University of Karachi students celebrate with a large national flag ahead of the upcoming Independence Day in Karachi on August 13, 2018. Pakistan will celebrate the 71th anniversary of the country's independence from British rule on August 14. / AFP / RIZWAN TABASSUM Image Credit: AFP

Mian Nawaz Sharif, Former three-time prime minister of Pakistan

On September 20, 2020, addressing via a video link from London the All Parties Conference of 11 opposition parties convened in Islamabad, Sharif said:

“Our fight is not with Imran Khan. Today, our struggle is against those who brought Imran Khan into power. The former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani once said that there is a state within state [in Pakistan]. What is painful is that now the situation has moved beyond a state within state to a state above the state. Today, the problems the nation is facing [are because] of the fundamental reason: the people who going against the will of the people imposed inept rulers on the country. Why were the [2018] elections rigged? On whose orders was it [rigging] done? For whom was it done? And for what vested interests was it done?”

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Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Daughter of Mian Nawaz Sharif, Vice-President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz

On September 23, 2020, responding to a media question– “Will you tell [us if] the dinner at the GHQ was with Nawaz Sharif’s permission?” –Maryam said:

“I’m not aware of [any] dinner, perhaps a dinner didn’t take place, I heard. But I think that for the issue that it was held, it was the Gilgit-Baltistan issue. And the Gilgit-Baltistan issue is a political issue. It is an issue of public representatives, it is an issue to be solved by them, it is an issue to be debated by them. These decisions should take place in parliament, not at the GHQ. I don’t know whether he [Nawaz Sharif] knew or not, or he was informed later. But political leadership should neither be called [to GHQ] on these issues, nor should the political leadership go. Whoever wishes to discuss these issues, they should come to parliament. “

Major General Babar Iftikhar, Director General Inter Services Public Relations (media and public relations wing of the Pakistan Armed Forces)

On September 23, 2020, speaking to Arshad Sharif of ARY News, Major-General Iftikhar said:

“I won’t go into too much detail of that [opposition leaders meeting the Chief of Army Staff), but in the context of the Chief of Army Staff’s meeting [with the opposition], let me make the clarification that Mohammad Zubair [senior PML-N leader and former governor of Sindh] had two meetings with Chief of Army Staff. Once in the last week of August and once on September 7, he had meetings with Chief of Army Staff. In that [the second meeting] DG ISI was also present. Both meetings took place on his [Mohammad Zubair] request, and in both the meetings, the conversation was [emphasis] about Mian Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz Sharif. Whatever was discussed in these meetings, Chief of Army Staff made it clear to him that whatever legal issues they [the Sharifs] have would be addressed in Pakistan’s courts. And whatever political issues there are would be addressed in parliament. The army must be kept away from all such issues. I would not like to say more about this [subject.”

Mian Nawaz Sharif, Former three-time prime minister of Pakistan

On September 24, 2020, tweeting from his account made on September 20, 2020, Sharif said:

“The recent incidents prove, once again, how some meetings remain hidden behind seven curtains, and how some are publicised embellished with self-serving meanings. This game should stop now. Today, I’m issuing a directive to my party that for the imperatives of the Constitution of Pakistan and as a reminder to the armed forces of their responsibility to fulfil their [constitutional] oath, no member of our party on individual, party or personal level will meet with the representatives of the armed forces and their affiliated/auxiliary agencies. If [ a meeting is] necessary for national defence and constitutional requirements, each such meeting will be announced with the volition of the party leadership and not kept a secret.”

Rana Mubashir, Veteran journalist, Talk show host, Aaj News

On September 25, 2020, in the opening comments of his prime time talk show, Muabashir said:

“I don’t understand one thing. The problem is that on one hand, they [opposition leaders] go to meet, you know who. They go to meet [military establishment], and then make speeches against the military establishment. Second point, Maulana Fazlur Rehman [an opposition leader] came to Islamabad a few months ago for a protest. And he tried his best to rattle the government. But I want to put something in front of you [the audience]. And this is from the horse’s mouth. Every opposition leader who used to go to his protest to make speeches, 99.9 percent of them went there with ‘permission’.

The third thing, we have all seen cars of politicians inside the offices of MI and ISI. Whoever the COAS [of that time] was, the same politicians would visit him. A large number [of those politicians] even now are in parliament, be it the provincial assemblies, National Assembly, or Senate. Everywhere, the largest number is of politicians who used to approach every COAS [saying], bismillah karain [start with the name of Allah], why don’t you take over [the government]? When some of these politicians appear on media, and act like a [self-righteously angry] film hero, I don’t understand what they are trying to do.”

Five statements in five days are a microcosm of the complex reality of Pakistan’s power dynamics since 1958. A subject that requires tomes in multiple volumes and an in-depth knowledge of the myriad factors that collectively form the power paradigm of my country called Pakistan: the history, the political situation at a particular point in time, the options, the option chosen, the first military dictatorship, the many civilian governments, their premature ouster through coups or judicial or presidential writs, the long reign of military dictators, the electoral manoeuvrings, the behind-the scenes deals, the open bargains, the self-exiles, the signed exiles, compromises, reneging of compromises, proclamations of civilian supremacy, clandestine attempts to make the best ‘deal’, military leadership’s composed distancing from all civilian matters. If only life and power were that simple.

Without trying to look at the hows and the whys of Pakistan’s civilian and military tug of war–unevenly balanced and matched–a subject beyond the scope of an op-ed, what I see today is the hope of a new pattern of power in Pakistan. My optimism is not Pollyanna-ish. I write what I observe. What is and what should be and what can be and what must be and what will be are superimposed on one another. Sifting through various perplexing, exasperating, stark realities of Pakistan, my perception is that of an imperceptible shift that has the power to reshape everything provided the will and the focus of the present and the short-term future political leadership is clear, pragmatic, and beyond the preservation of self. The country beyond I, me, myself, mine, ours.

What I see…

Despite the overwhelming history of the military dictatorships of General Mohammad Ayub Khan (1958-1969), General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988), and General Pervez Musharraf (1999-2008), Pakistan in 2020 is not facing the threat of a military takeover. The present military leader Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa is unequivocal in his organisational acceptance of the separation of the military power from the civilian domain of authority. General Bajwa’s constant stance of the military’s resolve of non-interference in civilian matters reiterates the truth of a civilian elected leader being the supreme leader of Pakistan. General Bajwa’s words and actions also reiterate the truth of the army as being a state organisation rather than “a state within a state” or “a state above a state.”

What I see…

The civilian elected leaders, notwithstanding the merits or demerits of their performance, live with the perpetual fear of a judicial dismissal or disqualification, or a military intervention. That fear is not unfounded. Slowly, it might dissipate. An elected government must have the fundamental constitutional protection of the completion of its term, and the guarantee that its pre-completion-of-term removal is only possible through parliament.

What I see…

The civilian leaders in the last fifty years of Pakistan have resorted to various ways and machinations and manipulations, some good, some undesirable, for political survival amidst the overarching influence of the military establishment. In 2020, the awareness should set in that civilian hegemony is possible, even if flaky and precarious at the moment, provided the intention is to serve the country, and not propagate the self-interests of a few individuals or a few political families.

What I see…

All legal matters, even the ostensibly unfair ones, must be fought in courts. All civilian matters, even the ones that involve an apparently uncompromising other side, must be sorted out through discussion and debate in parliament. There must not be any behind-the-door short-cuts for a legal reprieve. There must not be any undisclosable meetings with the men in uniform for any political exigency. There must be not be a repeat performance of past mistakes that further cemented the fault lines of Pakistan’s fragile democratic edifice.

What I see…

Despite the overt interference, or at times, blatant manoeuvring of the military establishment in the outcome of every five-year electoral process of Pakistan, in 2020, the delineation of the separation of powers is becoming more distinct. The complete transfer of power may take a long time, but the present messaging for the civilian leadership is quite clear: you perform your constitutional duties, serve the country in the best possible manner, and at the end of your term, it will be the collective power of your voters and not the movers and shakers of the military establishment that decide your future role. And that your performance will NOT be used as a pretext for any kind of destabilisation of the system of democracy.

What I see…

Without being an arbiter of the criteria of who gets to rule the country, the military and the ISI and other agencies should and must be categorically clear about and honest to their constitutional duties: protection of Pakistan within and on its borders.

What I see…

This is a Pakistan that is ruled by a civilian leader. Since 2018, that leader is Prime Minister Imran Khan. Ascribe it to my confidence in the words and the actions of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, in the GHQ in Rawalpindi, in 2020 I do not see an overt implication of military’s desire to reauthenticate their power in the Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad.

And what I see…

Read more from Mehr Tarar

In a democratic Pakistan in 2020, an elected prime minister is the representative of ALL Pakistanis, including all opposition parties, and each and every fauji. United we stand, united we rewrite the history of Pakistan. Moving towards a Pakistan that does the right thing the right way.

Mehr Tarar, Special to Gulf News-1592296810288