On 16 April 2022, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in his address to retired officers of Lahore Garrison, finally let the big fat cat come out of the bag.
In a damning indictment against former PM Imran, Army Chief Gen. Bajwa readout, what seemed like a charge sheet against his former boss.
He listed what “we did” and “what IK didn’t do”.
Ranging from taking credit for bringing IK to power, helping him with legislation such as the EVM (electronic voting machines) and overseas voting, to electing the Senate Chairman, to innumerable pieces of constant advice, to getting foreign funding from UAE, Saudi Arabia, China.
How he refused to listen to his advice to change the CM’s of KP and Punjab.
How he lobbied for Aleem Khan, a very close associate of Gen. Bajwa’s father-in-law, Maj. Gen (retd) Ejaz Amjad, allegedly an extremely powerful, power broker in his own right, to become CM Punjab which IK agreed to but then backed out.
How Imran’s arrogance and treatment of his party legislators caused his downfall.
How the Sharifs were “not guilty” of corruption.
How the Army was not interfering In politics.
This last was perhaps the “star comment” of the session!
And so it went on and on, the litany of complaints sounding like an angry wife’s tirade against her husband.
As a student of history, I’m glad that Gen. Bajwa said these things publicly, exposing how blatantly and brazenly he interfered and intervened in PM IK’s governance as some kind of “Godfather” with this sense of entitlement of Lord and Master.
So what went wrong where?
There was no anarchy. The economy was stabilizing and the green shoots of sustainable recovery clearly visible.
Increased Tax collection, exports, remittances, industrial activity, widespread programs of poverty alleviation, universal health care, educational reforms, job creation, skill building were being implemented.
All this despite, what Gen. Bajwa and others say about Imran’s own inexperience, his arrogance, his solo flying, his poor team, a highly compromised coalition and fractured mandate, some questionable decisions, his refusal to listen to Gen. Bajwa’s advice, his insistence on keeping on his choice of DG ISI, inheriting a devastated economy subsequently ravaged by the COVID Pandemic, and finally the unkindest cut of all, as we now know, of his own Army Chief out to get him!
And we can add our own favorite list of criticisms against Imran, which many have.
Despite all these, Imran delivered a near miracle!
But it was PM Imran’s act of charting an independent foreign policy, free of US shackles, which proved to be his Waterloo!
The US smarting under their Afghanistan humiliation was seriously alarmed at Pakistan’s attempts to break away and chart a new approach, away from USA shackles and towards the Chinese Russian bloc, with a very independent and strong leader, like Imran, at the helm of affairs.
Thus began a serious and determined effort by the US for regime change in Pakistan which finally succeeded with Gen. Bajwa orchestrating this whole deed from behind the scenes!
The big question is this.
Under what moral, ethical and legal authority did Gen. Bajwa mastermind this “constitutional/judicial coup” against PM Imran?
The answer is clear. He had none!
Now connecting all the dots and Gen. Bajwa’s own disclosure, it is clear that his actions of removing a legitimately elected government in cahoots with the then opposition and its leader, Shahbaz Sharif, were conspiratorial, subversive and treasonable.
The final act of using the Vote of No Confidence and the Supreme Court may appear constitutional and legal but in fact were not, because Gen. Bajwa was calling all the shots and pulling all the strings.
However, It will be very difficult to prove this charge in a court of law in today’s Pakistan, given that he has everyone under his control, but eventually one day these actions will be found guilty of subversion, betrayal and treachery.
Maybe not in his or our lifetimes, but Nature’s Nemesis will one day catch up.
And one last thing.
Gen. Bajwa cannot shield himself from his actions by hiding behind the institution of the Army. These were his personal decisions and actions and not that of the Army.
The discourse in every street and home in Pakistan is that this is the battle between the people of Pakistan and a corrupt regime foisted on the people of Pakistan by an arrogant, self-entitled, rogue Army Chief.
It is not between people and the Army as he is attempting to present it.
This distinction must be made very very clear.
Are Gen. Bajwa’s comments of fair and free elections, and accepting Imran as the PM were he to win, genuine?
If anything, in my view, Gen. Bajwa will do everything in his power to ensure that Imran does not regain the Prime Ministership!
Otherwise why all this drama and this massive charge sheet against PM Imran?
But we hope and pray, sanity prevails and the current administration is changed, a neutral caretaker is installed and fair and free elections are held.
How? Haven’t the foggiest idea!
Otherwise, the possibility of things spiraling out of control is very real.
Especially if people come out on the streets and gherao the Assemblies and the PM and CM houses and the inevitable clash with law enforcement agencies, and the unrest and violence which will inevitably follow.
Very difficult to predict but very possible. A small spark could ignite the whole country. Who doesn’t remember the policewoman slapping the Tunisian fruit vendor?
Unfortunately, most individuals in power when faced with overwhelming evidence of people turning against them, become Ostrichlike, till suddenly, one day, they find themselves deluged by events beyond their control.
We hope and pray that this doesn’t happen and sanity prevails on all sides and actions are taken before things get out of control.
Long term it’s now extremely critical for Pakistan’s survival that this bridled, unaccountable, unchecked, supreme power vested in the office of the Army Chief must somehow be contained and balanced to stop this repeated abuse and misuse.
Pakistan will never grow if this one person in this one office, whoever he may be, continues to exercise this absolute unaccountable power and arrogate to himself the power of life and death of our political governments as has been happening since 1958!
No person or institution is above Pakistan!
This is part two of a five-part article series.
Haider Mehdi is a Geopolitical commentator/blogger on national and international affairs. Formerly a media anchor, corporate leader, management consultant, start-up entrepreneur, and military officer, he tweets @SHaiderRMehdi and blogs on shrmehdi.com
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Pakistan Week.