategy. They believe that the former prime minister, ably supported by his party to include his handpicked successor, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is trying to create a situation which may invoke an intervention. Thus, the categorical denunciation of rumors pertaining to Martial Law has, according to analysts deprived the PML-N of playing the sympathy card.

Read more: Ahsan Iqbal-Rangers spat: Does it depict a civil-military tussle?

It is noteworthy that while the PML-N continues to ratchet up so-called threats to democracy, it is fully in control of the government so much so that it used its majority in the National Assembly to ratify the Elections Bill 2017 which paved the way for Nawaz’s reinstatement as the head of the PML-N. Experts are intrigued yet not surprised as to why the Sharif family, in a bid to duck accountability, is propagating the “threat theory”?


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