Lahore Corps Commander Allowed Protesters Inside Jinnah House, Then Left With Family: Umar Cheema

Lahore Corps Commander Allowed Protesters Inside Jinnah House, Then Left With Family: Umar Cheema
In an explosive revelation, senior journalist Umar Cheema has said that according to his sources, Lt Gen Salman Ghani, former Lahore corps commander, was known to be "among those who love Khan sahib". This exposé even startled his Talk Shock co-host and senior journalist Azaz Syed, at which Cheema clarified that he does not believe that Lt Gen Ghani deliberately invited protesters inside the corps commander's 'Jinnah House' official residence in Lahore.

But Cheema explains that the senior Pakistan army commander, whatever his intentions, created a serious security situation at the official residence he occupied as Lahore corps commander, which in turn destabilized the law and order situation across the country, as protesters and rioters started feeling emboldened enough to take armed troops head on. Umar Cheema said that the army is now "facing a challenge" because it has become painfully obvious that "the leadership is thinking along one line, but the rank and file is thinking along different lines".

"When Khan sahib sees a target, he does not care whether that person loves him or hates him," Umar Cheema said in reference to former prime minister and PTI chairman Imran Khan, whose arrest on May 9 plunged Pakistan into anarchy and chaos, as the world witnessed Pakistan's military installations, vehicles and facilities - including the official residences of its senior commanders - come under attack from protesters enraged by Khan's arrest.

On Friday May 12, Khan was given bail by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in all cases against him, and he was allowed to leave for his Zaman Park, Lahore residence as a free man. The development is being seen as a serious loss of face for not just the military establishment, but also the Pakistan army, long considered the most powerful institution of this underdeveloped nation-state. Before leaving the high court, Khan said that the entire chaos was due to "one man": a not-so-subtle reference to the incumbent army chief, General Syed Asim Munir.

"The target was the corps commander's house" in Lahore, according to Umar Cheema. "It has symbolic value," Talk Shock co-host Azaz Syed adds, before he recalls how an ordinary person was wearing his three-star general's uniform, adorned with his medals. "The mistake he made," according to Cheema, "is that he invited people inside the Jinnah House as if he was going to negotiate with them, as if he was in some tribal area or he was negotiating with the TTP, or some angry youths".

Umar Cheema confirmed that Lt Gen Salman Ghani let the protesters come inside the Lahore corps commander's residence, Jinnah House, on May 9. The implication is that Lt Gen Ghani did not resist attempts by protesters to breach the secure compound, but he violated the security of that military facility himself by permitting the protesters to enter the Jinnah House, in an injudicious and ill-considered personal attempt to 'pacify the mob'. When Azaz Syed asked that the Lahore corps commander was talking to "representatives of PTI", Cheema clarified that it was not any party or organized group, it was ordinary yet charged protesters that one of the country's top military commanders was going to negotiate with.

It has also been alleged by relatives of Lt Gen Ghani that he was hesitant to order use of lethal force on his fellow citizens, and that he attempted to deconflict with the mob of protesters as he managed to whisk his family away to safety.

Both Azaz Syed and Umar Cheema wondered loudly who Lt Gen Ghani, as a corps commander, thought he was negotiating with, and whether he had thought about the propriety of such an action or not. "Even if the protesters had stayed outside the corps commander's house, that was a big deal," according to Umar Cheema, "even that was unprecedented". "Now you yourself are involved in bringing them in," Cheema said in reference to the now-former corps commander of Pakistan army's IV Corps stationed in Lahore.

According to Umar Cheema, Lt Gen Ghani had also ordered his security staff to dress in civilian clothes, instead of their uniforms as they are supposed to be while on duty. "In the videos, only one individual can be seen in uniform," Cheema said, before adding another reference to the former Lahore corps commander who "picked up his belongings, took his family and left the premises from the other side". The protesters started ransacking Jinnah House, the Lahore corps commander's official residence, once Lt Gen Ghani had 'escaped' with his family.

"Surrender," Azaz Syed exclaimed as Umar Cheema relayed the events that unfolded at Jinnah House, the original name of the Lahore corps commander's residence, on the fateful day of Tuesday, May 9.

"The office and designation of corps commander Lahore has immense significance," Umar Cheema explained, adding that perceptions matter a lot when people occupy such high and powerful offices. "This is an extremely demoralising incident," Cheema stated. "Attacking buildings and military vehicles is one thing, but to enter the corps commander's house, a place that India wishes to occupy but we haven't let them do that, instead these rioters and vandals were able to enter" this sensitive facility, Cheema said.

Adding his input, Azaz Syed reiterates that neither he nor his co-host base their stories on rhetoric, and focus on facts instead of opinions. Cheema clarifies that while they try to avoid biases, they do account for 'informed biases' in order to present a holistic picture. Azaz refers to a tweet by Adil Raja, a disgraced former major of Pakistan army who is now a popular pro-Imran Khan YouTuber, where he had named some active duty generals - including Lt Gen Asif Ghafoor and Lt Gen Salman Ghani - who he claimed were "against the army chief" Gen Asim Munir.

"We oppose the army's role in politics, we won't like our army to come and intervene in politics, in fact we condemn it," Azaz states categorically, before he concludes by saying that people like Adil Raja were "sowing divisions within the army and destroying the institution". Umar Cheema concurred that these trends, which are being promoted and propagated by followers of former premier Imran Khan, are "very dangerous" because even a militant commander of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) expressed his support for attacks on the Pakistan army during the violent protests and rioting. "These protesters have made us forget the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and even the TTP," Umar Cheema exclaimed.