Takshashila Institution Distinguished Fellow Anand Arni participated in a panel discussion titled “Pakistan’s 3-Ply Power Structure”. The discussion was organised by the Asia Centre Bangalore on 27 April.
Arni’s co-panellists were Professor Suba Chandran of the National Institute of Advanced Studies and Lt. Gen. K. Nagaraj (Retd), former General Officer Commander-in-Chief, South Western Army Command. The event was hosted by Ambassador C.V. Ranganathan, Chairman, Asia Centre.
In his remarks, Arni pointed out that the Pakistan Army had come to recognise outright coups were no longer attractive options and, instead, sought to be kingmakers by backing leaders like current Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Army does not change easily. “There is a collegiate of senior army generals – the Corps commanders who meet once a quarter or when required. Differences are aired but what is decided is final and those who do not fall in line are side-lined,” Arni said.
Enmity with India also helps keep the Army in power. “Without the hostility the Army would find its utility diminished,” he said. Arni went on to describe how the Pakistan Army created the Lashkar-e-Taiba and fashioned it into an organisation capable of carrying out special-forces type operations like the 2008 attack on Mumbai.
Pakistan has since indicated it has “sorted out” the LeT, but it is not clear where its 15,000-strong cadre, have gone, taking along with them their deadly skills, Arni said. He also pointed to the close but tumultuous relations between the Army and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which is based in Bahawalpur, about five kilometres from Pakistan’s 31 Corps headquarters.
“Though there has been friction between the JeM and the Pakistan Army, the deep state needs the group and a figure like Masood Azhar to attract jihadis who have been used in Afghanistan and are currently unemployed and a potential source of mischief,” Arni said. “Pakistan simply cannot afford to alienate an armed and well-trained Punjab-based group.”