“The Settlement”


By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

“…… Moral cowardice is fear of upholding the good because it is good, and fear of opposing the evil because it is evil. Moral cowardice is the necessary consequence of discarding morality as inconsequential. It is the common symptom of all intellectual appeasers…..”

So finally it’s “Settled”.

A “settlement” between two Kings, between two highly privileged and un touchable institutions, between two forces, one teetering at the brink of immorality and questionable ethics, the other wallowing in the filth of unethical and moral degradation.

This perspective is not about who was or is right in the infamous Dawn Leaks.

It is not about whether it was Maryam Safdar who leaked it, or told Zafar Abbas that she authenticates the news on behalf of the PM. In fact it is also not about the PM himself who allegedly ordered the “hit” on the Army.

Its also not about poor Maj. Gen.Ghafoor who “rejected” it and was consequently, mercilessly trampled in the fight between the elephants. Real or Noora. Only time will tell.

This is about Gen. Bajwa and his leadership.

Because whatever his reasons to first issue the “rejection” tweet and then subsequently “retract” it, he really comes out smelling about twice as bad as Nawaz. And God knows how Nawaz stinks!

I still vividly remember in PMA being mercilesdly pounded with the mantra that the character of a true “leader” revolved around “Moral Courage, more than Physical courage”.

Quite frankly one didnt quite get this “moral courage thing” in those early bohemian PMA days, where sleep and food were the only values one cherished. Moral courage brought instant sleep to our already sleep deprived eyes. And who cared really!

But soon, very soon, one began to understand and also imbibe this value. To do the right thing. To admit when one makes a mistake and take it on the chin. To take responsibility for ones action, irrespective of consequences. To say the right thing (very politely, of course).

Especially if in your first term, you list your way and lead your platoon up and down half a dozen peaks and valleys, during Yarmuk, because you and your closest advisor sucked at map reading! And you’re hauled to explain in writing who was to blame and “withdrawal” from the Academy a real possibility and “relegation” a sure thing!

So for a military leader, taking total and full responsibility for the people under your command is cast in cement.

It was and hopefully still is the prime value they teach at these very expensive schools of military instruction in Pakistan where Gen. Bajwa and most of our military leaders have been both instructors and students!

And then of course, at the other end of the spectrum, is the one who hides behind “process” and “protocol” and lets others take the fall, and especially more despicable and abhorrent, when that leader was himself directly responsible for that fiasco.

In my opinion Gen. Bajwa displayed two attributes to perfection.

An absence of moral courage and a stark manifestation of moral cowardice.

The “rejection” tweet by DG ISPR was obnoxious clearly. Much as I enjoyed it.

But clearly out of line, showing gross insubordination and a slap on protocol.

And no one but Gen. Bajwa with perhaps his principal advisers (some retired but still pulling strings) approved it.

Poor Ghafoor was the willing or unwilling (likely the latter) messenger.

Without getting into the back and forth between the PM and Gen. Bajwa (enough said on that by everybody and their uncle), the manner in which it was “retracted” was not only personally humiliating and insulting to the DG ISPR Ghafoor, but a slap on the Army.

There’s a difference in a Ch. Nisar, or a Danyal Aziz, or a Talal Chaudhry or a Pervez Rashid, squirming and double talking their way out of the cesspools created by their political masters, vs throwing a uniformed Maj. General under the proverbial bus, which Gen. Bajwa, unfortunately did.

This one incident speaks volumes of Bajwa’s moral courage and leadership.

So, admittedly, a mistake and gross error of judgement and absence of good sense resulted in the “rejected” tweet.

It is here that Gen. Bajwa should have showed his mettle all 6 feet 3 inches of it, and stepped up himself, owned the tweet, taken full responsibility and like a leader taken it on his chest and chin.

But what he did shows a man devoid of moral courage. He hid behind the DG ISPR and let that poor fellow take the fall.

From hindsight he should have communicated his concerns in private to the PM, but clearly lacked the moral courage to do so face to face.

The Army as an institution and its rank and file have been humiliated, insulted, embarrassed not by the PM, but by Gen. Bajwa.

The damage to his personal credibility and maturity and to the institution is huge. And no one to blame but himself for having stooped so low in people’s perceptions. especially the Army rank and file.

Whether a politician can buy the “toe of his shoe” or not, as he apparently said while subsequently addressing officers in Quetta, to try and explain his actions, only time will tell.

Whether the Dawn Leaks report will be made public, only time will tell.

Whether the Panamagate JIT with military representation will also deliver a “Settlement” only time will tell.

Whether we will have free and fair elections under the Army or Bajwa’s watch, only time will tell.

But, for now, in my opinion, Gen. Bajwa failed his first real test of leadership!