Is A Power Struggle Unfolding In Pakistan?
In Islamabad, rumors have a life of their own. They travel faster than light and sometimes do have some tinge of truth attached to them. Other times they are not the true representation of what is happening behind closed doors, rather just like ancient myths they deserve to be interpreted at the psychological or sociological level in order get to the truth. This sometimes leads you to the murky world of somebody’s mind, who is engaged in a power struggle—his desires, his wishes and his efforts to influence the political outcomes. Rumors in Islamabad could be a misconstrued or mis-perceived version of real situation. You only have to spend almost 30 years in public life in this city to understand what the rumors about kidnapping, disappearance and conflict behind closed doors really signify. These stories coming out of power corridors don’t have to be reported in the newspapers as they apparently don’t make sense. But after reading, listening to and absorbing these rumors for the past six months one is compelled to conclude that a deep power struggle is unfolding in Pakistan’s power corridors.
Look around and you will find that almost all opposition groups have grievances against the military establishment. Rumors mill in Islamabad goes into overdrive only after legitimate reports don’t get published in esteemed newspapers. When officials of the state machinery intrude into the newsrooms and try to influence what is published and how it is published, rumors and word of the mouth are the only mechanism through which happenings inside powers corridors—or misconstrued or misperceived version of them— are reported and transmitted in the political and media circles of Islamabad.
Ahmad Noorani’s report about Asim Bajwa’s assets has wider implication for our system. Even if tomorrow it is proved that General ® Asim Bajwa was not involved in any financial corruption, it would still leave many questions unanswered.
In his interview with Shahzeb Khanzada on Geo News, Asim Bajwa talked about investment, foreign investment, shares, property management, business, high salaries, funds management. He talked about everything that a businessman talks about. He did not sound like an army general, not even like a retired one. He was looking like a businessman, whose real personalities as a businessman were suppressed by his uniform or were kept secret while he was wearing his uniform. In other words, he was a businessman in secret who was about to force himself out of this closet the moment he retires from the army.
Financial corruption is relatively a smaller thing. General Bajwa has now come to represent—after the publication of the Noorani Report—as someone who is a complete negation of what military wanted Pakistani masses to believe about itself. In the four years between August 2014 and July 2018, Imran Khan harped on the narrative that converted any exercise of money-making into a crime or a political sin. Much of Imran Khan’s narrative was based on the axiom that Nawaz Sharif’s rise in political power and his financial empire coincided in time. He made the money making itself into a political sin. Now General (r) Bajwa—even if he is not involved in financial corruption—stands exposed before Imran Khan’s core constituency as a man excessively engaged in money making exercises while remaining on one of the top security related jobs in the country.
I hope and pray that all the rumors doing the rounds in Islamabad are just rumors and the power struggle will remain restricted to realm of secrecy and will not come out in the open. The last thing Pakistan could afford is a power struggle that could potentially ruin the political systems. I want to say a silent prayer for my country.
Fears, though, have penetrated deep into my heart—Pakistani power and political structures appear just like a crumbling building–someone standing under its roof will feel the unstable walls and falling debris on his face and body. As anybody standing under the roof of crumbling building will testify this feels to be like a terrifying moment. Falling debris and weakened walls will collapse any moment. Helplessness is another feeling that will be experienced by an ordinary resident standing under the roof, especially when caretakers of the building could be seen applying expensive distemper on the outer walls of the building for a face make up, instead of doing something to prevent the process of decay which is leading towards collapse of the building.
Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.