Nawaz vs Generals: Is Pakistan Growing Tired of 'Puppet' Leaders?

Generals living in their bubbles should wake up to Pakistan’s new reality and its growing ire against the Army.

5 min read

On Sunday, a random but typical, youthia, retired Major General of the Pakistan Army decided to opine about Nawaz Sharif and his family on Twitter, and for good measure included the Zardari clan, too. Unlike the other general whom everyone in Pakistan and India knows as “Ghafoora” because of his Twitter exploits and infamous slanging matches, this gent was hitherto unknown with around 8,000 followers then. But somehow, his tweet got noticed, and Pakistani Twitterverse exploded.

He had said on Twitter:

“MNS [Muhammad Nawaz Sharif] & family are a bunch of looters and traitors. They must be given exemplary (sic) punishments. Looted wealth of poor people of Pakistan must be returned. Same holds true for AAZ [Asif Ali Zardari] & family. Public must not sell their Iman for few bucks. Must not vote for them to save future generations.”

People Are Very, Very Angry

To his shock, he would have discovered that gone were the days when retired or serving generals could say such things without fear of popular response. What happened was less a response and more a backlash. The clarity people had and the range of responses covered everything that should be said to such a person. But it was the anger that was so palpable in every response – and there were several hundred responses. I read almost each and every one of those and was struck by the amount of fury expressed by people. It appeared as if the floodgates of anger had suddenly broken. I’m fairly sure that most people responding didn’t know or know of this man, and that their ire expressed the hate and disgust for this class of officers who have held Pakistan hostage since its birth and continue to abuse the public and their representatives.

It was an extremely misjudged tweet by Maj Gen (retd) Javed Aslam Tahir. In the era where the Army’s corruption is well-known and, in some cases, even well-documented, this fellow was tone-deaf enough to start carping on a tune that is well and truly dead now.

No one buys the “krrupt” story after seeing what has happened to the Sharif family and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) generally, and especially after seeing what has happened to Pakistan after the judges and generals’ nexus threw out people’s representatives and imposed a hybrid regime on the country.

Right at a time when people are blaming the Army for ruining the country’s economy, the rupee’s sharp devaluation, rising unemployment and poverty, backbreaking fuel and utility bills, this man had the gall to call Nawaz Sharif and his family “looters and traitors”.

Who, Really, Are Seen as 'Traitors'?

This is a period in Pakistan’s history when its citizens see the usurping Army as traitors. Tahir was reminded of General Musharraf selling Pakistanis for millions of dollars to the Americans; he was reminded of Rann of Kach, selling out of rivers to India by General Ayub, losing Kargill and all wars to India, losing East Pakistan, and so on. One Jawad Maqsood Beg wrote, “The only traitor established through legal proceedings is Pervez Musharraf. Now shut up & sit down, you clown.”

Another person, S Saleem, wrote, ”The actual traitor are these generals themselves. Please watch this leaked video of Musharraf, begging US Senators to bring him back to power through covert operations … this is treason”, and attached the leaked video.

Imran Shaheen’s response became viral as it expressed many people’s sentiments: “General Saheb, durust farmaya, Nawaz Sharif ki family ne Hindustan ko teen darya beche, Nawaz Sharif ki family ne General Arora ke samnay 93 hazaar faujion se hathiaar dalwaye, Siachin, Kargill surrender kiya, Pakistanion ko bech kar 18 arab dollar kamaye, mulk ko loot kar Papa Johns pizza aur 99 companian banaeen, London mein Bharat se flat liya” (General Sahab, you are right. Nawaz Sharif’s family sold three rivers to India, Nawaz Sharif’s family surrendered 93,000 soldiers to India, surrendered Siachin, Kargill, sold Pakistanis for $18 million, looted the nation and bought Papa John’s pizza and 99 other companies, got a flat in London from India).

It was quite, quite clear who the people thought were traitors.

The other thing that was clear was that people were not going to take the abuse of their representatives lying down. I’m sure it came as a nasty surprise that bloody civilians would hurl naked abuse at a general now if he dares to attack politicians and throw baseless accusations at them.

Which bubble such generals live in is quite beyond me, because every citizen is now aware that the courts and the military tried their best, but the one thing they could not find proof of was corruption by Nawaz Sharif or his Ministers. And this man still thought he could get away with his comment.


Generals Must Open Their Eyes to the 'Naya Pakistan'

Well, he must have discovered quite a ‘Naya Pakistan’ (new Pakistan). Twitter users threw back in his face the Swiss bank accounts of General Ashfaq Pervez Kyani and General Musharraf, the business empires of General Zia ul Haq and General Fazle Haq’s sons, Papa John’s franchises and multiple businesses of General Asim Saleem Bajwa’s family. Many asked him to declare his own assets.

While reading the responses to him, this Urdu saying was on my mind, “Jab geedar ki maut aati hai tau woh shehr ka rukh karta hai” (when death calls on a jackal, it goes towards the city). And funnily enough, one Twitter user had even quoted him with this saying.

Many people quote-tweeted the man, urging everyone just to read all the responses. Absar Alam wrote, “Iss gernail new awaam ko imaan na bechnay ka he tau kaha hai, loge itna ghussa kyon kar rahay hein? Wajah?” (all this general has asked the public to do is not to sell their conscience. Why are people so angry?).

Mirth mixed with anger as people realised how everyone had piled onto General Tahir. One Salman Farooqui hit the nail on the head with his response: “Pakistani bahaisiat quom Pak fouj ka kitna ehteram karti hai, kis tarah khiraj-e-tehseen pesh karti hai, iss tweet ke comments ko zuroor paRhein. Note: khawateen aur 18 saal se kam umer afraad iss sabb se door rahein.” Another pointed out his spelling of “exemplary”, while one Tariq hit the bullseye with, ”Internet ki ijaad se qabal gernail naami makhlooq bauhaut aala fehem, zaheen, farz shanaas, diyanat daar samjhi jaati thee. Khuda ki karni ke phir Internet ijaad ho gya.”

If nothing else, this episode should serve to open the eyes of generals living in their bubbles to the changed reality of Pakistan, its people’s political maturity, and especially their own stature in society. It should also teach a thing or two to those politicians who continue to think that power can only be attained via the Generals. The recent spate of by-elections has also demonstrated that people are continuing to reject politicians seen as puppets of, or conspirators with, the generals.

(Gul Bukhari is a Pakistani journalist and rights activist. She tweets @GulBukhari. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quintneither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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