Pakistan's military establishment is facing one of its biggest challenges in a battle with opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in the Punjab province, with the party's new anti-government politics being led by vice president Maryam Nawaz.
The PML-N, emerging as the face of anti-establishment politics, has shifted the locus of the national power struggle against the military-led 'hybrid regime' to Punjab, which is the heart of the country's military officer recruitment, writes Asia Times.
Salman Rafi Sheikh writes that the PML-N's recent victories in some by-elections in Punjab have again shown that Nawaz Sharif remains the most popular leader and that the PML-N continues to attract Punjab's anti-establishment vote.
This has plunged the Pakist 'hybrid regime' into a major dilemma, failing its resolve to secure its political future. Along with eroding Punjab's support for the military, the PML-N's anti-establishment rhetoric is preventing the military to achieve its immediate political ambitions.
Pakistan has been under a hybrid martial law regime since elections in 2018, with Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) seen as junior partners to the generals.
Even though Imran Khan's PTI is a leading member of the current 'hybrid regime', reports of tensions within the regime over the performance of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar have emerged, with the military establishment seeking to remove him through a vote of no confidence.
Several politically dissident movements have emerged in other provinces of Pakistan, but they were absent in Punjab, as a collaboration between the Punjabi-dominated military and political parties have been at the centre of Pakistan's ethnically exclusive and politically centralised system of power.
While former premier Nawaz Sharif was a close political ally of Zia-ul-Haq-led military establishment in the 1980s and even in the 1990s, the 1999 coup against his government left little room for what PML-N leaders call 'politics of compromise' with the establishment, reported Asia Times.
The PML-N is unwilling to collaborate with the military establishment, unlike in the 1990s. The party is also actively pursuing an agenda that seeks to de-politicize the military and establish civil supremacy.
"The military establishment led 'hybrid-regime' continues to pursue a kind of political framework that aims to restrict the PML-N's presence in Punjab and dent its popularity," one PML-N leader told Sheikh in the backdrop of the PTI government's decision to dissolve Punjab's local governments in 2018.
The Supreme Court also recently suspended the Punjab government's decision to dissolve local governments early.
According to Asia Times, the military aims to reserve the 18th amendment to Pakistan's constitution, which would bring maximum provincial resources under Islamabad's control.
However, with the PML-N largely leading an increasingly dissident Punjab, no constitutional amendment can be passed. Therefore, the military is pushing to eliminate the PML-N's political base in Punjab, while the party's counter-politics is targeting the military establishment's direct and indirect political interventions.
( With inputs from ANI )
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