PFull generals of the Pakistan Army retire when they turn 60 or on completing their three-year tenure as chief, whichever is earlier. This thumb rule, however, has attained notoriety more for its violation by successive Army coup masters. It does not come as any surprise, therefore, that three India-origin officers who headed the Pakistan Army — the Punjabi Zia-ul Haq from Jalandhar; Urdu-speaking Mirza Aslam Beg from Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh) and Old Delhi's Pervez Musharraf — played a major role in shaping the psyche and state of Pakistan's Army for around 24 years: Gen. Zia-ul Haq from March 1, 1976 to August 18, 1988 (when he died, at the age of 64, in an aircrash that is still something of a mystery); Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg from August 18, 1988 to August 17, 1991; and Gen. Pervez Musharraf from October 6, 1998 to November 28, 2007 (till he was compelled to abdicate the general’s post at 64). Both Gen. Zia and Gen. Musharraf flouted the retirement rule, thus severely weakening the system of their adopted state. Interesting? Let’s now examine the Gen. Zia case. At 23, in 1947, he began his new professional innings in a new two-winged Pakistan’s widely separated army, as captain; by the time he rose, at age 52 in 1976, to be its chief, it was a vanquished force of a “clipped, single-wing nation” smarting for revenge. The long 29-year interregnum journey from captain to chief, within which came the humiliating 1971 defeat, not only turned Gen. Zia into a religious zealot, but it also went viral among Pakistani Army officials. Collectively, they adversely affected, and reversed, the professionalism for successive generations.
Gen. Zia changed the ethos of the Pakistan Army, making Islamic rituals and teachings part of its day-to-day activities. Also, its motto was changed from “Unity, Faith and Discipline” to “Iman. Taqwa. Jihad-fi-Sabilillah. Iman” — which means “faith, piety, holy war in the path of Allah”. In addition, he allowed the members of the fundamentalist Tablighi Jamaat to preach at the Pakistan Military Academy. In reality, through changes in demographics of the newly-recruited cadets, Gen. Zia created a unique breed of officers whose religious conviction, good or bad, coloured their professional judgments about their "enemies". The contaminated Zia-era recruits, commonly known as the Zia Bhartis (Zia recruits), from 1976 to 1988, started entering the senior general officer category, that is, brigadier upwards, from the beginning of the 21st century. The Punjabi Gen. Raheel Sharif, commissioned in October 1976, was the first Zia Bharti to head the Pakistan Army, from November 2013 to November 2016. And the world knows what visceral hatred he had for India and its Army. Gen. Raheel Sharif, who now heads the Islamic Military Alliance sponsored by the Saudi government, has been succeeded by another Zia Bharti — Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, also a Punjabi. Commissioned in the Baloch Regiment in October 1980, during Gen. Zia's diabolical anti-Soviet game in Afghanistan and pro-Khalistan game in the 1980s, Gen. Bajwa is one of the suave, yet deceptive, current faces of the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan Army command structure. He acts professionally and seldom speaks, except on China and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
His signature can be seen all over the entire Kulbhushan Jadhav episode, loud and clear. And it would be an extraordinary development in India-Pakistan bilateral ties if the Pakistani Army eats humble pie after deciding to send Mr Jadhav to the gallows. The ghost of Gen. Zia will not allow it. Gen. Bajwa cannot afford to incur the wrath and fury of his nine corps commanders, all of whom are “Zia Bhartis”. Fanaticism over Kashmir, among other matters, blind hatred towards Pakistan’s minorities and thoughts of “revenge” over the 1971 Bangladesh war, that led to Pakistan’s dismemberment, are always “high on their agenda”. Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s current high commissioner to India, confessed a week ago of the centrality of the ISI and the Pakistan Army in all matters pertaining to India. It reconfirms India’s long-standing assessment and claim that Islamabad’s diplomats posted in New Delhi all act at the behest of, and ultimately report to the Army-ISI combine rather than to the civilian establishment. In the overall scheme of things, however, the Jadhav case appears to be a diversionary matter because the Pakistan Army is under pressure from within its Punjabi military machine and militants — the former for developing and the latter for destroying the CPEC.
China has laid the bait. The bait of money and countering India through extra-diplomatic dollars, cutting through Central Asia's historically hostile hinterland and heartland. One wonders about the wisdom of pumping cash into a desert and turbulence-infested terrain, but that is the area where Pakistan’s Army now operates. China has to constantly manipulate and capture the imagination of the Army to rule the area by proxy. And what could be the best way to provoke the Punjabi Muslim-dominated Pakistani military to prove its prowess than put to the gallows a “spy” who hails from hinterland of India? Coming back to the other two Indian-origin generals of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Mirza and Gen. Musharraf. They too, like Gen. Zia, inevitably challenged the civilian political masters. Gen. Mirza was accused of playing a role in the aircrash that killed Gen. Zia in 1988, and this accusation came from none less than Gen. Zia's son. Again, Gen. Mirza, as Army chief, severely undermined the authority of his Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, by financially aligning himself with the Islamic parties in the Mehran scandal.
The classic of this triumvirate of Pakistan's Army chiefs is, however, Gen. Musharraf, who revels in his inherent inability to be loyal to anyone. He tried tricks on Ms Bhutto in the mid-1990s, but failed. He, however, succeeded in his coup against Nawaz Sharif in 1999. Thereafter, he proved himself just as unpredictable, bordering on disloyal, in the midst of a Punjabi-dominated military. Before showing his hand in the October 1999 coup, he showed his jihadi warfare tricks through supreme acts of treachery in Kargil. Today, even in his adopted land, Gen. Musharraf is persona non grata, being at the mercy of his oncetime military comrades, the judiciary and, ironically, Nawaz Sharif himself. Given this background, Kulbhushan Jadhav’s fate truly appears bleak. In a country where generals have put to the sword their Prime Minister, killed their own Army chief and deported constitutionally-elected Prime Minister within minutes, India can only be seen as door ast (far off) as far as normal diplomatic relations are concerned.There is almost no common ground in India-Pakistan relations today. One could be wrong too. One doesn’t mind being wrong!...