Unconfirmed reports from Pakistan reveal that there was, probably, a coup attempt by a secret group within the Pakistan Army. Reports suggest that Lieutenant General Abdullah Dogar, Lt Gen. Ajaj Chowdhury and Lt Gen. Bilal Akbar along with 60 officers of various units have been dismissed from service for being members of a secret WhatsApp group. Use of smart phones were banned inside Pakistan army installations.
There are a number of tweets on this from within Pakistan. In some quarters it is also being claimed that Foreign Minister, Shah Mohammed Qureshi is being held in ‘Medical Custody’. A few days ago he was diagnosed positive for COVID-19. It is not clear whether it was genuine or a measure to cover up the aborted coup. Probably, he was being considered as a possible replacement for Imran Khan.
There has been much talk of ‘Minus One’ in Pakistani political circles. ‘Minus one’ in Pakistani parlance means removal of the incumbent Prime Minister with some more capable and efficient leader. Even Imran Khan hinted about it in his budget reply speech in Pakistan National Assembly. His railway minister, Sheikh Rasheed had gone a step further. He talked of ‘Minus Three’. It seems something was cooking in the background.
The rumours of a likely military coup is alluded to in an orchestrated interview, given a few days back, to Voice of America by Pakistan’s Minister of science and technology, Fawad Chaudhary. He talked of internal infighting within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He highlighted the failure of his party to deliver and the general frustration of the people. According to him, there was total mismanagement. He does not blame Imran Khan but hints about some who were aspirants of the top job. Therefore, there was something fishy going on in Pakistan, whose tell tale marks are visible in various disciplines of governance.
There has been a simmering discontent against General Bajwa, Chief of Pakistan Army and Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan. Not only the rank and file of the army but even the general public is disappointed with the duo. It seems both are concerned about their personal interests. While Imran was concerned to ensure his continuity without army intervention, General Bajwa was more keen to get extension of a tenure as a Chief. Interests of Pakistan were pushed to the background.
The extension of three years as Chief of the army to General QJ Bajwa had sparked the discontent in the army, slowly and gradually. This has stalled the progress and growth of many Generals. As stated above, It was being felt that it was done by Imran Khan to safeguard his own position as Prime Minister.
It may be noted that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had questioned this extension, when it was first announced by Imran Khan. It was termed as illegal. However, the Supreme Court gave a reprieve of six months to amend the statutory laws for extension of an Army Chief. It was done after a number of strictures were passed by the Supreme Court on the Imran Khan Government.
Though opposition parties were not in tune with the ruling party, yet they agreed to give an extension of three years because of the fear of the army, who is the actual ruler. Everyone knows that the army in Pakistan can concoct legal cases and involve dissenting politicians in legal cases. The case of Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who dared to challenge the army, is a living example to show as to how he was deposed through a judicial coup by the army.
Ironically, history of Pakistan tells one that army chiefs of Pakistan, appointed by civilian Prime Ministers, actually oust the said Prime Ministers. It may happen with even Imran Khan. Extension of three years to General QJ Bajwa may turn Imran Khan’s Waterloo.
Discontent is not only within the army but also it is in the general public against Imran Khan and Bajwa’s failure to deliver on the economic front . The so-called ‘Change’ or ‘Tabdili’ for which PTI and Imran Khan were voted to power is nowhere visible. Prices are skyrocketing of consumer items, which include, cooking gas, sugar, flour, electricity and petrol. The general public is crying to the extent of abusing Imran Khan and Bajwa.
The rank and file in the army is getting restless. The insurgency in Balochistan is picking up momentum. There is a definite resentment against Chinese aided projects on account of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China is maltreating the local population of Balochistan. Labour and skilled force is from China, while Pakistanis are not getting any employment. This is not only causing resentment but also fuelling the insurgency in Balochistan.
The recent attack on the Karachi Stock Exchange by Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) is borne out of the fact that 40% of this stock exchange is owned by China. In fact there are a whole lot of questions raised on CPEC. There is an estimate that by 2040, some 50% of the population of Balochistan would be Chinese.
Dawn leak-2 in 2017 had revealed that Pakistan had virtually mortgaged everything from agriculture to railways to airports and industry to China. As things tumble out of secret files, it had to affect the concerned minds. Soldiers being more nationalistic are the first one to raise voice against such deals. This is another reason why this secret group was formed within the army.
Imran Khan and QJ Bajwa have nothing much to show as performance over the last two years. Internationally, Pakistan stands isolated. Other than China and Turkey, no one stands with Pakistan in the international forums. The economic situation is so bad that Pakistan is almost begging the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a mere $4 to 6 billion loan. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is almost at the verge of putting it in the ‘Black List’. The Pakistani Rupee as compared to a dollar has fallen to a new low of ₹165/1 dollar.
Every segment of Pakistan is against non-performing duo of Imran Khan and QJ Bajwa. So much so that even the judiciary has now turned against the government. Imran Khan and his advisors got a slap on its face on the reference case of SC judge Qazi Faej Isa. This shows outright incompetence of Imran Khan and those who got him selected as Prime Minister.
Manipulation of the media is leading to open defiance of the government. It is no doubt that the Army and Government have been manipulating the print and electronic media. In a recent case of a TV news Channel (24 News), Lahore High Court had to intervene to restore its functioning blocked by Imran Khan’s Government. Many journalists have fallen out of jobs due to the army and government threats to media houses.
The real turmoil in Pakistan is due to mishandling of Corona Virus cases. The number of infected and dead people seem to be 20 times more than the official figures. The data is being manipulated by the government. Some say, dead persons of Punjab are being disposed off quietly by the army in Gilgit and Baltistan. This is also causing great resentment in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Failure of Imran Khan to deliver and the selfishness of General Qamar Javed Bajwa has been causing a great resentment not only amongst the Generals but also the rank and file of the army. Soldiers too have their families and they do understand the economic hardships suffered by their near and dear ones due to total mismanagement on all fronts by the Imran Khan-QJ Bajwa dispensation. Therefore the news of an attempted coup seems to be correct. It may have been foiled now but there is no guarantee that it can not be attempted again.
One is reminded of an Irish terrorist message to UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. The message was given after the terrorists attempt failed to kill Margaret Thatcher in a bomb explosion, when she had luckily escaped. The message said: You have to be lucky every time, we have to be lucky only once. Perhaps this could be a warning to Imran Khan and General Bajwa to pay more attention to internal situations than crying about Kashmir and India.
(The author was a former CO of 3 Bihar. Views expressed are the authors own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')
(Col Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into the 3 Bihar Regiment in June 1971 and was the Commanding Officer of same unit in insurgency environs in Assam in 1990-93. Has vast experience in CI Ops from North East to Punjab and J&K. A prolific writer-cum-critic on defence and security matters, he has authored the book, ‘Kashmir: A Different Perspective’. His second book on Assam was released in April 2018. Held prestigious appointments in the army including as an instructor at a premier army institute, Col GS, Col Adm of an Infantry Division and Col "Q" works at a Command HQ. He can be contacted on e-mail: [email protected])