It Was Gen Bajwa, Not Faiz Hameed, Who Protected Imran Khan

It Was Gen Bajwa, Not Faiz Hameed, Who Protected Imran Khan
Imran Khan had come marching towards Rawalpindi blowing his war bugle to topple the Shehbaz Sharif-led regime. Many thought that he would run over Islamabad with hundreds of supporters. But instead of forcing the regime to step down, he announced to dismiss two of his own provincial governments, before making a retreat.

Is Khan’s game over? It began a year ago when he, as the premier, started to plan to appoint an army chief of his choice.

There were several reasons for this, one of which involved his attempts to use the military against his political rivals and critics. His demands were met sometimes. I found out about these in 2019 when I had the opportunity to interview former president Asif Ali Zardari. The interview was not permitted to be broadcast on Geo News.

Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (PEMRA) hadn’t given any directives towards blocking it. I was told that it was due to Khan Sahib’s faiz (blessing), which continued later as well. Last year, I faced a ban for nine months.

This column of mine was also banned for the same reason. The faiz became increasingly common for his rivals:

مقام "فیض" کوئی راہ میں جچا ہی نہیں

جو کوئے یار سے نکلے تو سوئے دار چلے

Khan wanted to send most of his political rivals to the gallows, and he began to make such wishes to the then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

General Bajwa had come to the realisation that Khan, while acting as a saint holding a tasbeeh, would use the army to humiliate his critics and defame the institution in the process. His cabinet members would whisper to me about the ban being placed by General Bajwa, who would deny the same behind closed doors.

To my absolute shock, I was told one day that the same faiz was going to change everything, as a new COAS will take charge before April this year, followed by snap polls. Once Khan got a two-thirds majority, the parliamentary system was to be replaced with a presidential system via parliament’s constitutional amendments. This was a 10-year ruling plan, while controlling not just the military, but also judiciary and media. We saw a glimpse of that in the draft for Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), designed to hand back-to-back punishments to journalists through media courts.

When General Bajwa found out about his favourite’s plans, he turned ‘neutral’ and then his favourite turned it into a slang.

There is no denying that if it wasn’t for General Bajwa’s ‘neutrality’, the no-trust move against Khan would not have succeeded, but the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman had forgotten the one who stood with him.

At first, he termed the no-trust move a foreign conspiracy and began to label General Bajwa as Mir Jafar. When the appointment of the COAS came closer, he turned it into a political slogan and announced he would not let “thieves” bring in a new commander-in-chief. Khan then made every effort to block this appointment, and even agreed to extend General Bajwa’s term by a few more months, but to no avail.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif gave the charge to the senior-most general of the military: a step that forced even Khan to congratulate the COAS appointed by “thieves.”

The tradition has been revived after a long time and it should last. There is a need to legislate to place a ban on the extension of the military chief’s term to save the post from being politicised.

Everyone knows Khan has accepted General Asim Munir’s appointment with a heavy heart, because his strategy the previous year to bring someone else to the helm didn’t see the light of day. He failed to hold snap polls, block the COAS’ appointment, or organise a successful long march. Once successful in postponing the posting, he wanted to enter Islamabad on November 26. Instead, the move has sent the entire PTI into a state of remorse.

It was probably due to this remorse that Khan couldn’t gather a substantial crowd in Rawalpindi on 26 November. To hide his failure, he has now decided to dissolve the Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa assemblies. In my opinion, it is a good political move.

Khan is realising that he has vote power, but not street power, so he has decided to dismiss the provincial assemblies to push for snap polls. He has made a calculated move to end agitation and begin a series of political moves, but something backfired.

Prior to his address in Rawalpindi, the podium was given to Azam Swati, who had earlier abused a serving army officer on social media and, in his address, questioned Gen Bajwa’s assets. The former army chief is set to retire on 29 November, but Swati was arrested from Islamabad on 27 November. Now, Swati will have to present evidence for the video that fueled a controversy.

General Bajwa’s departure will make Imran realise that he, despite his flaws, was a shelter for him, who protected him from the scorching sun.

Imran’s game isn’t yet over, and he will witness a new game once General Bajwa leaves. Those questioning the general’s assets will be made to answer about their own, and elections will take place once it is done.

It seems that we would likely not enjoy Khan’s faiz any longer.


Translated from columnist Hamid Mir’s piece for daily Jang