Throwback to dark days? Political party in Pakistan wants army chief to seize power
As yet another military chief nears his superannuation, Pakistan is abuzz with usual speculations about a military coup.
Will he or won’t he?
To make matters worse, a little known political party has put up bill boards and banners across several cities urging Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif to seize power and impose martial law.
The posters put up by ironically named ‘Move on Pakistan’ party, proposes to take the country back to the days of military rule.
The bill boards have been mounted on utility poles in over a dozen cities across Pakistan.
It has also been spotted even in the high security areas of capital Islamabad and cantonment areas of Rawalpindi, where the Army has its headquarters.
The billboards implore Gen Sharif to replace the political government and to form a government of technocrats.
“Talk of leaving has become old, for God’s sake come now,” the tag line on the posters say.
Though belatedly the Army distanced itself from the ad blitzkrieg.
“The Army or its affiliates have nothing to do with the posters bearing pictures of the COAS,” General Asim Bajwa who heads Pakistan Army’s Public Relations unit ISPR said in a tweet.
Reference Posters with #COAS pic being displayed across various cities;Army or any affiliated organisation have nothing to do with it
— Gen Asim Bajwa (@AsimBajwaISPR) July 12, 2016
Gen Sharif is due to retire on 30 November. Often referred to as one of “Pakistan’s most popular army chief”, Gen Sharif had in January stated that he is not looking for an extension after superannuation.
A month later ‘Move on Pakistan’ had in February requested Gen Sharif to reconsider his retirement plans.
“We have been considering holding rallies from Faisalabad to Lahore and Karachi to Sukkur in the second phase to convince the army chief that he should intervene for the betterment of the country and nation,” Ali Hashmi, the central organiser of the party was quoted as saying by the Karachi based ‘Dawn’.
The campaign mounted by the party which has been registered with Pakistan’s election watch dog for three years comes at a time when prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned home after being abroad for over a month on Saturday. Sharif had been in London for a cardiac surgery. There were rumours that he may not return to the country.
The Pakistan prime minister had been under pressure from the opposition parties ever since the leaked Panama Papers revealed that his family members held enormous wealth in offshore bank accounts. Nawaz Sharif has denied any wrongdoing and has said he is ready to face any probe.
The main opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf have alleged that the Sharif government was behind the campaign.
The PPP alleged that it was a ruse to create a scare that the military might seize power if the opposition went ahead with the planned protests.
“The government wants to scare us by creating an impression that the military can take over if the political situation deteriorates. There is no threat of martial law nor is the army ready for any such move,” Aitzaz Ahsan, the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House of Pakistan parliament told Express Tribune.
Several political parties in Pakistan have announced street protests in the coming weeks to force Nawaz Sharif to step down.