General Bajwa Not Seeking Extension: Pakistan Army Trying To Resolve Political Deadlock
By Shaheen Sehbai
WASHINGTON: Amidst a nerve-wrecking political deadlock of historical proportions, Prime Minister Imran Khan is facing a No–Confidence Motion (NCM) that may become the first to unseat an elected political government that, otherwise, appears to be very popular in Pakistan.
Who is responsible for this state of affairs is a debatable question and needs a quick answer.
As the NCM goes to the National Assembly floor on Thursday (March 31) to be debated and then voted on or before April 7, questions have been raised all around as to why the Khan Government have reached such a precarious point at the end of the cliff.
Many of the questions have been pointed at the military establishment which has been accused by the Opposition of manipulating a majority for Imran Khan some 40 months ago after Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court and Khan’s party won a handsome number of seats, but not enough to form a government on its own. He had to borrow politicians with no scruples.
Once the government was in place, the army establishment looked after it at every critical stage and prevented it from any political blow that could destabilize or overthrow it, until recent weeks, so to say.
The Opposition made it a mantra that Khan was not elected but “selected” and he was there as long as the force of the military was behind him. Privately, Opposition leaders felt no shame in repeatedly making overt and covert moves to appease the Generals and seek any signal they could use to hit the Khan set up. They hardly got any some years.
But then a cry of neutrality was raised and whatever may have happened inside the ranks of the military, it was demonstrated that Nawaz Sharif was no longer a target and he could get concessions from the courts and even the Khan administration, even to fly out of the country on medical grounds, despite being a jailbird.
Encouraged by the apparent “neutrality” the Opposition got together on a one-point agenda of removing Khan. All dissidents and deprived or neglected members of Khan’s own party got together to create a circus that ultimately got the courage to move the NCM against Khan.
All eyes then started to focus on where the army was standing. As no signals came from Pindi to any of the Opposition or allied parties of the Khan government, a scenario of political uncertainty grew with all those who waited for the signals in the past unable to take independent decisions.
In this scenario fingers were raised at the military establishment that if any political chaos were unleashed, they would be responsible.
On Thursday morning I tweeted my question about this indecisive role of the military and whether the Generals who had worked hard to remove Nawaz Sharif in 2018 after the Panama Papers, were now ready to accept orders from the same corrupt leadership, after everybody had ganged up against Imran Khan.
The tweet was an instant hit but then I got a call from the right quarters that gave me a lot of information and tried to explain and clarify what I had stated.
The call was off-the-record but what I can say with full authority after hearing the man on the other side is as follows:
– General Bajwa is not, repeat not, seeking any extension of his term and this issue must be laid to rest.
– As things stand today (Thursday, March 31) the army has been trying hard, and is still trying, to resolve the political deadlock so that the country does not face uncertainty and instability.
– A very late night (early Thursday morning) long meeting was held between Prime Minister Khan and Army Chief General Bajwa to discuss and resolve the deadlock. The meeting was not announced and nothing has yet come out as a result.
– My analysis that the army would have to face severe embarrassment if the political leaders ousted and accused of large-scale loot and plunder were allowed back in power, were not desirable as the army was trying its best to persuade all the sides to understand the consequences and the damage that could be caused.
– There were no differences between the Generals as I had hinted in my tweet, as the army was dedicated to obey the Constitution and follow all the rules and laws.
– There was no dispute over who would appoint the new army chief, due in November 2022, and everyone was clear that any person who happened to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan at the right time would have the power and the choice to make that nomination.
– A suggestion that the army was trying to find a solution by asking the Opposition to withdraw its No-Confidence Motion and requesting the Prime Minister to announce early elections was not specifically denied in our conversation.
These points were in addition to a long talk we had and it ended with my commitment to correct my Tweet and not lay the blame where it did not rest.
The next few days would, nevertheless, determine what happens. But the ultimate gist of the talk was that things are still in the melting pot and anything could
happen, in the best interest of the country