Pakistan Reader# 555, 13 February 2023
On 11 February, Imran Khan in an interview with the Voice of America English accused General Qamar Javed Bajwa and not the United States for his removal from power in April 2022. He said, “Whatever happened, now as things unfold, it wasn’t the US who told Pakistan [to oust me]. It was unfortunately, from what evidence has come up, [former army chief] Gen [Qamar Javed] Bajwa who somehow managed to tell the Americans that I was anti-American. And so, it [the plan to oust me] wasn’t imported from there. It was exported from here to there.” He also labelled Gen Bajwa as the ‘super king’ whose three-and-a-half-year stint in the Prime Minister’s Office was more like a puppet.
Further, Imran Khan criticised Gen Bajwa for the “political and economic ills” that Pakistan is currently facing. He also claimed that Gen Bajwa used him as a “punching bag” saying, “Gen Bajwa used to get the credit for good decisions and Imran Khan used to serve as a punching bag for every wrong decision.”
In a separate interview with Voice of America Urdu, Imran Khan called for an internal military inquiry against General Qamar Javed Bajwa over his alleged “admission” about being involved in the PTI government’s removal from power. He said, “The PML-N, PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) and the establishment are all standing on one side...they all together removed our government and Gen Bajwa has admitted to the regime change since he has given his statement to a journalist about for what reasons the government was removed.” In response to Gen Bajwa’s remarks published in a column where he said, “these people (the PTI) were dangerous for the country,” Imran Khan said, “The whole nation [already] thought that the government was ousted because of Gen Bajwa, but he himself admitted it, so now he lifted the veil from the people’s suspicion and it became clear for them that the army chief removed the government,” adding, “Now he has himself said that he ousted the government because, according to whatever he said, there was a danger to the country.”
Additionally, on the military’s involvement in politics he said, “There should be an internal army inquiry against him for the statements that he proudly and arrogantly gave that ‘I made the decision because the country’s conditions were such’, as if he was some economic expert.”
Hurling accusations: Imran and Bajwa’s recent accusations against each other
In recent months, Imran Khan and Gen Bajwa have hurled several accusations at each other. It began with Imran Khan alleging that Gen Bajwa had planned to have him murdered and impose a state of emergency in the country. He also accused Gen Bajwa of stabbed him in the back and that his “set-up” was still active in the establishment supposedly to stop the him from coming back to power. He also claimed that Gen Bajwa along with the ‘foreign hands’ pushed the country into political and economic crises. Conversely, Gen Bajwa leaked some information against Imran Khan claiming that he managed some Supreme Court verdicts in support of Imran Khan in the past and that he has saved Imran Khan from disqualification in 2017.
The good times
Gen Bajwa got an extension by Imran Khan at the end of 2019 which means that both were on the same page at that time. Later in 2021, then Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry claimed that for the first time in Pakistan’s history civil-military relations had improved during the tenure of the PTI government. Imran Khan also claimed that during the tenure of his party’s rule, the government and military have the “most harmonious relationship” while noting that in the past, civilian and military leaderships have had a “chequered relationship.” He said, “the military stands" with the incumbent government and that they have "an excellent relationship,” adding, “I honestly think it's the most harmonious relationship, we have complete coordination, we work together, the military completely stands with all the government's democratic policies.” Similarly, the military leadership had stated, “The army is supporting a democratically elected government as per the Constitution and there will be no let-up in this as that’s must for progress and prosperity of Pakistan.”
The bad times
However, the cordial relationship was short-lived and to an extent cosmetic because the cracks began to widen and emerge to the public eye. The first crack in the relationship began with the appointment for the DG ISI. First, Imran Khan was trying to assert civilian supremacy. During the incident, Imran Khan was seen trying to assert civilian supremacy. Although this may not be realistic given the way things work in Pakistan, Imran Khan tried to stretch his authority.
Another emerged with the differences over foreign relations with the United States. While Imran Khan took on an offensive stance against the US, Gen Bajwa sought to deepening ties with the country. This difference manifested itself in many ways, one being Imran Khan accusing Gen Bajwa of conspiring with ‘foreign hands’ in his removal from power.
The final crack in the relation was the allegation involvement of Gen Bajwa in the passing of the no-confidence motion against Imran Khan. According to reports, Imran Khan reached out to Gen Bajwa when the motion was tabled in the parliament, however, the latter is said to have colluded with the PDM alliance and facilitated the no-confidence motion. For Imran Khan, this was a direct stab in the back.
The love-hate relationship shared between Imran Khan and Gen Bajwa is likely to continue. However, the hurling of accusations and blame is insignificant to the larger political development, as Gen Bajwa has chosen to take the high road by being quieter on the past he has shared with Imran Khan and his tenue at larger. Conversely, Imran Khan has chosen to hurl accusation and pick flights when he has larger challenges to address.
Mansoor Malik, “‘Super king’ Bajwa, not US, behind ouster: Imran,” Dawn, 13 January 2023
“Pakistan ‘is not going bankrupt’: CJP,” The Express Tribune, 11 February 2023)
“Bajwa ‘wanted me dead’, alleges Imran,” Dawn, 5 January 2023
Mansoor Malik, “Ignoring ally, Imran continues castigating ex-army chief Bajwa,” Dawn, 20 December 2022
“Same Page Story: Civil-Military Relations in 2021,” Pakistan Reader, 6 January 2022