Pakistan’s army tightens grip on power amid plummeting support for PM Imran Khan

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In the past two months, three powerful army figures have taken up top posts in the government. The latest string of appointments means more than a dozen current and former military officials now hold prominent positions in Islamabad.

These include the figures running the state-owned air carrier, the power regulator and the National Institute of Health.

The changes come as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic which has claimed the lives of more than 2,250 people and infected over 113,000 in the majority-Muslim country.

While the military is the country’s most powerful institution, the recent appointments fly in the face of the so-called “New Pakistan” promised by Mr Khan.

For large parts of its seven-decade history, the army has directly ruled.

The former cricket star vowed to usher in a new era when he was elected Prime Minister back in 2018.

The 67-year-old’s popularity is on a downward spiral, reports NDTV.

Mr Khan’s party relies heavily on support from the military to stay in power.

The Tehreek-e-Inshaf party, or Movement for Justice, holds 46 percent of the seats in the country’s parliament.

Uzair Younus, non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said the latest appointments appear to be part of a strategy to edge out civilian influence.

He said: “By appointing an increasing number of current and retired military officials in key positions, the government is ceding what little space civilians had in developing and executing policy in the country.

“The military’s overt and covert role in governance continues to grow.”

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Tensions in the Asian country are on the rise amid the fallout from the COVID-19 epidemic.

After Inida, Pakistan remains the continent’s hardest-hit nation.

The economy is forecast to shrink for the first time in 68 years as a result of the global crisis.

The central bank expects the economy to shrink 1.5 percent in the year ending June.

Pakistan was on Tuesday named as one of the latest countries to get Paris Club debt relief.

The club of creditor nations agreed to suspend debt service payments from Chad, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Republic of Congo as part of a G20 debt relief deal.

The Paris Club is an informal group of state creditors coordinated by the French finance ministry.

The club together with the Group of 20 leading economies agreed in April to freeze debt payments of the 77 poorest countries this year to free up cash to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest agreements bring to 12 the number of countries to receive debt relief under the deal with a total of $1.1 billion in debt deferred as a result, the Paris Club said, adding 30 countries had requested to benefit.

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