A Tale Of Two Niazis
Politician Imran Khan and Lt Gen AAK 'Tiger' Niazi have much in common
The fabled Niazi Pathans from the mofussil township of Mianwali have a charming if incredulous story of an ancestor who is supposed to have killed a tiger with his bare hands during a hunting expedition. Their martial instincts saw them join the marauding forces of Taimurlane, Sher Shah Suri and even the ranks of Afghan King, Ahmad Shah Durrani.
Soldering was their natural calling with some calling them, 'eighteenth-century Scots without alcohol'. Borne to this fount of make-believe bravado, was Mianwali's son-of-the-soil Lt Gen AAK 'Tiger' Niazi or the 'Butcher of Bangladesh', who had a rather different relationship with alcohol, along with some other far more serious vices.
Busting Lt Gen AAK 'Tiger' Niazi's vainglorious persona is the reality of 26,400 Pakistani soldiers under his command surrendering to around 3,000 Indian soldiers in the vicinity, in 1971. This after days earlier he had thundered that he would fight to the 'last man, last round'. He had theatrically pointed to his chest, proclaiming, 'they have to drive a tank over this'.
Decorated earlier with a Military Cross (MC) and the second highest Pakistani gallantry award, Hilal-i-Jurat, the Hamoodur Rahman War Commission that had investigated the shameful conduct of Lt Gen Niazi's conduct in East Pakistan (later, Bangladesh) beyond the braggadocio noted, 'words and personal actions of Lt Gen Niazi were calculated to encourage the killings and rape'. And it explicitly recorded 'the ill repute of General Niazi in sex matters, and his indulgence in the smuggling of Pan'.
But, like many who were to disown their past in order to posit a transformed narrative, Lt Gen Niazi unconvincingly took to extreme religiosity, "I became very religious during the East Pakistan trouble. I was not so before". It didn't convince too many.
Decades later, yet another flamboyant and rather successful co-Niazi from Mianwali would suggest an eerily similar storyline of discovering religion, conveniently later in life. He is Imran Khan Niazi.
However, social, more importantly political, expediency demands that the equally egocentric Imran Khan retains only the atavistic title 'Khan' as opposed to suffixing his name with 'Niazi'. As his actual tribal-familial surname carries an undeniable infamy owing to the antecedents of Lt Gen AAK 'Tiger' Niazi.
The similarity between the two Niazis from Mianwali is surreal, as both were inherently boastful and led 'colourful' personal lives that was later sought to be offset with turn to extreme religiosity. After his disgraceful exit from Military service, Lt Gen AAK Niazi had taken to the ultraconservative political platform of the Pakistan National Alliance against Bhutto.
Imran Khan Niazi or better known as 'Taliban Khan' has made religious invocation his foremost calling card. Both had consciously postured the tribal-feudal trappings and unsubtle suggestions (Imran Khan's book 'Warrior Race') to assert their natural leadership even at the cost of abandoning the mandated restraints and graces of their respective calling.
While the Niazi General was singled out for his personal debauchery and indignities by the Hamoodur Rahman War Report, the dashing cricketer and popular Kaptaan's World Cup acceptance speech in 1992 was infamous for having no mention of his teammates or their contributions, whatsoever.
Above all, both had 'weaponised' their respective turfs, the Niazi in 'Uniform' did it literally by unleashing genocidal mayhem whereas the more dapper Niazi of Oxbridge credentials has done so more perniciously and impactfully by dog whistling extremism, creating ghosts and instigating anarchy to the detriment of their individual legacy, as indeed to their nation.
Lt Gen AAK Niazi who goes down in Pakistani history as the one who surrendered, 'first his pistol, then his sword, and then half of his country' sought his own redemption by writing the The Betrayal of East Pakistan. However, independent military historians remain unconvinced of his deflective defense.
Like Imran Khan Niazi, Lt Gen AAK Niazi attributes the intrigues surrounding the debacle to various conspiracies i.e., 'the Larkana conspiracy', 'MM Ahmad Plan' and many more unsubstantiated rants of accusations. Lt Gen AAK Niazi's grandstanding included statements like, "Not allowing me to enter India in pursuit of the beaten, retreating guerillas although politically, militarily and economically we had every justification to enter India - the Indians had entered our area and were still firing into our territory. My going into India would have nipped things in the bud and Pakistan would have remained united".
Shades of similar creativity and 'dramebaazi' (as the balanced Pakistani commentator, Najam Sethi, pointed out) were seen recently when Imran Khan triggered his own 'Cipher controversy' with, "Attempts are being made through foreign money to change the government in Pakistan. Our people are being used. Mostly inadvertently, but some people are using money against us. We know from what places attempts are being to pressure us. We have been threatened in writing, but we will not compromise on national interest'."
Both Niazi men seemed woefully incapable of speaking the truth, accepting defeat and taking the blame.
Recently when Imran Khan was shot at and injured by a 'lone-wolf' in the crowd, the providential escape was too good a political opportunity to waste. Imran was soon seen waving at his supporters like a gladiator whilst being taken to the hospital.
He soon attributed the 'assassination attempt' to the trinity of the Prime Minister, Interior Minister and a top ISI General. This, if true, paints a rather poor and amateurish image of the professionalism and efficacy usually associated by the Pakistani 'establishment' (especially the ISI) in carrying out such internal 'hits'.
Surely, the Pakistani 'establishment' could have conducted the alleged attack more effectively than to entrust the same to a clearly lost novice. But for the unhinged and quintessentially 24*7 politico in Imran Khan Niazi, it was too good an opportunity to let go!
As Maulana Fazlur Rehman put it bluntly that Imran, "outshined Bollywood stars Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan in acting skills", as he further wondered, "why is he being treated at a cancer hospital for bullet injuries" (at his own Shaukhat Khanum Hospital instead of being rushed to nearby hospital).
Digging deeper into Imran's shenanigans the wily Maulana enquired, "How is it possible that a bullet broke into pieces? We have heard about a piece from a bomb, but not a bullet' and made mockery of Imran's physician when he said that he never knew that the, 'aorta is also present in the shin?'
Inadvertently, both Niazi boys have turned against the Pakistani 'establishment' that was once responsible for their ascendancy and paid the inevitable price for doing so. The General was ultimately stripped of his military commission and war honours.
It is still early days for the final fate for Imran Khan Niazi to be decided as yet, though politically he has pitched himself against the Pakistani Military, and that is usually not a wise idea in Pakistan. Both of them reek of toxic-masculinity, devil-may-care attitude and an indefatigable spirit that upsets their one-time benefactors i.e., 'establishment', as they tried to besmirch the institution of the Pakistani Military, which they both did, as a last-ditch attempt.
Perhaps the most befitting description of the Pakistani narrative as scripted by men like Lt Gen AAK Niazi and Imran Khan Niazi came from another equally famous Niazi clansman, poet Munir Niazi. He, unlike the General and the Kaptaan, was a man of immense profundity, dignity and erudition.
The haunting words of Munir Niazi, "Kujh unj we raawan aukhian sann, kujh gall icch gham da toq ve see, kujh shehr dey louk ve zalim sann, kujh sanoun marran da souq ve see (Yes, the path I chose was hard, indeed there was the noose of grief around my neck, Yes, the citizens were also so cruel, But ultimately, we too wanted to get killed)."
Lt General Bhopinder Singh retired from the Indian Army. He also served as Governor, Andamans and Nicobar Islands and Puducherry.