Having kept the country in agony and pain for over seven months, the government of Mr. Sharif issued a notification that was considered more of a joke across the country rather than an order initiating disciplinary action against the actual culprits of Dawn Leaks. After the Army rejected the notification as incomplete, tremendous panic and anxiety was visible in the government circles, already weakened to the position of a lame duck due to Panama Leaks court decision and ordering of a JIT against Mr. Sharif and his family members. In my last article I wrote that given Mr. Sharif`s  past reactions in such a situation, he is more likely to opt for a confrontational stance regardless of its implications on the country and system as long as it is in line with his political ambitions. With elections round the corner and his personal position exceptionally compromised, becoming a political martyr would have been one of his greatest desire which only the Army could fulfill but it wisely declined to oblige. Moving a step backward by withdrawing the tweet to avoid the likely confrontation and its negative fallout has hence been subjected to extreme public and institutional criticism not because the Army is seen to have caved in to political pressures; it is perceived to have struck a compromise with the government, thus perpetuating the plunderers and looters to go scot free, which however falls within the judicial and public domains.

In the obtaining environment, Pakistan`s geostrategic and politico-economic landscape remains the center of international focus for varying and mostly divergent interests of regional and extra regional players some actively conniving with domestic political forces. Some of these are covered below. One, with the situation in Afghanistan fast deteriorating and the US led coalition including India is looking for a scapegoat for its failures. Concomitantly a Russo–Chinese–Pakistani initiative is gaining momentum for finding a lasting solution to the quagmire, not to the liking of US and its allies. Two, the increasing economic activities generated due to CPEC, much because of Chinese regional and global priorities rather than anything to do with our government`s initiatives, is seen by many as detrimental to their regional and global interests. Ironically our government`s handling of CPEC related projects has rather led to political polarization due to its preferential distribution of resources between the federating units. Three, with political climate kept fully charged by some genuine politically opposing forces exposing the mega corruption of certain political elite, there is greater convergences for political survival among the corrupts counting on and drawing support from everywhere including Pakistan`s declared enemies. Four, with the armed forces having successfully marginalized the terrorists domestically, forces inimical to Pakistan`s stability are actively engaged to create multi-front threat scenarios with wishful desires of enhancing our operational commitments thus frustrating our response options. Not surprisingly, certain domestic political forces subscribe and collude with the effort sensing a threat from the army in response to its political failures and internationally acknowledged mega corruptions. Five, with Raheel Sharif having assumed the command of Islamic Coalition Forces in Riyadh, Pakistan has assumed a position at center stage enhancing its regional and international relevance, not to the liking of many both from within and outside. Efforts, therefore, are at play to create domestic controversy around it and sabotage this well-deserved new found position. Six, with government`s credibility at its lowest and fatally bruised by the relentless opposition campaign exposing its engineered security breach and other malpractices, it can be expected to take any irrational step that it considers essential for its political survival.

What needs to be done and by whom? First, the armed forces. Having wisely denied the government an opportunity of becoming a martyr, it needs to concentrate on its hard core professional obligations, avoiding the trap laid for it by inimical forces with the active connivance of certain segments within our political elite. The public despondency created with the withdrawing of ISPR tweet needs to be appropriately managed given the armed forces' greater preference and unison with public sentiments. The deliberate effort to create a wedge between the armed forces and public through this act need to be well understood and defeated through synchronized effort. Given the history of active interventions by the armed forces in such situations, there are likely to be negative feelings within the rank and file about giving in to a government that is not only corrupt but also instrumental in deliberately maligning the Army. Greater and frequent interactions by senior and mid-level commanders with subordinates will help correcting the misperceptions while sharing the factors considered behind the decision taken. The common question that everyone asks is that if Dawn Leaks falls within the ambit of Army Act then why action is not initiated against those responsible? With elections round the corner, and the armed forces surely to be called in, it needs to ensure not only free but fair elections as well. The malpractices by political parties in certain known pockets across the country will have to be effectively managed after prior coordination with other relevant state institutions. Second, political opposition. The political opposition will have to remain active in not only exposing the government`s inability to deliver on its promises, for its poor governance, corruption and other breaches, it will also have to effectively strategize to counter the government`s maneuvers to steal the elections. Third, the government. Sitting at a higher pedestal, the government will do a great service to the country and itself, if it can take moral responsibility for its failures and initiate actions against those within its ranks responsible for creating such a grand mess while putting our security and national cohesion on the line.

The despondency created with the withdrawal of ISPR tweet across our national and institutional spectrum notwithstanding, one thing is sure, it has ditched the hopes of those who were on the edge to see an active confrontation between the state institutions. That is why I say that “Pakistan has won”. The ultimate responsibility of holding the political leadership accountable stays with the Pakistani people. Let’s collectively rise up to the occasion and make a difference in the next elections by rejecting the incompetent and corrupt.