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It Was Once a Stronghold of Pakistan’s Military, but Now Even it Has Had Enough

Credits: The Guardian

As the people of Pakistan’s most populous and prosperous province prepare to cast their votes this week, a prevailing sentiment of discontent has taken root among residents.

The economic downturn and skyrocketing inflation have fueled frustration, exacerbated by the incarceration of a popular political figure. In Punjab, the country’s most densely populated province, individuals ranging from young laborers to influential figures find themselves imprisoned alongside their political leader.

A notable shift has occurred in Punjab’s collective perception over the last two years, challenging a fundamental aspect of the political landscape where ultimate authority lies with the military.

Pakistan’s Military (Credits: Pakistan’s Military)

Many residents, disillusioned with the current state of affairs, no longer attribute blame solely to politicians; instead, they squarely point fingers at a once widely supported entity: the country’s military.

“We aren’t faulting the politicians anymore — now we know who to blame,” remarks Sibghat Butt, a 29-year-old customer service representative in Lahore, the provincial capital.

The prevailing sentiment suggests that Punjab is increasingly viewed as a “security state,” a term that encapsulates the growing dissatisfaction with the military’s perceived role in the province.

This sentiment resonates across Punjab, signifying a significant departure from the historical alignment between the province and the military.

Throughout Pakistan’s 76-year history, residents of Punjab have been well-represented within the military ranks, and the elite in Lahore, an affluent metropolis, have maintained strong ties with the upper echelons of the military establishment.

While civilians in other parts of the country have faced displacement, violence, or disappearances at the hands of security forces, Punjab had largely been spared the heavy-handed interventions of the military.

The current wave of discontent in Punjab, however, has eroded the military’s longstanding legitimacy and contributed to a heightened sense of polarization in Pakistan’s history.

The province, once seen as a stronghold of military support, is now a focal point for criticism, challenging the narrative of an unwavering alliance between Punjab and the military.

As voters prepare to make their choices, the evolving dynamics in Punjab underscore the complex interplay between the military, politics, and public sentiment, shaping a pivotal moment in Pakistan’s political landscape.

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