The regime change phenomenon

Regime change through undemocratic means is nothing new for Pakistan. It has happened four times in the past, through the manipulations of the nexus, called Four A’s – America, Army, Adliah, Allies (political opportunists). The present day political agitation against the sitting government is aimed at regime change, through undemocratic means. There are two examples of the past, having similarity with the agitation now led by Imran Khan (IK).

The 1977 regime change was a text book example of the ‘Four A’s acting in unison for a common cause. The political agitation led by several political parties, was joined by ACM Asghar Khan, who was removed from PAF Command in 1965 for hobnobbing with the enemy. Thus he carried the grudge against the Army and his entry into politics was to take revenge. By May 1977, the negotiations between the government and the opposition had almost succeeded when Asghar Khan (AK) intervened and sabotage the negotiations. (Read Maulana Kausar Niazi’s Book – “Aur Line Kat Gai” for details). AK then wrote a three page letter to General Zia, coaxting him to take over. Gen Zia circulated this letter to his formation commanders (AK’s letter to Zia and IK’s “Umpire’s Finger” have the same connotations). General Zia struck on July 4, 1977. AK was jubilant expecting the elections to be held so that he could claim his right to premiership, but that was not to be. The opportunist politicians rode General Zia’s bandwagon, pulled by American horses, galloping in Afghanistan against the Soviets, for almost a decade.

Prior to the 1999 coup, the Grand Democratic Alliance – GDA was formed, comprising PPP, ANP, MQM and PTI. On 27 October 1998 they all came to my house, led by veteran late Ajmal Khattak, wanting me to join the alliance, which was to start the agitation against the sitting government of Nawaz Sharif. They had no shame in saying that “they had received the go-ahead signal from above”, to start the agitation, so that army could intervene and hold elections in 90 days, which GDA will 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 General Musharraf struck on 12 October 1999. There were no elections and no hope of premiership for IK, yet he lobbied for Musharraf in 2002 elections and was rewarded with a national assembly seat, Musharraf ruled in uniform with a strong hand for five years and decided to win the elections 2007 “in the same fashion” as in 2002. President Bush visited Pakistan a few weeks before the elections, complementing Musharraf’s readiness for “regime change in Pakistan through the democratic process.” But unfortunately for him, he decided to hand over Command to General Kiani on 29th Nov 2007. Kiani said ‘no’ to Musharraf’s manipulations of the elections using the Army and ISI, and that led to a fair and free elections, demolishing Musharraf’s plan, which shook the policy makers in Washington. The Washington Times and United Press, on that day lamented:

“Washington must rue the day it decided for regime change in Pakistan, through the democratic process. Democracy is what has now emerged – an unholy alliance of long-time American haters – Aslam Beg ad Hamid Gul. The behind-the-scenes god-father of this broad-based, anti-US coalition is Nawaz Sharif.”

Regime change in Pakistan now being attempted is very similar to 1977, with Imran Khan playing Asghar Khan’s role. But the problem is that General Raheel Sharif is a man of the world, and supports the democratic process. Therefore a wedge was to be created between the civil and military leadership, while IK was to lay the siege to the government at Islamabad, which may extend beyond 27 November when the new Army Chief will take-over, whose preferences are not known yet. Whereas the conspiracy has already begun. The Islamabad security leaks have made the first dent in civil military leadership preceded by a very intriguing article, which appeared in daily Dawn on October 2, 2016, under the title “The Rise and Fall of ‘General Glasnost’”, warning General Raheel, that like General Aslam Beg, soon after retirement, General Raheel too will be targeted, distorting his image of a popular general, considered a threat moving about in the corridors of power – an exclusive domain of the political leadership.

The conspiracy against me was initiated by the PPP government in 1996. Rahman Malik, the DGFIA was the mastermind and the prime prosecution witness was ex DGISI, who was removed from command of ISI for attending PPP executive committee meetings in uniform. An ex-convict, Yunus Habib and a host of such witnesses were called by the Supreme Court, piling-up uncorroborated evidence against me during the period of twenty years. Denying me due process of law, the honourable court, not being a trial court, itself carried-out my trial and passed the verdict of guilty. The petitioner was Asghar Khan – the traitor and the conspirator, who took revenge from the Army, which overthrew PM Bhutto and took him to the gallows, followed by an eleven years long period of shame for the military. Despite that, Bhutto’s daughter picked up the same Asghar Khan, to file the petition against me on the flimsy charge that I had knowledge of the activities of the ISI during the 1990 elections carried out under Mr. Bhuttos Notification of 1975 and the orders of an elected President.

The critical situation likely to be created on November 2 and after, would test the nerves of both PM Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel. The Panama Leaks petition is with the Supreme Court; while the cease-fire violations by India have increased manifold and foreign inspired terror is taking its toll in Balochistan and KPK, to build up pressure on the government, which is taking preventive measures against the siege of Islamabad. In this situation Nawaz Sharif retains the option to call the Army in aid of civil power to curb the unlawful act of incapacitating the government. General Raheel would have no option but to act, to restore law and order, and retire with dignity. Thus army will ensure that there will be no regime change through undemocratic means, notwithstanding the court verdict on Panama leaks petition against the Prime Minister who himself and his Dynastic-Pluto-Democracy are not indispensible, either.

In 2005, America entered into a strategic partnership with India to contain and curb Chinese rising power by establishing Indian hegemony from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. The Afghan Jihad defeated them all, forcing them to retreat on the Asian Strategic Pivot to the Asia-Pacific region. The vacuum thus created was filled by establishing the “Pivot CPEC” in Pakistan. Therefore a compliant government in Pakistan now is the strategic need of the Partners to curb Chinese ingress. What happens on November 2 and beyond is unpredictable, but one thing I am sure, that Imran Khan, unlike Asghar Khan, is not seeking revenge from the Army.

Regime change in Pakistan now being attempted is very similar to 1977, with Imran Khan playing Asghar Khan’s role.

The writer is a former COAS, Pakistan. He can be reached at

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt