By Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha
New Delhi, June 8: In a first, the veterans of the Pakistani security establishment came out openly asking the Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to hold elections immediately. They also demanded the formation of a Judicial Commission to probe the foreign conspiracy behind the vote of no-confidence against former Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“When the government was changed through an external conspiracy, we retired officers met General Bajwa. General Bajwa had promised us that elections would be held in 90 days. General Bajwa, where did your promise go,” asked Lt General (Rtd) Ali Quli Khan in a hurriedly called press conference outside the Islamabad Press Club on Monday. The veterans, led by a three-star retired general, said in a statement that as former senior officers they were aware of the US raising similar issues. “The only difference is that these worries are now a reality and are being put into action,” said the statement.
“We know how Ayub Khan sold Pakistan’s sovereignty to the United States and allowed it to build an airbase in Peshawar. From that day until today, this country has been under the control of the United States,” said Brigadier (Rtd.) and security analyst, Mian Mahmood.
What was surprising was that these veterans were openly supporting ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan. The statement said that the external forces played their role in forming this government and were the internal elements who helped the external forces in forming this government.
In a shocking video that surfaced on social media after the press conference, an elderly woman accused Gen. Bajwa of promoting army officers who tow the US line. The woman said that her sons and relatives are in the Pakistani army. She questioned Bajwa why Faiz Hameed’s name was not being considered as the next army chief? She said that Lt Gen Faiz Hameed will not be made army chief because “he can’t be bought”. Though her identity could not be verified, some social media users claimed that she was related to the former ISI chief, but this has not been confirmed.
Pakistan watchers believe that the Pakistani military establishment’s “hybrid” experiment has failed but it has managed to divide the Pakistani army. There are generals and army officers who were against Bajwa’s decision to “abandon” Imran Khan. Many retired generals are seen arguing on TV channels in favour of Khan and against using the judiciary to push the PTI leader out.
According to sources in various meetings, Bajwa had to explain his position to both senior serving and retired personnel. Sources claim that during the briefing at the army headquarter GHQ, there were at least two senior officers who questioned Bajwa’s decision to abandon Khan and bring back the tried and tested politicians. Khan too had been openly praising his favourite former ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed and even fought with Bajwa over his transfer last year.
After his removal, Khan has been carefully targeting only General Bajwa, not the entire military establishment.
According to Pakistan watchers, among the veterans there are generals too whose careers were also affected when Bajwa gave himself an extension in 2020.
“Most of the retired military officers protesting these days are either those whose political ambitions were dashed or who have political affiliations against the current setup. They should identify themselves openly as such & not try to take a high moral ground using their ranks,” writes Salman Masood, a Pakistani journalist.
Sources close to General Bajwa said that “one should ask these retired officers under which article of the constitution they are demanding General Bajwa to hold elections ? He has no mandate to hold elections.”
This is the first time in Pakistan’s history when a civilian leader is targeting the country’s powerful military establishment and even forcing its officers to pick sides. Every social media account of Imran Khan’s party has stepped up its attack on General Bajwa and asked serving and retired officers to support Imran Khan.
On his part, Imran Khan in his recent salvo at General Bajwa warned the people of Pakistan that “the actual problem here is the establishment. If the establishment does not take the right decision, then I will give it to you in writing that they will be destroyed, and the armed forces will be the first ones to be destroyed and ultimately the country will break into three parts,” Imran Khan told Bol News in an interview.
(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)