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Imran Khan's relations with mentor Gen Qamar Bajwa enter trouble zone

Gen Bajwa, the all-powerful Pak army chief, has been unhappy with overall performance of Khan-led govt.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 19, 2019, 05.08 PM IST
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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's relationship with army chief and his mentor of sorts Gen Qamar Bajwa has developed strains over issues concerning functioning of the government.

Gen Bajwa, the all-powerful army chief, has been unhappy with the overall performance of the Khan-led government, including handling of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), persons familiar with Pakistan politics and civil-military ties told ET.

The army is of the opinion that it did not face FATF sanctions when Gen (retired) Pervez Musharraf was president, though a number of terrorist groups operated openly, one of the persons cited earlier said. He added that the army also feels that earlier there was less global criticism of people’s disappearances and treatment of religious minorities.

Amid the uneasiness between the two, Bajwa is said to have put his weight behind the recent cabinet reshuffle, which is being seen as an attempt to shift power away from Khan towards nominees of the military.

The new Interior Minister, Brigadier Ijaz Shah, allegedly appointed at the behest of the army chief, was director of the Intelligence Bureau under Musharraf. Shah is alleged to have run terrorist operations in Jammu & Kashmir when he served in the Inter-Services Intelligence.

When Musharraf tried to nominate Ijaz Shah as High Commissioner to Australia, the Australian government had withheld the ambassadorial appointment. Shah was also accused of playing a key role in harbouring Osama bin Laden and was named by Benazir Bhutto as someone plotting to kill her.

Another controversial appointment is that of Nadeem Babar, who is not a member of parliament, one of 16 such persons in Khan’s 47-member cabinet.

Insiders say that Khan now wants to send a signal to the outside world that he is not the military’s puppet and should not be treated as one. ET has learnt that Khan has started snubbing Gen Bajwa in one form or the other, which is likely to worsen civilian government-military relations in the coming days.

When Khan went to inaugurate the Mohmand dam on May 2, the army chief requested him to accompany him on his military plane to Mohmand agency Imran apparently refused on the grounds that since he had multiple programmes, he would prefer to fly separately.

After the ceremony, Bajwa again requested Khan to accompany him on his plane to Peshawar to discuss important issues, but Imran again avoided it saying he had other engagements.

Recently, Bajwa also requested Imran Khan to offer some conciliatory gestures to the political opposition. However, PM Imran Khan criticized the opposition and refused to announce any conciliatory gestures to the opposition, drawing ire of Bajwa, insiders point out.

According to insiders, Bajwa, who is set to retire in November, wants an extension and he has sought the help of the US to put pressure on Khan for it. However, another rumour doing the rounds is that Bajwa is undecided about seeking an extension.

Bajwa is also thinking of going to Saudi Arabia to lead the Islamic Army command, following in the footsteps of Gen Raheel Sharif, a former Pakistan army chief, ET has learnt. The Saudi assignment is financially lucrative and might be a better way to transition out of the army’s command.

At the last Pak Army Corps Commanders meeting, the commanders asked Bajwa to make sure that the current set up (civil-military) is in working order before he retires, ET has learnt.

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