The promise of a Tahrir Square-like turn of events has ended in Pakistan with the appointment of the new Army chief. In this end lies the beginning of finding villains in friends of yesterday.
But what hasn’t ended is the curiosity behind the new Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Syed Asim Munir. Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been an all-round contribution: from a close look at Munir’s fitness to elation over no bulging belly like his predecessor. We found out that running or jogging remains the secret behind those non-existent tyres.
17th ‘lucky’ General
Since time immemorial, the fact that the new General’s ancestors are from Jalandhar in Indian Punjab has been an added attraction to his family tree. Not that it changes anyone’s life at this trivia, but number 17 happens to be Munir’s lucky number. Now him being the 17th Army chief of Pakistan is an icing on the cake. And according to YouTube ‘jyotishis’ (astrologers), people with 17 as a lucky charm are quite straightforward.
No kidding, Imran Khan can attest to Asim Munir’s straightforwardness, reporting to him the alleged bribe of a diamond jewellery set taken by his wife.
Now being added to the long, prestigious queue of Pakistan Army chiefs with receding hairline, he also adds to the hopes of innocent souls, always hopeful that ‘this one will be different from that one’. At least the congratulatory full-page newspaper ads from contractors vouch that not only will the Pakistan Stock Exchange go higher and higher under the command of the new chief, but all plans of enemies will fall flat.
We believe it, enemies should too.
Other significant discoveries include that Asim Munir is a Pindi boy who is a Hafiz-e-Quran (a person who knows the Holy Quran by heart). That’s how ‘Hafiz sahib’ now becomes a new jargon in the list of coined terms when you actually can’t name the holy cows. Remember “nikkay da abba (father of the young child),” or ‘Haji sahib’, a veiled reference to the previous Army chief. And not to forget that the new General is a fast bowler, as certified by his neighbours.
No happy endings
Those were the days for retired General Qamar Javed Bajwa. There were those who once sold dreams of Bajwa appearing in the court of the Prophet and being handed a file. Implying that this General is a gift from God. But then, on the long road, those dreams changed into nightmares.
Now, Bajwa was the Kattappa who killed Bahubali Imran Khan. His day of departure was celebrated as Youm-e-Nijat (the day of deliverance) by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders and supporters alike. There were cakes and pastries to mark the occasion.
The day Bajwa handed over his danda to Munir, PTI leaders found their ‘voices’. After months of Mir Sadiq and Mir Jafar jibes, it was realised that the Mir Jafar to whom they had been referring to all this time was Bajwa. Hardly a plot twist that no one saw coming.
This is the ‘bad’ Bajwa but there used to be a ‘good’ Bajwa. The Bajwa who was on the much-mentioned ‘same page’ for four years. Bajwa, who PTI leaders called their baap, but now it was time to find a ‘new daddy’. Bajwa, whose extension was imperative for the existence of Pakistan. And once he was done with his stint as COAS, even creating a post of CDS was an option.
This is how good he was for PTI. But then, it all changed. The happy ever after remains a fairy tale.
Now Khan says that one of his biggest mistakes was to give an extension to the Army chief. Agreed. Then why, just two months ago, did he convince the government to give another extension to Bajwa when it was a mistake? He accused his partner of four or more years of a double game with his rivals. These shikwas (complaints) are now met with jawab-e-shikwa (counter-complaint) from the retired General.
First things first, Bajwa, through a source, tells a journalist that Imran Khan used to call him “boss” in front of his subordinates. Then the rebuttal to never being interested in an extension follows. Bajwa’s personal views on Khan: a liar who is ehsan faramosh (thankless). Basically, calling him jhooto ka IG (inspector general of liars). To the “boss” claim, former PM’s through his own pool of YouTubers denies such reverence. Then calls his ex-boss Hulk. And we thought their love story was better than Twilight. The two are likely to become more salty in days to come. Hulk vs Handsome, to be continued.
Failed project ‘Imran’
How did we reach here? These are the fruits of the failed ‘project Imran’, launched to crush the political parties of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari. It was also a continuation of the 75-year-itch that the Pakistani establishment has had of destabilising its own country.
It was promised to be a 10-year plan, with Bajwa and former DG ISI Faiz Hameed taking turns as Army chief, and their ultimate goal being to rig the elections and selecting Imran Khan as the PM. Inspired by the one-party rule in China and becoming a ‘brown’ Xi. In the process, they also do away with the parliamentary form of government and replace it with a presidential one. Parliamentary democracies can only work in Anglo-Saxon countries. We never got the memo that next-door India is an Anglo-Saxon country.
Before the 2018 election, judges were strong–armed by the ISI to give decisions against Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz. One judge mentioned how Faiz Hameed had said that if he didn’t rule against Nawaz, “our two years of hard work will go to waste”. And we all paid for that hard work for the next four years.
There was no opposition leader at the time who was not put behind bars on political cases. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Hanif Abbasi was sentenced to life in prison in an ephedrine quota case in July 2018, four days before the election. The urgency was that the Rawalpindi seat contested by Abbasi was to be handed to Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad. Whom Bajwa now labels “absolutely useless guy”. Managing media was the biggest part of pre-poll rigging; public rallies of the PMLN were censored and the programmes were dropped across mainstream channels.
From the pre-election to the last four years of government, this group of faujis (soldiers) and their ladla (favourite) politician worked hand in glove. Whether it was former DG ISPR Asif Ghafoor urging the media to report positively for six months, giving time to the government, or making political assessments like, “2018 will be a year of tabdeeli (transformation)” which was a slogan of PTI. Or in the later half, Faiz Hameed showing up in Kabul with a cup of tea for self-promotion: “Don’t worry everything will be okay.” How okay it is with the Afghan Taliban and the resurgence of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) since is a secret to none. Maybe it is as okay as the early retirement of Hameed.
All these men in uniform acted like PTI workers. Yet in a parting speech, Bajwa wondered why Indians don’t criticise their Army as Pakistanis do. Well, to start with, I never heard their Army chiefs bring in a ‘Bajwa doctrine’. That termed the 18th amendment of the constitution, which gave autonomy to the provinces, as “more dangerous than six points of Sheikh Mujib,” the founder of Bangladesh. Also, never read about how the Indian COAS queues up to get egg omelette or which YouTuber he listens to when making a shave. I guess that’s why Bajwa doesn’t hear Indians complain about their chief. And I am not even mentioning the politics of it all!
The biggest beneficiary of these good times on the same page has been Imran Khan — from a tanga party to a one-time prime minister. Today it is laughable when Khan quotes Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Gen Asim Munir to talk about the role of the armed forces within the ambit of the Constitution. All that is fine, but was Imran Khan in deep slumber when he was using the same uniform for his chores?
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
(Edited by Tarannum Khan)