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Pak Generals Playing With Fire

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(WORLD SECTION) PAKISTAN-RAWALPINDI-ARMY-CHANGE OF COMMAND
Pakistan's new army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa (L) receives the change of command baton from the outgoing Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif (R) during the change of command ceremony in Rawalpindi, Pakistan (Xinhua/ISPR) ****Authorized by ytfs****

The International Court of Justice’s order in the Jadhav case is a big blow to Pakistan and its military controlled government machinery. The Pakistan Army and its Generals are once again, through their reprehensible actions, have brought the sub-continent closer to a conflict, if not an open war, threatening lives, peace and stability in a region which is home to close to two billion people…writes Dr Sakariya Kareem

(WORLD SECTION) PAKISTAN-RAWALPINDI-ARMY-CHANGE OF COMMAND
Pakistan’s new army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa (L) receives the change of command baton from the outgoing Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif (R) during the change of command ceremony in Rawalpindi, Pakistan (Xinhua/ISPR) ****Authorized by ytfs****

The unprovoked attack on the Indian military patrol and the killing and mutilation of two soldiers is a cowardly and reprehensible act on the part of Pakistan Army. The fact that the attack was in reaction to the one-upmanship being played in Pakistan between the elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the new set of Generals in Rawalpindi makes it even more condemnable.

The international community must raise their voice in unison against this wanton and callous propensity of the Generals in Pakistan to trigger a cycle of violence to settle their scores with their civilian counterparts.

This dangerous round of musical chairs with its disastrous fallout has been going on for years now and it is time the world exerts its moral and political pressure on the Generals to draw down from this futile and dangerous exercise in self-preservation.

The Generals, once again, through their reprehensible actions, have brought the sub-continent closer to a conflict, if not an open war, threatening lives, peace and stability in a region which is home to close to two billion people.

The trigger-happy ways of the Generals in Pakistan is so well known that it is not difficult to know where and how this new round of hatred and violence began.  To decode the unfolding events, it would be useful to keep in mind a few key words—journalists, news leak, Panama papers, Generals and India.

Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa

Let us begin at the beginning. A few months ago, out of the blue, Dawn, a widely respected English daily in Pakistan, shook the country with an article which reported that the civilian leadership was miffed at the Generals for cooperating with the government in tackling terrorism and they said so, on the face, at a closed-door meeting between the two. This was a time when the civilian leadership were under tremendous public pressure to act visibly and strongly against terrorist groups, many of which were directly or indirectly patronised by Pakistan Army.

The Generals, on the other hand, were collecting all the kudos for strutting around, literally with guns blazing, to show that they were finishing off the `bad guys`. But everyone knew that the bad guys were long gone before the Generals could even draw their weapons, simply for the reason that the Generals shooed them away before they went galloping. Those killed by the Generals were ordinary men and women, and in many cases children, who had nothing to do with terrorists. The civilian leadership knew well that till they spoke out, they would be the ones to stand before the people to answer. The Generals never did. So at a meeting, a closed door one, the civilian leadership made no bones about what they thought about the Generals patronising the terrorists who were causing immense harm to the people of Pakistan.

If the meeting had remained confidential, which means no one really knew what the leadership talked, there would have been no brouhaha. But the news leaked and a responsible newspaper, Dawn, after great care and rechecking, decided to publish it. This was unprecedented in many ways. First, no journalist or newspaper would dare to publish anything even remotely critical of the top leadership of Pakistan Army. Second, no journalist or newspaper would really get hold of such an `earth-shaking` scoop. Third, no one among those who knew the details about the meeting would dare to invite wrath by telling a journalist.

Fourth, the `news leak` was obviously cleared at the highest echelons of the government. Fifth, the Generals, despite their extensive network of spies among journalists, could not get a whiff of the scoop before it became public.

General Raheel Sharif (C) looking at huge cache of weapons and ammunition recovered from terrorists during his visit to northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Agency. At least 20 militants were killed and 18 others injured in an air-raid by Pakistani army in the country’s northwestern tribal area of Khyber Agency (File)

The Generals were naturally livid at this transgression and they minced no words to browbeat the civilians; they of course by then knew who was behind the `leak`. It was not difficult—they knew no one among them did; if it had been so, a `black sheep` among them would have been a far bigger worry. They wanted the civilian government to act against the guilty—the person who leaked the meeting details and the journalist and newspaper who dared to go public.

The Generals knew too many things about those in the government and it was not really difficult to scare them and a confused and dazed government first denied any such meeting was held and any such conversations had happened and then put the journalist in question on `no fly` list. It is not known what all the journalist and his family might have had to endure for some time. A journalist is easy to target in the busy lanes of Islamabad or Lahore or Karachi. Even a top journalist, Hamid Mir, whom many considered close to the military establishment, was shot at and silenced. His brother, Amir Mir, who went hoarse saying that it was the handiwork of ISI, too fell quiet after his family got a word from the Generals.

Everyone would have forgotten the case if there were no twists and turns which happened in quick succession. The Sharif family was already embroiled in the Panama Papers scandal—the family was accused of siphoning of huge sums of public money in secret personal accounts.

The story of corruption is nothing new in Pakistan but then the Supreme Court decided to take up the case for adjudication. This was something which the Sharifs could not foresee. The Generals were overjoyed at this chance to arm-twist the Prime Minister. It was a time when the new Chief was in the saddle and the old Chief was attracting increasing flak for accepting the offer made by Saudi Arabia to head a military coalition of Islamic  (read Sunni) countries. They don’t like too many people prying into their affairs—they even saved their old General, Musharraf, from harm and got him to escape to cooler climes of Mayfair Garden in London.

Then two things happened simultaneously. An Indian businessman went and met Prime Minister Sharif and Islamabad was abuzz with gossip that something was afoot between India and Pakistan. Now `India` is something which the Generals decide and not the civilians and this time they were kept out of the picture and it was enough reason for them to be angry. So when the Sharif government made public the report of the inquiry committee into the Dawn leak, the Generals were not happy. They said they reject the government’s action taken on the report. To rub it in, this `rejection` was done through a tweet. It was a grossly humiliating gesture towards an elected government, and even more for the Prime Minister. It was not surprising to hear the Interior Minister retaliating by saying that the organs of government do not talk to each other through tweets.

The new Generals were not the ones to sit quiet; so the new Chief rushed to the Line of Control and issued an open threat to India. Within hours, the unprovoked attack and the despicable mutilation took place, all because the Generals felt suddenly threatened by Prime Minister Sharif’s moves to come on top. This must not be allowed to go on; Pakistan must be held accountable if an escalation of violence and death were to happen this time around. The world owe it to the embattled people of the sub-continent.

 

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