In July 2018, when Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan claimed victory in the national election, it was said the Pakistan Army had installed him in the office of the prime minister.
The claim derived authenticity from reports of selected targeting of media not seen sympathetic to Imran Khan during the election campaign, alleged harassment of candidates from other parties, preventing voters especially women from casting their votes in many areas deemed strongholds of Nawaz Sharif’s party and most importantly delay in declaration of official results dozens of constituencies in Sharif-dominated Punjab province.
It was said that the Pakistan Army wanted to make sure that Imran Khan was seen as winning the election, allegedly rigged by a master to install its puppet in power. Imran Khan’s party still fell short of the majority mark in the national assembly.
The puppet-master charge against Imran Khan has come back to haunt both the Pakistan’s prime minister and its army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The fresh round of trouble began with the Narendra Modi government of India deciding to revoke Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir in the first week of August this year. This signalled a strict crackdown on separatist forces in Kashmir Valley. Pakistan Army has long found willing partners among the separatists to further its thousands cut policy in Kashmir Valley.
Bajwa is seen as a Kashmir expert from Pakistan’s point of view. He was due to retire in less than four months since the Modi government’s move on Article 370 and within two months of the implementation of the decision. A new chief of army staff in Pakistan might have found it more difficult in furthering the thousands cut policy in Kashmir Valley.
A COMEDY OF ERRORS ::
Pakistan Army chief Bajwa is believed to have pressurised Imran Khan to give him another term by means of extension. Two weeks after the Article 370 move by the Modi government, Imran Khan as prime minister issued a notification granting an extension of three years to General Bajwa. The matter seemed to have settled.
But it was pointed out that as the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan did not have the authority to grant extension to the army chief. This could only be done by the President of Pakistan.
Another notification was issued by which President of Pakistan Arif Alvi granting extension of three years to General Bajwa as the army chief.
There was still some procedural lapse. The President cannot grant an extension without the approval of the cabinet. The Imran Khan cabinet had not discussed and approved the proposal for extension of the term of General Bajwa as Pakistan Army chief.
Finally, a fresh notification was issued. Meanwhile, a serial petitioner Riaz Rahi, a lawyer, moved the Supreme Court of Pakistan challenging extension granted to General Bajwa.
ARM-Y TWISTING ::
The case took a curious turn when the Supreme Court sought to know from the Imran Khan government under which law it granted an extension of three years to General Bajwa.
It turned out that Article 243 of Pakistan’s constitution under which extension was granted to General Bajwa does not provide for the extension of term to Pakistan Army chief. It provides for the only appointment of the chief of army staff in Pakistan.
There is no law in Pakistan that authorises the government to grant extension to army chief. Yet only General Raheel Sharif demitted office without an extension or better say, overstay in the office of the chief of army staff in Pakistan in the last 20 years.
But that has never prevented a powerful army chief from overstaying in office in Pakistan, which has also seen some of them taking over the civilian government. In 70 years of its existence, Pakistan has been ruled directly by military bosses for more than 30 years.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan, however, approved extension granted to General Bajwa only hours before he was scheduled to retire at November 28 midnight but with a rider.
The extension was granted for six months during which the Imran Khan government has to bring a law duly passed by the national assembly giving the government power to grant extension to army chiefs.
There is a saying about Pakistan that it is not a country with an army, here is an army that has a country. Rattled by the Modi government’s Article 370 move, Imran Khan proved the theorem right by bending over backwards to serve the real boss, General Bajwa.