Experts say Pak army is unhappy with Imran Khan over handling of economy. Bajwa would not go for a coup, “but he will like to change the PM.”
Pakistan’s Army chief, Gen Qamar Bajwa’s meeting with industry leaders should come as no surprise as the Pakistan Army is a major “corporate entity”, but it is also a signal that the army is unhappy with Imran Khan over his handling of the economy and could choose to replace him, say experts.
To reports of Army chief Bajwa holding secret meetings with corporate leaders, besides the roundtable he held with business leaders in Rawalpindi on Wednesday, experts said that the Pakistan Army has deep business interests spread across the country, ranging from real estate, to sugar, oil, cement, aviation, and many more.
Asked if he thought it was a signal for a military takeover, former diplomat Vivek Katju said that he did not want to speculate about a coup. “But the Pakistan Army is an economic actor, it is a corporate entity and has enormous business interests, ranging from owning a bank, to a fertiliser company and also in aviation.”
According to reports, in 2016, the Pakistan Senate was informed that the army’s commercial wings, the Fauji (Army) Foundation, the Shaheen Foundation, the Bahria Foundation, the Army Welfare Trust and the Defense Housing Authorities, owned around 50 business concerns and housing property worth over $20 billion. In three years, the number increased to hundreds of businesses with net investment reportedly exceeding $100 billion.
Former diplomat G. Parthasarathy said that this move by the Pakistan Army “was coming” as Imran Khan had appointed Bajwa on the Cabinet Committee on Economic Matters, and “Imran himself is a creature of the army”.
“The army runs an empire within the state. They are in a big way into real estate, sugar, and oil, and run the largest National Logistics Cell and are into building roads and infrastructure. They get preferential treatment in their business, and thus it irks the civilians,” said Parthasarathy.
“What does the military know about business, the only business they enact is at the cost of taxes of ordinary men. The Pakistan Army has never won a war, and has lost half the country (Bangladesh),” he added.
Security expert and Pakistan watcher Jai Kumar Verma said that the meeting with the business honchos came as Pakistan is in great turmoil, as it is the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force which is making Pakistan lose $10 billion a year, according to an analysis by its Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
“They want to come out of the grey list, and if they remain in it then the IMF’s $6 billion loan too will be in jeopardy,” Verma told IANS.
“It is a difficult scenario, the economy is not coming up as they want, and chances are that Bajwa who has given a three-year extension to himself may like to change the PM.
“There are also rumors that the army may take over, as the situation is serious. But in my analysis the army will not take over, as they are the de facto rulers. They may not be the de jure rulers, but they are the de facto rulers, so then why should they stick their neck out?”
Verma said that Bajwa would not go for a coup, “but he will like to change the PM”.
In addition, the statements that Imran Khan has been making “are not up to the PM-level”, he said, referring to Imran Khan talking in terms of jihad in his UNGA speech, and asking people to march to the Line of Control, when he himself was in Islamabad.