While Pakistan’s Army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa may have mollified the police in Sind province by ordering an inquiry into the factors which led several senior police officers to jointly apply for leave (they have now deferred their applications for 10 days), the tensions in the country provoked by a joint Opposition campaign to oust Prime Minister Imran Khan and curtail the role of the Army in governance have not gone away.
The provocation for the police action was the reported kidnapping by Army Rangers of an Inspector-General of Police, who was then coerced into signing orders for the arrest of Captain Mohammad Safdar, the son-in-law of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Following the arrest, the IG, two additional inspectors general, seven deputy inspectors general and six senior superintendents of Sind police applied for leave on identical grounds.
All of them said that the manner the police high command had been “ridiculed and manhandled” had caused all ranks of Sind Police to feel “demoralized and shocked”. Stating that in such a “stressful situation” it was difficult to discharge their duties responsibly, the officers sought 60 days earned leave, effectively threatening to paralyse policing in the important province.
While it is normal for the Army in Pakistan to be heavy-handed, the police reaction was quite unexpected and appears to have sent the Establishment into a tizzy, forcing the Army chief to order a rare inquiry into the conduct of his officers.
While two well-attended rallies of the Opposition ~ in Gujranwala and Karachi ~ have rattled the government, a third is planned on Sunday and may prove to be even more challenging, coming as it does in the wake of the shocking developments in Sind. For the focus is increasingly turning on officers of Pakistan’s armed forces, with its top leadership being publicly named by Opposition parties for having propped up Mr. Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf party.
The country’s two main political parties ~ the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) ~ consider Mr. Khan’s outfit an interloper and believe that it has joined hands with the Army to snuff out democracy in the country under the guise of targeting corruption. While Pakistan’s political class is with good reason accused of large-scale corruption, and the leaders of the PPP and the PML (N) are prime examples of the venality in public life, the Army and its officers are no saints.
Just last month, Lieutenant-General (retired) Asim Saleem Bajwa, a key aide of the Prime Minister and Chairman of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor was exposed as owning a multi-million-dollar business empire in the United States, including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants. His family was said to have spent $52 million on their business and nearly $15 million on buying properties. When the scandal broke, Bajwa offered to resign from his position in the Prime Minister’s office (but not from the CPEC), but this was spurned by Mr. Khan. Pakistan’s quest for good governance is unlikely to end soon; for now, its citizens can only hope the all-powerful military will be reined in.