Revisiting APC’s outcome after MPs-COAS meeting revelation
The belated revelation that parliamentary leaders of important political parties had met Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa a few days before the September 20 all-party conference has made fresh analysis of the speeches delivered and decisions taken at the moot necessary.
Such an exercise becomes important because whatever speeches had been made or decisions reached were supposed to have been tailored bearing in mind the thinking of the country’s most powerful person and the likely consequences of ignoring this important factor.
Though the COAS had invited political leaders to share his views on the upcoming Gilgit-Baltistan elections, he knew well that other subjects would also come under discussion – and they did come.
It may be assumed without any fear of contradiction that after his meeting with the COAS, Mian Shehbaz Sharif had properly briefed his elder brother Nawaz Sharif. He must have apprised him of the likely purpose of and the environment in which the meeting took place, the body language of the army chief and his subsequent expectations.
Likewise, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari must have shared all details of the meeting with his ailing father – former president Asif Zardari.
MNA Asad Mehmud must have briefed his father Fazlur Rehman about the minutest details of the huddle along with his own assessment of the exercise.
It can also be assumed that all those who addressed Sunday’s conference had prepared their speeches very carefully, keeping all relevant factors in mind.
Now compare the army chief’s views expressed a few days before the conference and the participants’ utterances at the event. It becomes crystal clear that Gen Bajwa’s views were given little importance by political leaders – which is an unfortunate development. This conduct in a country where leaders feel proud of even a handshake with the army chief or his subordinates is unimaginable.
Gen Bajwa, according to media reports, had told the opposition leaders not to drag the army into politics.
But the three-time former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had set the conference’s tone by his fiery address, said in categorical terms that opposition’s struggle was not against the prime minister but against “those who had imposed such an incapable person” upon the nation through a manipulated process”.
This clearly means that the PML-N supreme court, staying in London since November last year, is not ready to trust the army chief and is determined to take on his institution. His speech was nothing short of a war declaration against the army.
Mr Sharif considers the PTI government and the army one and the same thing and has assured other opposition parties of his party’s fullest support to any plan/strategy they work out to oust the present setup.
Mr Sharif questioned the credibility of the existing electoral system, saying: “When it is decided before the election process as to who will win and who will lose, it can be guessed how the public is betrayed and how the public mandate is stolen”.
A man who contested – and won - so many elections in life better knows what happens behind the scenes.
This thinking, despite the army chief’s assurance before the conference, would further widen the huge trust deficit between the two sides.
Former president Zardari’s assertion that the opposition parties would restore what he called democratic system in the country is sufficient to establish that they don’t consider democratic the system of which they are part.
In his speech at the conference Maulana Fazlur Rehman reiterated that the present assemblies are the product of rigged elections and have no representative status. The utterance shows that the army chief’s reported dialogue with the JUI chief’s son Asad Mehmud has neither been countered nor given due weightage.
The COAS had questioned JUI chief’s son as to how these assemblies were representative when his father was contesting the presidential election on the basis of these parliamentarians’ votes.
Also, the declaration he read out at the end of the conference called for an end to establishment’s interference in politics. Since it was a collective demand by all participants, it manifests that Gen Bajwa’s stress that the army should not be dragged into politics was ignored by the attendees.
The APC participants have also prepared a schedule for protests and rallies, ignoring the warning that nobody would be allowed to create chaos.
In such a situation when the opposition is out for the kill and the army is supporting the PTI government, it is hard to predict what turn the circumstances will take in the times ahead.