In the country of coups – another coup d’état seems to be brewing. An impromptu reshuffle has been made by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and it could be a signal to the chief of army staff, Qamar Javed Bajwa to begin behaving himself. General Bajwa and Imran Khan do not get along very well. This is hardly a secret. Both sides seem to be playing a game of chess, and Imran Khan’s very life seems to have come under threat. Yes, while Imran Khan thinks he’s the one playing Bajwa, it is him who is getting savagely played! The one thing we know about Pakistan is this – one may appoint an army chief and think he owns the man, but nothing is stopping the army chief from hanging the prime minister, much like how Zia-ul-Haq hung Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, despite Bhutto making him the army chief after suspending seven of his seniors.
In a surprise military shake-up, the Pakistan Army on Wednesday announced that ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed has been appointed as Peshawar Corps Commander. Lt General Nadeem Anjum was appointed as the new Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in place of Lt General Hameed. In Pakistan, an officer has to serve at least six months as the Corps Commander to be eligible to become Army chief.
Pakistani Army Dangling the Carrot Before Imran Khan?
Former ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed, who has been appointed as Peshawar Corps Commander and will now play a big role in dealing with the Taliban, while also waging a campaign against the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), in hindsight, seems poised to become the next army chief. General Bajwa was appointed as Army chief in November 2016 for three years, and got an extension for another three years, from November 2019 till November 2022, by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Now, Lt General Faiz Hameed is considered close to Imran Khan, and him being transferred as Peshawar Corps Commander might in hindsight seem like the beginning of his grooming for the top job in Pakistan.
However, the Pakistani military establishment is up to something here. General Qamar Javed Bajwa has just got the ISI rid of an Imran Khan-confidante. Lt General Faiz Hameed was a strongman within the ISI, and with him in charge, Imran Khan got to make sovereign decisions which mostly annoyed General Bajwa. With Hameed out of the ISI and sent off to look after Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan, Bajwa has just wrested control over the ISI from Imran Khan, and this is a significant step.
All of this is happening while Imran Khan still thinks that his favourite man in the Pakistan Army is being readied to be appointed the chief of army staff next year. However, Imran Khan is in for a big surprise.
Imran Khan Losing the Plot
If Imran Khan thinks he has any friends in the Pakistani army, he is living in a colourful Lalaland. The fact is, the Pakistani army will leave Imran Khan hanging out to dry once they conclude that the man has served their purpose, or that he is unable to deliver to the best interests of the military establishment. Pakistan’s army was hoping to win back the trust of the United States once Joe Biden assumed the Presidency. However, Biden has not even called Imran Khan yet, in what is a massive snub for Islamabad.
Furthermore, the Taliban has become a Frankenstein monster for Pakistan, because looking at its success, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been emboldened to a degree that is scaring the powers that be in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Although for at least half of Pakistan’s existence, it has been ruled by the Army, and now too, the government is just the de jure head, but the de facto rulers continue to be the Pakistani Army. And so, when the Pakistani Army decides that Imran Khan is more of a bane than boon, they will do away with him without the slightest of charity in their hearts.
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Recently, a Taliban commander and member of the Taliban’s social media, General Mobeen Khan reprimanded Imran Khan and advised him to stay away from internal matters of Afghanistan. He also called Imran Khan a puppet and raised questions about the legitimacy of his prime ministerial post. Pakistan supported the Taliban, as it had hoped that Afghanistan would eventually get under the indirect control of Imran Khan. But, as soon as the latter came to power, they started to run on their agenda. They released more than 4,000 terrorists, most of who belong to the Tehrik-i-Taliban, with an agenda to establish a separate Pashtun nation. Furthermore, they do not accept the Durand Line between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a valid boundary. Instead, they want to take over Pashtun-dominated areas of Pakistan like Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
All of this is happening because Imran Khan essentially botched up Pakistan’s handling of the Taliban. Now, Qamar Javed Bajwa is looking to get back at him, and it would not be surprising if the 111th infantry brigade, also called the ‘Coup Brigade’ of Pakistan is seen marching on the roads of Islamabad during Bajwa’s tenure as chief of army staff comes to an end next year.