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Pakistan’s Strongman in the Spotlight: Shaheen Sehbai’s Candid Reflections

The Bajwa-Shahbaz picture was pathetic and hurt the hearts and minds of millions of Pakistanis. So was his move to invite him to North Waziristan and make every officer salute him. What has Shahbaz got to do with these operations and terrorists anyway but why give him that opportunity?

By Shaheen Sehbai
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Did Gen Bajwa allegedly stage the regime change to get an extension or a new chief of his choice? (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

I was in Karachi when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. Immediately I called my friend Masood Haider then in Lahore and we both did not utter a word for many minutes but sobbed and cried. Then I wrote a piece on BB, which appeared in The News the next day.
Yesterday when I saw the image of General Bajwa sitting in front of Shahbaz Sharif, with his eyes almost downcast, face depressed, body language defeated, I missed a heartbeat and felt a severe chill going down my spine pushing me closer to cry again in severe anger and disgust.
Why? An army chief, who was responsible under oath to defend the territorial frontiers and national security of Pakistan in all its forms and shapes, had surrendered to a known carpet beggar, currently on bail and a protégé of an older sibling convicted and absconding. With him being his guarantor who now refuses to take responsibility, Shahbaz has proved that he was part of what the Supreme Court described as Godfather and Sicilian Mafia.
One picture told a thousand stories.
What was wrong with the army, or its chief? Why cannot they understand against what kind of people they were dealing with, why did they succumb to a marathon of vitriol and abusive language thrown at the army and the higher judiciary from time to time? If Bajwa had to see Imran Khan go out, could he not find another person in the whole country who would not have a string of serious accusations following him? Was there any modicum or iota of morality, ethics, and decency to consider for those running the State? Did they not understand the peacock games played out in 35 years by the Sharif family? Was it all for self-interest or vested interests of all kinds, good or bad?

Why he has done so is not known to me but theories, speculations, and conspiracies are available, a dime a dozen. I am worried about what he has done to the army and its rank and file and to what end, what purpose? Maybe just to get an extension? Or if that is not the case, a new chief of his choice?
The Bajwa-Shahbaz picture was pathetic and hurt the hearts and minds of millions of Pakistanis. So was his move to invite him to North Waziristan and make every officer salute him. What has Shahbaz got to do with these operations and terrorists anyway but why give him that opportunity?
But how it pinched and pierced the minds and conscience of serving and retired people in the army who had sacrificed so much, could only be imagined and seen being reflected later. Many officers had the courage to come out and pour their emotions in public but a majority feel strangled, choked, cheated, and disgraced. Yet they can’t say a word.
Why he has done so is not known to me but theories, speculations, and conspiracies are available, a dime a dozen. I am worried about what he has done to the army and its rank and file and to what end, what purpose? Maybe just to get an extension? Or if that is not the case, a new chief of his choice?
Why I say so is based on the events of the last few days. Numerous audio/video messages of army officers and written notes of ex-generals and commanders floating all around the social media tell the story. They speak for all those silent juniors and serving officers who could not say anything but feel the same way.

Angry soldiers, seniors, and juniors are asking how in such a blatant repulsive manner Bajwa has helped draw the curtain down on an elected PM. If that was not enough he rubbed salt into their wounds by bringing in a gang of tainted and apparently corrupt Dons, many or most of them on bail from courts, obtained mainly either by dubious means or subverting the system. Was there no other way to solve the issue of keeping a façade or honor and some dignity? Why was he so obliged to give only these people what they did not deserve? Were there no honorable people left in this power game?
When the late-night coup was completed using all tools available, the reaction of the people and the inner core of the army was instant and furious. General Bajwa did not anticipate such a response.
The steps taken subsequently to counter this reaction – a quick Corps Commanders meeting, an urgent Formation Commanders gathering, unnecessary moots of veterans and retired people, releasing the steam caused by hurt feelings – all showed General Bajwa was under pressure to explain what he had done. And he could not. All those who were courageous enough to report the proceedings in these meetings said he admitted and confessed to many wrongdoings but failed to explain why he was in such a hurry.

For example, Bajwa confessed that for two years he interfered with the government of Imran Khan, giving him suggestions, guidelines, advice, and more, to artificially prop up his government even when Imran Khan had no majority in the National Assembly or the Senate. Bajwa practically admitted that he remote-controlled and engineered the system to give Imran majorities in Senate and the House when he could not otherwise get it. He confessed that for over two years Imran was kept under his shadow.
That is incriminating and uncalled-for if not anything else. He evaluated and cleared every major economic or foreign policy decision that Imran Khan made but stayed behind a façade of deniability.

With hands and feet tied, Bajwa pushed Imran Khan to run the Government but actually, he was the mastermind running the show. This much has been admitted and could land him in serious trouble if ever a real court judged his actions.
With hands and feet tied, he pushed Imran Khan to run the Government but actually, he was the mastermind running the show. This much has been admitted and could land him in serious trouble if ever a real court judged his actions.
When Imran tried to assert himself, Bajwa was upset and the famous “same page” was torn apart. Bajwa wanted Imran to follow him without asking any questions and Imran was not in a mood. Knowing Imran the split was obvious. They split.
Ironically conspirators always operate behind the scene shrouded in secrecy, which involves give and take, a normal practice between thugs and the crooks. Shahbaz Sharif never denied that he was seeking an NRO and the army never denied it either, mischievously so. Favors kept coming for those declared absconders and criminals by the courts.
Then one fine morning the Army turned publicly “neutral” and it meant that Bajwa was ready to openly deal with these self-seekers and corrupt torchbearers who were facing charges in multiple courts with thousands of pages of evidence that had not yet been examined because these Dons were too smart to thwart the system, not without the help of invisible hands.
The independence and uprightness of the judiciary in Pakistan have multiple question marks. Scores of examples can be given but the latest evidence came when the Islamabad High Court opened up at midnight anticipating that a known professional frontman was about to move a petition blocking the supposed sacking of Bajwa by the Imran government.
Whether Khan wanted to sack Bajwa or not is a moot question. Bajwa was on the other hand undoubtedly ready to pre-empt the move because either he felt guilty or threatened. Hence his discreet or indirect indulgence required the judges to get up in the middle of the night and prepare a judgment even before they had read the petition, a mockery of justice and fair play without any example anywhere.
Whether Khan wanted to sack Bajwa or not is a moot question. Bajwa was on the other hand undoubtedly ready to pre-empt the move because either he felt guilty or threatened. Hence his discreet or indirect indulgence required the judges to get up in the middle of the night and prepare a judgment even before they had read the petition, a mockery of justice and fair play without any example anywhere.
Why Bajwa was doing all this when his chief spokesman, DG of ISPR, says he was not seeking an extension and will retire in November? This is crossroads with another lurking question. If he was not seeking an extension was he staging a coup d’état? The answer lies somewhere between the accusations that are floating freely, including the role of some in-laws and relatives with some other political families or the intensity of bad relations with Imran Khan.
But what Bajwa had done is embarrass and disgrace the army as an institution – something, which will be hard to accept by a majority of its top commanders and never to the rank and file.
How can this scenario play out?
Think about it: Imran Khan escalates his movement and when pushed into a corner decides to counterattack. In his Lahore speech, he gave a hint to a super-charged and cheering crowd to march on Islamabad. He brings his millions to the streets and blocks Islamabad. Police and others fight them but fail, violence starts and escalates, blood flows, and the army is eventually asked to intervene.
At that critical moment the disgraced and angry field commanders, who are feeling helpless, refuse to open fire on Imran and his crowd. Then what happens?
And why do all this? Just to allow Bajwa to complete his term in November?
How can Bajwa redress this situation of shame and disgrace? There is an easy and smooth path if he realizes and accepts what he has done.
He has failed as army chief and like General Musharraf, who now regrets giving an NRO, Bajwa has done exactly that only when he has another six months left in office.
As Imran Khan demanded in Lahore, the mistake can be corrected but my strong view is that those who made the mistake must correct it before becoming genuinely neutral umpires.
I am a very tough man and hardly ever cry. But I shed tears when BB was murdered and I could not stop my tears when Bajwa surrendered to crooks and even released the picture for the public.
When political engineering can go on for over two years, those in charge should put the derailed train back on the rails before they wash off their hands. It becomes their national duty under their oath.
Bajwa can call a Corps Commanders meeting tomorrow including some important Formation Commanders; tell them he has decided to resign. Ask them to agree on three names, one of those could be the next chief. Take those names to PM, submit his resignation, get the new appointment while sitting there, and thus restore some damaged honor and dignity to his office and the institution.
The new chief should declare that army will not indulge in any political engineering but it will correct the wrongs done by Bajwa by undoing what he has done. That means a clear message to be sent that Shahbaz Sharif should dissolve parliament and an interim government of known honest and credible people be set up.
Let then the people decide without any interference who they want as their leaders.
Mr. Bajwa could then go into his retirement with some salvaged honor. I will be ready to give him a final departing salute. Let Pakistan get back on the rails of democracy and fair play once again.
I am a very tough man and hardly ever cry. But I shed tears when BB was murdered and I could not stop my tears when Bajwa surrendered to crooks and even released the picture for the public.
Now I have no tears left. The next thing I can shed, and many who love Pakistan will, could be blood.

 

This article first appeared on newsalertlive.com. Click here to go to the original.

 

 

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