‘Imran Khan’s relations turn sour with Pakistan Army Chief over FATF’

  • Indian media lies about Imran’s relations with General Bajwa


Pakistan’s detractors would love to see relations between Imran Khan and the Chief of Army Staff really turn sour. They want to drive a wedge between the two and ruin the camaraderie and bonhomie enjoyed by the duo. Enemies of Pakistan spare no opportunity to ruin the civil-military ties. It is to Pakistan’s advantage that both the military and the civilian government are on one page in ridding the country of corruption and ensuring that Pakistan thrives and develops to its true potential.

Yet the adversary persists in its nefarious agenda. The EurAsia Times of May 19 has published an editorial on the above subject. The Indian journal leads us to believe that COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has been unhappy with the overall performance of Imran Khan’s Government, including his handling of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It is being cited that when Gen Parvez Musharraf ruled Pakistan, despite numerous terrorist groups operating freely in and around Pakistan, the country was never sanctioned nor was the FATF breathing down its neck, placing it on its grey list and threatening to relegate it to its Black List.

The journal forgets that as long as the USA required Pakistan’s air bases and ground logistics operations centres to conduct its War on Terror in neighbouring Afghanistan as well as support US-led operations by deploying its military forces, Pakistan was declared a major non-NATO ally, receiving millions of dollars in Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and military hardware. When the going got tough for NATO in Afghanistan, the Taliban gained strength, Pakistan was placed in the dock. The Raymond Davis affair, followed by the elimination of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden at an Abbottabad residential compound, followed by the Salalah Incident, soured relations. CSF was discontinued, military aid was suspended, and the USA brought its entire weight to disparage Pakistan, since it blames the Pakistani Army for harbouring the Haqqani network of the Taliban and providing a safe haven to the Taliban. The IMF was discouraged from extending loans to Pakistan while the FATF is dangling like the sword of Damocles over Pakistan’s head.

The final lie being propagated is that at the last Pakistan Army Corps Commanders meeting, the commanders asked Bajwa to make sure that the current set up (civil-military) is in working order before he retires

It was déjà vu since in 1979, when the USSR had invaded Afghanistan, the USA required Pakistan’s support to combat the Red Army. At that time Pakistan was facing sanctions since it was accused of conducting a nuclear weapons programme and in 1977 General Zia-ul-Haq had removed a democratically elected Prime Minister in a military coup and usurped power. The US waived all sanctions since Pakistan agreed to allow its soil to be used to establish Madrassahs along the Pak-Afghan border to train the Mujahideen, volunteers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and numerous other Islamic states, in the art of guerrilla warfare. In 1989, as soon as the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the USA slapped the Pressler Amendment and sanctioned Pakistan, embargoing its defence procurements.

EurAsia Times surreptitiously suggests that General Bajwa is said to have put his weight behind the recent cabinet reshuffle, which is being seen as an attempt to shift power away from Imran Khan towards nominees of the military. There is no veracity in the allegation as Imran Khan had announced the moment he was forming his government that he would be keeping a close watch on the performance of all Ministers and Advisers and anyone not performing optimally, would either be sent packing or reshuffled. To imply that the Army forced Imran Khan’s hand is outright malicious.

Since the new Interior Minister Brig (retd) Ijaz Shah is a retired Army Officer, it is being alleged that his appointment was made at the behest of the COAS as he had served as the Intelligence Bureau Director under Musharraf. Facts prove to the contrary. Imran Khan had retained the portfolio of the sensitive ministry directly under himself but now found it prudent to delegate responsibility. Who better than an old hand who handled the IB?

Quoting insiders, the journal odiously points out that Imran Khan now wants to send a signal to the outside world that he is not the military’s puppet and should not be treated as one. This scribe appears on different Indian TV Channels, where the programme hosts as well as numerous Indian analysts take pains to establish Imran Khan as a puppet of the Army. This scribe goes to great length to prove otherwise that Imran Khan is a person who safeguards his independence with dignity. When he was the captain of Pakistan’s cricket team, even then he had refused to take dictation from others and even now he has an independent mind and executes his decisions judiciously and autonomously, albeit he solicits advise from his Cabinet.

Another stark untruth is that Imran Khan has started snubbing General Bajwa in one form or the other, which is likely to worsen civilian military relations in coming days. Various instances have been quoted. When Imran Khan went to inaugurate Mohmand Dam, the COAS requested to accompany him on his plane to Mohmand Agency, Imran refused on grounds that since he had multiple programmes, he would prefer to fly separately. The journal only has to read the Blue Book of Protocol before making such baseless allegations. It is further furtively suggested that after the ceremony, General Bajwa again requested to accompany Imran Khan on his plane to Peshawar to discuss important issues, but he again demurred. This is an outright fabrication.

It has also been whispered that General Bajwa also requested Imran Khan to offer some conciliatory gestures to the political opposition. However, Imran Khan criticized the opposition and refused to announce any conciliatory gestures, drawing the ire of General Bajwa. One only has to see the body language of both individuals when they meet one-on-one. General Bajwa extends the courtesy due to an elected Prime Minister and the Head of the Government, while Imran Khan offers similar courtesy due to a serving COAS.

The whispering campaign furthered by the Indian journal suggests that according to insiders, General Bajwa, who is set to retire in November, wants an extension and he has sought help of the USA to put pressure on Imran Khan for it. However, another rumour doing rounds is that General Bajwa is undecided about seeking an extension. Let us nail this lie too. General Bajwa is an honourable Army general, who will serve the remaining tenure with dignity and not sully his record by seeking extensions.

Another malicious falsehood being spread by the EurAsia Times is that General Bajwa is also thinking of going to Saudi Arabia to lead the Islamic Army Command, following in the footsteps of Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif, his predecessor as COAS.

The final lie being propagated is that at the last Pakistan Army Corps Commanders meeting, the commanders asked Bajwa to make sure that the current set up (civil-military) is in working order before he retires. As if the EurAsia Times correspondent was a fly on the wall during the Corps Commanders’ moot. We should crush rumours and endeavour to stop those who are trying to drive a wedge between the Army and the civilian dispensation ruling Islamabad.