CONTROVERSY continues to drag the former army chief, retired Gen Qamar Bajwa, back into the headlines, this time due to conflicting statements made over the weekend by Imran Khan and his PML-Q ally, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

During a televised address to his supporters on Saturday night, Mr Khan had unloaded his anger on the former army chief, blaming him wholesale for the PTI’s unceremonious ouster in April and for his ‘corrupt’ opponents getting ‘NRO-2’.

A day later, the CM launched into an impassioned defence of Gen Bajwa during a TV interview, describing him as both his and the PTI’s greatest mohsin (benefactor). There was such conviction in his indignation that he roundly admonished the PTI chief for keeping him by his side as the latter tainted the former general’s legacy. Mr Elahi also reproached the PTI chief for ‘forgetting’ all the ‘services’ rendered to his party by the retired army chief, including ushering it into power.

Chaudhry Parvez Elahi felt no abashment as he described his ‘relationship’ with the armed forces as “long-lasting and never broken under any circumstances”. Nor did he pay any mind to optics as he recounted that Gen Bajwa had met the Saudi king and crown prince for assistance, visited Qatar for investments in Pakistan, and apparently even coordinated with the IMF to ‘support’ Mr Khan’s government. Apparently, he does not care that the former chief overstepped his constitutional bounds in each of these instances.

His defence of Gen Bajwa also brought back into the limelight a poorly kept secret — that the PTI’s rise was orchestrated by the establishment, which had been quite keen to dislodge Nawaz Sharif from the political mainstream. Their ‘partnership’ was not to last, and the same establishment eventually turned on Mr Khan when it realised the experiment was not working like it was hoped to despite its best efforts.

While Mr Khan’s renewed criticism of the former army chief is to be expected as he rebuilds his political narrative, it is Parvez Elahi’s fawning admiration of Gen Bajwa that threatens to snatch away the thin veneer of ‘neutrality’ the latter tried to cover his institution with on his way out.

It may be recalled that just a day before Mr Khan’s Saturday address, the CM had rushed off for a furtive meeting with an “important personality” in Rawalpindi. He has since stated that he “explained the pros and cons of dissolving the KP and Punjab assemblies” to the establishment in that meeting.

Did he do so out of compulsion due to his “long-lasting” and “unbroken” service as the establishment’s acolyte, or was he summoned by power brokers restless to get back in the game?

The dust has barely settled on Gen Bajwa’s tenure, and the temptations already seem to have returned. How long will the new regime be able to resist them?

December 20, 2022

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1727305/ghosts-of-the-past

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