Prime Minister Imran Khan has broken all his previous records of U-turns by his latest at best described as ‘Mother of All U-turns’ when a three-liner from Prime Minister House served a bolt from the blue for the nation that Prime Minister Imran is pleased to announce a-three year extension in the tenure of Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa in keeping with the pressing geo-strategic demands of an extremely volatile region and Pakistan faced with a hostile neighbour on an expansionist course besides rapid conversion from a secular state to an extremist religious entity sword spreading Hinduvta with a vengeance.
The appointment seemed more amusing because of the social media that spares no one from being exposed to barest skin even if it is as thick as crocodile’s. Click and it starts pouring in messages from four corners of Pakistan, reminding the nation of once considered upright soldier who from the very outset of his appointment as army chief had declared unequivocally that he would never seek an extension in his tenure as army chief and that he considered extension an act of usurpation denying more deserving and younger officers their rightful place to take over leadership of the army from those to be declared dead wood due to old age and their being grown fat and flabby—a term used by Bhutto sahib to cleanse Pakistan army of those generals who had gone out of shape due to boozing. Not only that, the fact that Imran Khan did it ricocheted Khan’s often-repeated statement against extensions. As the man seeking to establish Riyast-e-Madina II, one remembers him recalling the sacking of Islamic Army’s Chief Hazrat Khalid Bin Waleed by Hazrat Omar (RA) when he was considered most astounding holy warrior in the Islamic world. Khalid Waleed’s success rate did not fall in limbo after his sacking and his successor continued the Muslim conquering spree. Whether it is war or peace, it is the spirit that matters and not individuals.
According to a founder member of PTI Abdul Qayyum Kundi, ‘developing nations exhibit three characteristics. First that national interest is supreme while institutional and individual interests are subservient to it. Second, there is a deep bench of leadership in all spheres of governance so that the replacement of an individual does not damage or hinder the overall progress. And third, that good performance is rewarded and bad performance is punished. In Pakistan, all these three are missing and it is the reason we are in a mess. This will continue for the foreseeable future because no reform or efforts are made to correct it… This means there is no hope that any reform efforts can salvage the situation’.
In my previous articles I had expressed my suspicions of the sinister game started by former Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to replace decade-long democratic dispensation by introducing firmer institutional grip. One had even forecast that he would not upset the democratic applecart but would fully prepare ground for the next army chief to take over. Unfortunately the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif became a victim of the Praetorian machinations, could not see through the game initiated by GRS to pack up democracy. He allowed GRS to assume the role of a glorified foreign minister by letting him go everywhere as his government’s de facto foreign minister.
GRS would have directly benefited had Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif given GRS extension or selected his favourite and senior most Lt General Ashfaq Nadeem as army chief. One must give credit to Gen Bajwa that he played his cards well during his current term, chose right man to be his puppet to be on the same page to pursue his closeted agenda. Except very few like General Kakar and General Jehangir Karamat, latent ambitions to be the king have been the high marks of men on horse back from time of Ayub Khan. Imran Khan has definitely made mother of all his blunders justifying its decision to give extension based on the presumption that he cannot replace a chief with so much of hullabaloo going on in the region and Kashmir ripening up for a full fledged armed conflict. Obviously this naturally means that the Praetorian Establishment is not yet an institution and does not have well-rooted qualities to produce well-meaning leadership. Indeed, this being a very questionable state of affair, would require to be corrected in the longer run. Earlier the better.
When my late father Syed Shamsul Hasan met President Iskandar Mirza soon after he dismissed Government of Prime Minister Malik Feroze Khan Noon, he warned him about Ayub Khan with a Persian verse that two swords cannot fit in a single scabbard. He laughed it off and called his Begum to share my father’s prediction. Within days what was predicted came true, General Ayub (not yet declared himself field marshal) packed up his President—General Iskandar Mirza first to Quetta and then to London where he died in exile. And mind you he was penniless, served as Manager in Indian restaurant Veera Swami on Regent Street. His Begum Naheed Khanum too died early this year.
So far good news is that both Imran Khan and Gen Bajwa are on the same page and share each others vision. Remember Imran Khan, in his opposition days when he used to openly spouse friendship with top Indian businessmen and pretty actresses—he believed that Kashmir should be put at the back burner for sometime and even talked of three-unit formula as has been implemented by Prime Minister Modi now. Besides, one cannot forget the fact that he used to blame Pakistani generals of creating jihadi proxies like Hafiz Saeed and religious extremists used by them in undeclared war with India. If looked into with reference to context this same page mantra confirms that they have the same sort of relationship that Musharraf had with Shaukat Aziz.
In its correct perspective in democracy, there is no such thing as being on the same page time and again orchestrated by Khan Sahib. How can a subservient institution to the sovereign will of the people demand to be on the same page? It is indeed a fact that when leadership of a nation passes into the hands of megalomaniac and ego-centric individuals then one shudders to think about its ultimate fate. One would agree with the view that Khan will do whatever suits his ego regardless of the damage it causes to institutions. The very fact notification of a Grade -22 officer is supposed to be issued by the Ministry of Defence/Establishment Division was done from the Prime Minister House with Prime Minister’s Signatures is a manifestation of his ego that ‘it is I who appoints and disappoints the highest and most powerful officers’.
General Bajwa’s extension was actually not a surprise. Every one with little common sense could see through when a previously hostile President and Pentagon accorded General Bajwa extra-ordinary welcoming reception. The very fact that he travelled in regalia in Jet Stream as compared to his austere prime minister taking a commercial flight meant that everything had been previously arranged with the approval of the high and mighty hosts. The 21-gun salute was icing on the cake fore warning of the good tidings arranged for him. It seemed that the rumours spread by American interlocutors that General Bajwa’s extension had become inevitable for rushing through peace settlement in Afghanistan had solid grounding. It was surely American interests in Afghanistan that decided the issue of chief’s extension.
Let’s hope against hope that something good comes out of this American negotiated Bandobast. One also hopes that Americans after having done so much would take some positive steps for mediating in Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan to bring to an end the oft repeated phases of genocide and human rights violations. Let Kashmiris have peace and let them devote their depleting men power and resources in building the Paradise that Kashmir once was. One also expects US and European nations to clobber something of Marshall Plan for rebuilding Afghanistan, Pakistan and strife-torn Kashmir.
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