Bajwa gives up on protégé Khan

Pakistan’s fate has inevitably come to rest with the Pakistan Army, more so in the hands of General Qamar Javed Bajwa who, in 2014 as the X Corps Commander, was instrumental in securing Islamabad for Imran Khan. In fact, Bajwa has already `secured` Islamabad, ostensibly for the forthcoming OIC Council of Foreign Ministers meeting (March 22-23), with his Brigade 111, the specialized unit earmarked for the protection of the residences of the President and Prime Minister besides key installations. Similar security will continue in the capital for the March 23rd Pakistan Day parade. The no-trust motion vote is scheduled for March 25.

The role of 111 Brigade

The 111 Brigade is key to the security of Islamabad and ambitious Generals like Pervez Musharraf has used the Brigade in ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Brigade is currently led by Brigadier Mehr Omar Khan, an alumnus of the US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. His immediate boss, Rawalpindi-based X Corps Commander this time around is Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza who also happens to be the senior-most commander among others vying for the post of Army chief if General Bajwa were to retire in November this year. General Mirza is known for an exemplary life—from struggles as a young orphan to a deeply committed officer in the army. Mirza is not given to hyperbole and known to uphold the military establishment. In other words, he will not let anyone disturb the equilibrium in favour of the army. He was reportedly among the four senior Generals, including Bajwa, who requested Imran Khan to put in his papers after the OIC meeting.

A delicate situation

If Imran Khan puts in his papers, which seems doubtful unless the Supreme Court also shuts the door on him, then the catastrophic situation brewing in Islamabad on the voting day could peter out. If Imran Khan decides to “fight it out” like the “last batsman”, then the situation in Islamabad could turn ugly, forcing Bajwa to stomp hard on his protege. Ironically, it was Imran Khan in the opposition who had threatened to lay a siege to Islamabad in 2014, attacking the Parliament and clashing with police on the Constitution Avenue. Bajwa, then a Lt. General heading the Rawalpindi Corps, was part of the army’s backing of Khan as the next Prime Minister.

General Raheel Sharif was the Chief of Army Staff then. The army, by and large, looked the other way and allowed the cricketing hero a shot at premiership. The retired General, who met Imran Khan in 2019 as part of an official delegation, reportedly tried to intervene on Khan’s behalf but could not succeed. All the escape routes are closing as the voting date comes closer for Imran Khan.