Seldom in the history of Pakistan has such barbarism been witnessed as is being inflicted on journalists and politicians today. Who is behind this descent into fascism? Outwardly, it appears the bunch of criminals, murderers, rapists and money-launderers that have been imposed on the people are responsible. There is little doubt that they are capable of such despicable conduct and worse but they know that a day might arrive when they would have to face the consequences of their actions.
The real criminals behind these barbaric acts are the men in khaki, especially the army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and a coterie of generals around them. Sources close to the army have said that they want to make an example of Dr Shehbaz Gill to teach him a lesson and send a message to others—politicians and journalists—not to cross the army’s ‘red lines’, meaning not to criticize the army in any way. It is to show who is the real boss.
Let us consider what has happened. Dr Shehbaz Gill, an academic, who was chief of staff of the ousted prime minister Imran Khan, appeared in a TV talk show via telephone on August 9. He said that the imposed regime is trying to create differences between Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI)—Imran Khan’s party—and the army. He further said that army officers should not obey illegal orders issued by the high command.
All hell broke loose. The TV station—ARY News, the most popular TV channel in the country—was taken off air. Its license was cancelled. Then intelligence agents raided the homes of the TV producers and others and dragged them to prison. Shehbaz Gill was kidnapped from outside Imran Khan’s private residence in Bani Gala. For days, he was mercilessly tortured, stripped naked and beaten up. He was even subjected to sexual abuse.
The wife of his driver was also dragged from her house in the middle of the night while her 10-month-old baby girl was left screaming and traumatized. Why was all this necessary? The intelligence agencies were looking for Shehbaz Gill’s cell phone trying to obtain information from it even though the victim had said that he did not use his cell phone for the TV interview.
The reason was simple. Being the 10th of Muharram, all mobile networks were shut down in Pakistan to avoid any untoward incidents. Shehbaz Gill had used the land phone line from his house. They knew it yet the army goons used this as a pretext to keep the victim in police custody to inflict further torture upon him.
Shehbaz Gill has been tortured and sexually abused to send a message to Imran Khan that he would face similar consequences if he continues to challenge the army’s authority. Gill’s medical reports have been forged and for days nobody was allowed to visit him in hospital. Barbed wire surrounded entrance to the hospital that looked more like a prison camp.
Only after a great deal of effort by Gill’s lawyers, were two of them allowed to visit him. Murad Saeed, a senior PTI member, was also allowed to visit Gill and reported that what was reported about the victim did not come close to what he had suffered. Gill’s condition was much worse than described in reports so far.
On August 21, an attempt was made to arrest Imran Khan from his residence. Thousands of people immediately came out to surround his house and block the police from arresting him. Why do they want to arrest him? He has been charged under the terrorism act because a day earlier he had announced that his party would go after the police officers and a judge who acted against the law. It was branded as indulging in terrorism. It is not. There is a Supreme Court ruling on this matter. The real reason is the army wants to disqualify Imran Khan from contesting the elections because they fear his party will sweep the polls. The army does not care for the people’s will.
Even the courts have been pressured into doing the army’s bidding. Bajwa and company are pushing Pakistan towards civil war, because they want to hold on to their illegal usurpation of power and authority.
What Dr Shehbaz Gill had said about officers not obeying illegal orders was according to the ruling of the Supreme Court. In a landmarking ruling in Air Marshal (retired) Asghar Khan’s case against former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan, General (ret’d) Aslam Beg and Lt Gen (ret’d) Asad Durrani in manipulating the political process in 1990 to prevent Benazir Bhutto from coming to power, the Supreme Court had ruled in October 2012 that these officials had acted illegally. That the constitution required them to uphold the law. Any officer violating it was guilty of violating his oath. The court further ruled that senior officers were prohibited from issuing illegal orders and, junior officers were prohibited from following them.
That is precisely what Dr Shehbaz Gill had said. It was according to the ruling of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Yet the army top brass is acting as gangsters and torturing Shehbaz Gill for calling upon the officers not to obey illegal orders. Bajwa and his cohorts think they are above the law; that they can do what they like and nobody can or should question them.
The Pakistan army is the biggest usurper of state resources. They consume more than 70% of the state budget. Additional countless billions are consumed without providing any account. They control vast real estate holdings. They own industries—Fauji Fertilizer, Fauji Cement, Fauji Flour and Sugar Mills, Fauji this and Fauji that—for their private use and profit but are answerable to nobody. They are an empire unto themselves.
Their performance on the battlefield has been dismal. They played no part in the creation of Pakistan but came to assume enormous power and authority after the country was created treating it as a personal fiefdom. They have even created private terrorist groups as bogeymen to earn bakhsheesh from their American masters. Attacking and killing Pakistani civilians in the tribal areas—whether in Orakzai Agency or North and South Waziristan—at the behest of their foreign masters, is another of their favourite pastimes.
Such an army is a threat to Pakistan’s survival. Should India invade Pakistan, it is certain that Bajwa and his cohorts will flee the country leaving it totally defenceless. Before that happens, the people should rise up and get rid of these traitors and criminals. The people of Pakistan have a choice: do they want to protect and preserve their country or the generals whose big-bellies can never be filled?