How Bajwa And Co. Pushed Pak Army Into A Corner, But The Rivals Are Dumb And Dumber
WHERE HAS PINDI GONE WRONG?
A FRIEND who just returned from Umrah sent me a video in which he is praying for Pakistan and at the end wishes that Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan should get together for the country — an almost unthinkable idea at this time.
Then thinking deeper and taking a longer and an overview of the country’s situation some things stuck in my head:
- Imran Khan, by all counts now the most popular and followed politician of Pakistan, is attacking the role of the Pakistan Army, its security agencies and the Establishment, still mostly between the lines.
- To prove his point, Khan plays and replays stinging attacks, abuses and threats by others, Nawaz Sharif, his family and supporters on the role of the same Establishment. Khan is actually saying these guys are even worse enemies.
- The judiciary, also stung many times by the ruthless intervention and obstruction by the Army, subservient at times, does not come out openly but yesterday when Chief Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court summoned the Prime Minister in the “Missing Persons’ Case” what was he trying to say and prove? All know who picks up these missing persons but the Judge was, probably between the lines, telling Mr Shahbaz Sharif you are a dummy, you have done nothing, or probably cannot do anything. Get some shame.
- Every one of these important stakeholders are angry, doubtful and targeting the same institution but since the stranglehold of Pindi on men and matters is so blunt and obvious, no one speaks out openly.
In this larger picture is not the army sort of isolated and cornered but not facing any real pressure?
It is so because all these selfish, divergent opponents of its intrusive political role, at times in defiance of the Constitution, the laws and even common sense, do not have even a tiny dot of vision or worry for the long-term stable, agreed and honestly pursued national agenda, where all stay within their domain and not transgress.
Just a flashback to 2-3 years and everyone remembers how General Bajwa was attacked and maligned by Nawaz Sharif and family. Why did the high command not do anything against him at that time?
The answer to that question in my mind is simple. The Army high command was clearly divided and except a few on the top, many sympathized and agreed with what Sharif was saying. So he was helped in many underhand ways, through relief in jail or using pliant and like-minded judges to show leniency and give him a free hand. He was given what he wanted, no matter how blatant and unjustified the favours appeared to be.
That also kept the powers of the then PM Imran Khan under check and no matter how frustrated and helpless Khan felt privately, he was not in a position to hold on to power without the help of the establishment, given his shaky numbers in parliament.
The judges remained on the sidelines, neither here nor there, but just waiting for things to settle down or adjusting to changing realities on a daily basis.
Then Khan started drifting away as he realized his handcuffed premiership was not taking him anywhere. He took issues on matters of constitutional principles and Pindi did not like it.
Khan was reckless as well at times in his comments and remarks, whether public or in private, as everyone knows a senior military officer always sits behind any PM, listening to and reporting to the GHQ what is being discussed even in party meetings or at home. Why this tradition has gone on is beyond me but it must end. What does a military secretary have to do with an elected civilian PM or CM or Governor, at that too at all times.
Then came the issue of giving another extension to General Bajwa and that is where I think the Army lost its marbles and contracted into a corner.
Gen. Bajwa announced he will not seek an extension and then everything behind the scenes was done to make sure he stays on.
That glaring contradictory behaviour baffled and confused many senior officers and even retired generals and supporters. Slowly the actions on the ground, as the November deadline came creeping closer, became desperate and reckless and indefensible by even staunch supporters of the army, who believe it must be strong and ready to fight the enemy. Not its own people.
The desperation grew and everyone understands, knows and believes who is behind the actions and decisions of second tier institutions like the Election Commission, PEMRA, SECP, the hidden soldiers known as Mr X, Mr Y or Mr Z, the sector commanders of secret agencies, the disappearance of military officers, retired or serving, the termination of privileges and perks of retired officers who have to depend on these pensions (if they did not make outrageous millions or billions), shut up orders given directly to outspoken retired generals (some obliged, others defied), closure of TV channels and physical beating and harassment of journalists and politicians.
Thus an open war was declared against the Army brass on the social media and all sorts of accusations and abuses flew across the globe, but they remained oblivious of the situation, defiant, not realizing how much damage its image and acceptability among the people had been caused.
Imran Khan then crossed the threshold of turning his Movement for Change into a Freedom Movement — freedom from whom? Obviously the unjustified stranglehold of the army over its own people.
His defiance caught the imagination of the masses and his super speed campaigning suddenly turned the country which was divided on the basis of political affiliations, ideologies, nationalism, family loyalties or whatever (biryani plates) into a snowball, then into a solid mountain.
His popularity has not been registered, digested or understood by Pindi. The reaction was in outlandish actions, frivolous cases, public denunciations and almost ceaseless persecution of his men and supporters leading probably to a “technical knockout” punch.
Khan is infuriated, obviously, but cool, though worried about his life.
He has come pretty close to threatening the army of marching on to Islamabad but what he actually means, and everyone understands, is that he wants to march on Rawalpindi and repeat the Erdogan Turkish model that wiped out the powers of the generals. He has still shown exemplary restraint as he knows how destructive it may be for the country.
But if push comes to shove, or something breaks down somewhere, the perceived non-violent character or face of Khan’s followers may certainly take a monstrous turn. If that barrier is broken, there will be no coming back to sanity.
But here I come to the point where I find the Opposition dumb and dumber.
The army has put itself in a box, simply to serve the ambitions and power greed of one top general and his cronies. Everyone who goes and talks to people in Pindi or Islamabad privately says there is so much uncertainty that anything and everything can happen and no one knows how things may settle.
But now that we know Khan and his men are feeling like injured tigers, where are those anti-army loud-speakers, warriors and fighters who used to make tall claims and threats by naming generals and secret agencies.
The biggest party of Nawaz has sheepishly taken cover behind the small Pindi umbrella because the mistakes made by generals have turned this political force almost irrelevant and unable to make any political impact. A docile kitten sitting in a khaki lap, PML-N has no narrative left to tell the people.
If they accuse Khan of corruption, that’s like the pot calling the kettle black. If they accuse Khan of misgovernance and inefficiency, the Shahbaz Government has performed like a novice and in four months wiped all charges of incompetence against the four years of Khan rule. If they were accusing Khan of being a selected PM, as they did ad-infinitum, now Pindi is behaving like a virtual Godfather with the PM a stooge.
The judiciary, as always in awe and fear of the generals, may be itching to make a bold move but the divisions, lack of cohesion and vision in the political class and the society, does not encourage it to take a leap forward.
So everyone is hiding in the basement. Were there any leaders with courage, vision and integrity, this was the time for the civil and political society, the intelligentsia, the business, media and honest bureaucrats, saner minds to rally together and send a firm message to the Pindi boys that they must now HALT THE BOOTS and stop bulldozing the nation any more.
If Pindi takes a couple of steps back to bring sanity, the nation will still be fully behind them to stay strong and fight the enemy but they must stop fighting its own people.
The previous examples of Generals Ayub, Ziaul Haq, Yahya Khan and Musharraf have enough lessons that must be learnt.
But if the intellectual and professional acumen and thinking level of our generals has also fallen so far below average that they cannot understand the challenges and threats, Pakistan must then prepare for a real disaster, a civil war, a turmoil and chaos where everyone else will be attacking, looting, killing everyone else for a small piece of bread.
The big looters, including generals, will obviously take refuge in foreign peaceful lands and farm houses.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.