Pakistan’s Pulwama admission and Abhinandan remarks a sideshow; real battle is over future of Bajwas

To an Italian, the entire episode puts one in mind of the good old days of Silvio Berlusconi where the then prime minister was continuously ‘misinterpreted’ or ‘quoted out of context’.

Pakistan's Pulwama admission and Abhinandan remarks a sideshow; real battle is over future of Bajwas

File image of Qamar Javed Bajwa

A storm is raging in Pakistan over the comments of former Speaker of the National Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and cabinet minister Fawad Chaudhry on Abhinandan Varthaman and the Pulwama attack respectively.

The latest shot was fired by Sadiq, who claimed “legs were shaking and foreheads perspiring” at a meeting of Pakistan’s top leaders, including Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Foreign Minister Shah Mehboob Qureshi. As per Sadiq, the meeting, which Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to attend, saw Qureshi plead for the IAF pilot’s release.

That, of course, did not sit well with the prime minister’s backers. Chaudhry, attempting to bolster Imran’s image, said at the National Assembly, “We hit India in their home. Our success in Pulwama, is a success of the people under the leadership of Imran Khan. You and we are all part of that success”.

Chaudhry, realising his error, quickly attempted to amend his statement to: “When we hit India in their home after the incident at Pulwama”.

To an Italian, the entire episode puts one in mind of the good old days of Silvio Berlusconi where the then prime minister was continuously “misinterpreted” or “quoted out of context”.

Nice try, but no cigar.

It was an admission of what India has been saying from the very beginning: that Pakistan was behind the Pulwama attack in which 40 soldiers lost their lives. The media, both in India and Pakistan, went gaga.

For no reason, really.

It has been clear from the very beginning that Islamabad was behind the Pulwama attack. Ordinary Pakistanis know that the Jaish-e-Mohammed, like many other jihadi groups, is an ISI creation. And being that the ISI and the army are backing Imran Khan and his government, State involvement, or at least, the involvement of a section of the State in Pulwama, was hardly a secret.

But all this is only a sideshow. The real battle is being played out between the Opposition, including Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, and the army and its ‘selected’ Prime Minister Imran Khan. And more importantly, between sections of the Pakistan Army itself.

Think about it. How else could Nawaz do the unthinkable and dare to target the top army brass? It is an act that has never been witnessed in the history of Pakistan.

“A large number of senior army officials have given the PML-N the green light to target the two Bajwas:  the army chief and CPEC Authority chairman Asim Saleem Bajwa,” says Shahid Qazi, a former politician from Balochistan.

He further explained, “Army officials are worried about the exposure of the corruption and unconstitutional activities of the generals beginning from  Ahmed Noorani’s leaks about Asim Bajwa and Qamar Bajwa’s interference in the 2018 elections. The army knows these damaging leaks about the Bajwas will not stop and that’s why they have decided to ‘use’ PML-N. The party has been instructed to leave the rest of the army be. Sadiq’s speech, Captain Safder’s arrest and the PML Nawaz’s stance in Pakistan Democratic Movement must be read in this context”.

Translation: in Pakistan, there’s no such thing as a slip of the tongue.

And after Nawaz’s brazen attack on top brass, the army is now openly being accused of carrying out false flag attacks. Maulana Attaur Rehman, younger brother of the PDM chairman Maulana Fazlur Rehman, gave an incendiary speech threatening the generals for getting involved in politics and accusing the army of sabotaging PDM rallies through bomb blasts.

Whether Bajwa pins the blame on his men, or, what’s far more unlikely, takes responsibility for the mess, his image will be tarnished.

Meanwhile, the Imran is busy accusing the West, and of course India, of Islamophobia in his letter to Facebook. Islamophobia, Charlie Hebdo, Pulwama and Abhinandan: all to try distract the public from the deteriorating situation in Pakistan.

Because focussing on the enemy without will divert attention from the enemy within.

The enemy within that, every day, kills its citizens in cold blood. An enemy that ‘disappears’ people or simply dumps bodies in the streets. The enemy that denies citizens freedom. In order to survive, the enemy within needs an enemy without. If you have an enemy without, every horror committed in the name of keeping people safe is justified.

The truth is, Pakistan is on the edge. The two Bajwas can either go or decide to settle the matter once and for all.

But those that think the country, in the absence of the Bajwas, will be ruled by a civilian government need only glance at a history book.

What we see at the moment, as one Pakistani analyst puts it, is not civilians against the army but sections of the army playing the civilians against another section of the army.

Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written Apocalypse Pakistan with B Natale


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