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Ousting Nawaz Sharif, implications on CPEC

Below question was asked to Dr.Siegfried O Wolf few days back, we are reproducing his answer.

Q. If Nawaz Sharif government fails to continue, what will be its implications on China's multi-billion dollars CPEC project?

Most likely, an ousting of PM Sharif’s government will have no severe impact on the continuation of CPEC implementation. However, it will definitely determine another setback in Pakistan unhealthy civil-military relations and a strengthening of military influence over CPEC. Since the launch of CPEC, the army was able to increase tremendously its formal role within the country’s political-administrative institutions on the expensive of the civilians. Here, the establishment of the so-called Apex Committees at the federal and provincial levels, combined with a lack of parliamentarian oversight by the national and provincial assemblies seriously hampers decision-making power of the government. In other words, most of the important decisions related to CPEC are made by this military-bureaucratic hybrid; enhancing civil-military interaction to improve the security situation in general and to counter terrorism in particular. In this context, the initial purpose of the Apex Committees was to coordinate security-related efforts and implement the National Action Plan (NAP), which was drafted jointly by the government, the parliament and the army. While the initial (and official) function of the Apex Committees relates to institutionalizing (and legitimize) the process of decision-making via consultation between democratically elected authorities and the military, it is obvious that the supreme authority on most crucial issues lies with the army. Over time, the Apex Committees have become more important decision-making bodies than the federal and provincial cabinets as well as specialist civilian institutions. This is evident from the fact that federal and provincial cabinets meet less frequently compared to federal and provincial Apex Committees. Furthermore, Apex Committees are not just dealing with security issues, rather they function as core institutions dealing with the implementation of all kind of CPEC related projects. In sum, the Apex Committees essentially merges the military formally with the civilian government, it enhances their role in administrative management and strengthens the soldiers position in all decision-making areas relating to CPEC and beyond. This phenomenon got further enhanced by the establishment of military courts, which provided the soldiers with additional judicial power.

Having this in mind, one can argue, that the whole ‘Panama Papers case’, especially the composition of the JIT which included top brass from the security sector, is just another case how the military was able to strengthen its formal role in the country’s institutions. Therefore, even if PM Sharif’s government is forced to step down and political disturbances might appear, the CPEC implementation process will go on. However, what one should expect is a continuation of the army’s efforts to increase its formal role in CPEC decision-making bodies, for example through the formation of a new overall ‘CPEC authority’. Such a body would most likely operate as a consultative forum on the pattern of Apex Committees to centralize all corridor related measures; one of the few attempts which got successfully blocked by PM Sharif until now. To sum up, deliberately or not conscious, the resignation of Sharif as a consequence of the JIT report would be not only a crucial signal against corruption but also path the way for a greater political role of the army.

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