The country has seen four martial laws during seventy years of its existence and the challenges confronting the country at the moment are in one way or the other, connected to the shenanigans of military dictators. Civilian governments that interspersed military rules were also not allowed to settle down by the praetorian powers who wanted to maintain their manipulative powers intact. The most detestable aspect of the moves to destabilise the representative governments or have them changed before the completion of their mandated tenure has been the connivance of the opposing political parties and leaders with the forces inimical to democracy and representative rules.

Former Army Chief General Aslam Baig, talking on the issue of regime changes in Pakistan in an article maintained, “Regime change through undemocratic means is nothing new for Pakistan. It has happened four times in the past through the manipulation of the nexus of the four ‘As’ – America, Army, Adliah and Allies (Political opportunists). The present day political agitation against the sitting government is aimed at regime change, through undemocratic means.” The General observed that Imran Khan was playing the same role as Asghar Khan in 1977, saying that Asghar Khan’s letter to General Zia for military takeover and Imran’s calls for the “umpire’s finger” have the same connotations. Recalling the formation of Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) he said “Prior to 1999 coup, the GDA comprising PPP, ANP, MQM and PTI was formed and they all came to me on October 27, 1998 led by veteran (late) Ajmal Khattak wanting me to join the alliance. They had no shame in saying that they had received the go-ahead signal from above, to start the agitation, so that the army could intervene and hold elections in 90 days, which the GDA would win hands down. They wanted me on board, but I declined saying you have come to the wrong person. GDA agitation was launched as planned and a year later Musharraf struck on October 12, 1999. There were no elections and no hope for Imran Khan to become Premier.”

The general hinted that the attempts by the duo of Imran and Qadri had a hidden international agenda and the umpire that Imran yearned to intervene was sitting outside the country but did not dare to intervene in view of the solidarity shown in the parliament, the backing of the judiciary and the Army.

General Aslam Baig, as the former Army Chief, without an iota of a doubt is privy to many secrets and his assessments and revelations cannot be dismissed lightly. Similarly, the allegations by the PML-N government that the Panama leaks case against the government was a conspiracy to discredit the government, destabilise the system and obstruct the process of development cannot be quashed in the backdrop of what Aslam Baig has said and the developments that have taken place since Panama leaks. Though it is hard to take issue with Imran’s contention that he did not make up the Panama leaks and it was the ICIJ that made these revelations, there is also no denying the fact that he and his foreign mentors, after having failed in their first attempt, took this as the perfect opportunity to re-launch their offensive against the elected government. The vigour and consistency with which this matter has been pursued also has an aura of sinister intentions.

Imran has also been trying hard to pit the judiciary and the Army against the government by repeatedly claiming that the government, while claiming conspiracy, was trying to target both these institutions. However, in the aftermath of the JIT report, the government and the ministers have now clearly said that the main conspirator was Imran Khan who had orchestrated this campaign against the government with the help of his foreign puppet masters. That at least clarifies what the government actually meant by conspiracy and whom it considered the conspirators. It clears the judiciary as well as the Army which is a matter of great satisfaction because if none of them is involved, then there can be no regime change through undemocratic means as pointed out by General Aslam Baig.

Now coming to the Panama case, my view right from the beginning has been that the judiciary actually made a mistake by entertaining the petitions by political parties in the first place because of the fact that it had become a highly politicised case. And if at all it thought it necessary to have the haze cleared about the Panama leaks, it should have opted for the formation of a judicial commission to probe the cases of all those who were named in it, to avoid the impression of a witch-hunt and the controversy that it has generated. The JIT report itself has become controversial after its outright rejection by the government which is likely to challenge it in the apex court.

Nobody in their right mind can grudge the prerogative of the Supreme Court to accept or reject the findings and recommendations of the JIT. However, media and political circles are already feverishly engaged in dissecting and interpreting it through the prism of their own prejudices, biases and interests. One thing that is clear from this debate is that perhaps the JIT has gone beyond its mandate and in certain respects has also not fulfilled its obligations as per the orders of the court, such as verification of the contents of the Qatari letters. Its recommendations in regards to reopening over a dozen cases against the Prime Minister which have been decided by the High Court and closed, are untenable and tantamount to ‘double jeopardy’. According to the principles of international jurisprudence nobody can be tried twice for the same offence. Further, all those cases have become time-barred. There are also many other lose ends in the report which is not conclusive as also pointed out by the JIT.

The Panama case is also a test case for the judges of the Supreme Court as they will also be judged by the history in the light of the implications of their decision. My personal view is that it should even now, go for the formation of a judicial commission to probe the cases of all those who have been named in it, so that nobody can take an undue political advantage from this case, as the opponents of the government are already doing.