Civil-Military Tussle Intensified
Civil-military tussle further intensified when Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa addressing a seminar on 11 October, commented on Pakistan’s economic issues and rising debt. While addressing a seminar on the interplay of economy and security jointly organized by ISPR and Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, he was quoted by ISPR as saying that Pakistan needs to expand its tax base, bring in financial discipline and ensure continuity of economic policies to be able to break the begging bowl. He said, “The economy is showing mixed indicators. has picked up but the debts are sky high. Infrastructure and energy have improved considerably but the current account balance is not in our favour”. “We have to continuously ensure a viable balance between economy and security,” the army chief said, focusing on the security-economy nexus.1 The statement of ISPR chief on the following day added fuel to the fire when he said that “If Pakistan’s economy is not bad, it’s not good either” that infuriated Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal who on 13 October, urged DG ISPR to refrain from making comments on the national economy. “Such irresponsible statements can dent Pakistan’s global image,” the minister said in a statement to the media.
Clarifying the statement of Army Chief, DG ISPR in a press conference on 14 October, said, “I was disappointed as a soldier and as a citizen of Pakistan. We conducted a seminar with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry. There were three former finance ministers, one former State Bank governor [in attendance]. The army chief gave a keynote address. I talked about it in my beeper [to a private TV channel] as well,” he recounted.
“The Pakistan Army is a state institution and it is very important to sit and talk about things,” he explained. “Never did I say that Pakistan’s economy has been destroyed or something of that sort,” he clarified. “We have all done a lot of work for the economy. And I have said the same thing: we have to sit together. It is a very simple [request]: that everyone needs to cooperate,” he said. “Last year, the taxes recovered were only 39pc, and from private sector the recovery was only 40pc. It is too meager,” he said. “That is all I said — that the tax base needs to be increased — and I stand by it,” he concluded. “There is no threat to democracy from the Pakistan Army; [but] there could be a threat to democracy if its [democracy’s] requirements are not being met,” he said. “I want to add that there needs to be stability. The government needs to continue and an established democratic system needs to continue.” “I have to say this because there are a lot of rumours about martial law and [the installation of a] technocratic government”