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Army action on Sindh IG abduction demolishes PM’s ‘same page’ rhetoric

By Ashraf Mumtaz

November 11, 2020 05:40 PM

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It is, or perhaps should be, a matter of great embarrassment for Prime Minister Imran Khan that in the abduction of the Sindh police chief a few weeks ago - which the cricketer-turned-politician in an interview had trivialized as a ‘comedy’- the army chief removed some officers of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, from their current assignments after finding them acting “overzealously”.

This shows the gap between the approaches of the country’s chief executive and the boss of the defenders of Pakistan, although the former incessantly claims the two are on the same page. 

The inquiry took less than three weeks to complete after COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa vowed to look into the matter following complaints from the opposition parties and police officers’ en masse request for long leave in protest against the alleged kidnapping of the Sindh police chief.

“They [ISI and Rangers officers] were indeed experienced enough to have acted more prudently and could have avoided creating an unwarranted situation that led to misunderstanding between the two state institutions. Based on the recommendations of the Court of Inquiry, it has been decided to remove the concerned officers from their current assignments for further departmental proceedings and disposal at GHQ,” said an ISPR statement on Tuesday.

It explained: “The Court of Inquiry has established that on night 18/19 Oct officers from Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) and ISI sector Headquarters Karachi were considerably seized with the fallout of desecration of Mazar-i-Quaid. They were under increasing public pressure to ensure prompt action as per the law. Assessing the response of police authorities against this developing yet volatile situation to be slow and wanting, in a charged environment, the concerned ISI/Rangers officers decided to act, rather overzealously.”

Superfluous to point out that the kidnapping of the provincial chief was unprecedented and it provided the people an opportunity to ridicule the system. The incident remained a subject of discussions for many days till other developments overshadowed it.

The action against the ‘kidnappers’ in this ‘comedy’ makes it incumbent upon the prime minister to think as to who is calling the shots. 

The reactions given by various political leaders over the punitive action are also reflective of differences in their ranks. 

Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, whose PPP has been ruling Sindh for the past 12 years, praised the army action. 

“This step will fortify the prestige of institutions,” he said while addressing a rally in Nagar area of Gilgit-Baltistan. 

He expressed the hope that this process would continue for the sake of democracy. 

However, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif rejected the inquiry report as a “cover-up”. 

In a tweet, the supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said: “Inquiry report on Karachi incident is a cover-up scapegoating juniors & shielding the real culprits. Report ‘Rejected’.” 

It is height of shamelessness that this reaction has come from a leader who has been declared absconder by courts and who is not appearing before them despite being summoned.

His abscondence is bringing a bad name to the country he ruled in various capacities for more than three decades. Media reports that the government is using all available options to bring him back and Mr Sharif’s reluctance to stand by his supporters during these difficult times – to quote the PML-N leaders-  is quite disappointing. 

Perhaps he will not return to Pakistan as long as Gen Bajwa is COAS or Gen Faiz Hameed is ISI chief.

His stand against the army chief and the ISI director general has landed the PML-N in a difficult situation. 

National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on Tuesday had to cancel the parliamentary leaders’ meeting convened for Wednesday for “a briefing by military officials on the current issues of national security” after the opposition parties decided to stay away from it.

The decision to cancel the meeting was announced officially by the National Assembly Secretariat through a tweet without mentioning any reason. 

Information secretary of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Mian Iftikhar Hussain, through a statement, made the announcement regarding their decision to boycott the meeting under the speaker, accusing him of being biased and “suppressing the opposition’s voice in the National Assembly”.

“The constituent parties of the PDM will not attend the parliamentary leaders’ meeting that has been convened on Nov 11. The decision has been made by PDM president Maulana Fazlur Rehman after consultation with all the component parties of the alliance,” said Mr Hussain. 

“The government has failed to resolve the people’s problems and control price hike. The government, which has failed at every front, has become a real threat to the national security itself,” the PDM leader stated. 

Mr Hussain alleged that the speaker had also failed to run the assembly according to rules and parliamentary traditions. He said there was a “ban” on raising public issues in parliament and “the state affairs are being run in violation of the Constitution”. 

“Under these circumstances, no meaningful talks can be held,” Mr Hussain added. 

Whatever justification offered for boycotting the meeting, the reality is that the briefing was to be given by COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, the duo targeted by the absconding PML-N supremo.

He alleges that the two were responsible for his ouster as prime minister and induction of Imran Khan to the top position. 

After Mr Sharif’s harsh criticism of the two, it was not possible for his party men to face them in the meeting. And it was difficult for other PDM constituents to take a different decision, isolating the PML-N. 

AJK President Masood Khan and Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider and GB Governor Raja Jalal Maqpoon and caretaker chief minister Mir Afzal had also been invited to the briefing. 

Will the opposition parties always boycott this committee meeting till Gen Bajwa and Gen Faiz Hameed hold the office?

Ashraf Mumtaz

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