Generals are usually known as instigators behind military dictatorships. But Lt-Gen (retired) Abdul Majeed Malik reveals another side of the picture. Nabeel Anwar Dhakku explores the life of Chakwal’s latest elected member of the National Assembly.
Every evening, 94-year-old Lt-Gen (retired) Abdul Majeed Malik takes a walk around his farmhouse, stroking the backs of his specially bred lambs and enjoying the cooler temperature when the sun is down.
Usually, his walks come after long days spent receiving congratulations from supporters who cast their vote in the last general election – the day when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) swept the sweeps in these constituencies, and around the country.
The PML-N might be born and bred under the guise of the second military ruler, General Ziaul Haq’s, army rule, but this general seems to defy the stereotypes usually applied to the men in khaki.
In Pakistan, generals are known to land in positions of power through the backdoor, or by holding a gun to the heads of the powers that be – but this military general’s life tells a different story.
Gen Malik served in the army for 37 years on key posts as he directly witnessed three rounds of illegal army takeovers, and as he opposed the third army ruler, General Pervez Musharraf’s, Kargil Adventure.
He has earlier been deputed in Morocco as Pakistan’s ambassador, has served as a federal minister three times, all while getting his heart bypassed once, receiving an angiography five times and dealing with the debilitating effects of diabetes.
The lucky general
“General Sahib what sort of Geedar Singhi do you have, to warrant such luck,” asks one visitor, referring to a substance considered magical, and found in the head of a jackal.
“This is all because of the grace of the Almighty Allah, and nothing else,” answers the general.
Gen Majeed has won Chakwal's NA-60 since 1985. As a result, much of the politics in this constituency circles around him – though many point out that the area's closeness to the heart of the Pakistan Army may play a role.
He started his political career in 1984, and was elected a Member of the National Assembly (MNA) for five consecutive terms.
In 2002, though the PML-N lost in NA-60, Gen Malik won after Musharraf’s coup in 1999.
When Gen Malik developed some differences with Nawaz Sharif, he fielded his nephew Major (retired) Tahir Iqbal against PML-N’s Ayaz Amir.
Major Tahir won and later served as a federal minister for environment in Shaukat Aziz’s cabinet.
In 2008, Gen Majeed returned to the PML-N and supported its candidate Ayaz Amir unconditionally, who landed in the National Assembly bagging record high votes in the province.
Before these elections, observers in the district were sensing danger for PML-N’s stronghold before May 11, as its former MNA Ayaz Amir left the party after getting denied a ticket and decided to support the PTI, which emerged as a
potent force in the district and Chakwal's most influential politician Sardar Ghulam Abbas was also a tough contender against the PML-N.
On May 11, the PML-N clinched all six seats (two national and four provincial) in the district.
“There is no danger for the PML-N in Chakwal in the next 15 to 20 years,” he foresees, hastening to urge on the local MPs to serve the people as in only this way they can retain their power in the district.
“Sardar Ghulam Abbas enjoys a large vote bank in the district while the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) has performed well but Chakwal would be a fortress of the PML-N as the voter loves the tiger,” he maintains.
“We were not sure about the party ticket till the eleventh hour and to win the ticket was not less than a miracle. But I would like to say that the party would have been destroyed in the district had the ticket been awarded to Ayaz Amir,” he continues.
“I supported him unconditionally in 2008, but he failed to live up to his words and principles when he was denied a ticket. He also forgot that it was he who got the party ticket three times,” Gen Malik adds.
Gen Malik urged the newly elected Members of Parliament (MPs) to take an active part in legislation considering it their prime duty.
“The development works should be a secondary thing as the main duty of an MP is legislation,” he says.
Gen Majeed, who is also a political teacher of Nawaz Sharif, is regarded a wise and sane politician who would always offer a best solution for political problems.
“The PML-N does not have any other alternative but to deliver,” he warns.
Commenting on Pak-India relations, he says: “You can change everything but neighbours. Therefore cordial relations are in the interest of both countries and both countries should work for peace.”
Asked whether the Army would support Nawaz Sharif for initiating peace processes with India or not, he replied.
“The army has realised the realities and it could not interfere in the matters of political government as democracy has strengthened in the country”.
“The period of martial laws is over. No one could derail the democracy now,” he says.
In a reply to a question about President Asif Ali Zardari, Mr Malik has said that president should complete his tenure as he is constitutional president of the country.
The political rivals of Gen Majeed lampoon him for damaging the railway track of Chakwal, which was dismantled during Nawaz Sharif’s first stint in power when Mr Malik was federal minister for agriculture.
He replies to his detractors as, “At that time only five to six passengers used to travel in one train and Pakistan Railways could not bear such a loss.
“That’s why Pakistan Railways itself issued a tender and auctioned the tracks. Being a minister for agriculture I had nothing to do with the dismantling of the track,” he said.
“Being a minister I signed contracts of billions of dollars but no one can point finger at me as I did my job with honesty and devotion,” he maintains.
Gen Malik, who was the federal minister for Kashmir Affairs when Musharraf started the Kargil War seeks a commission on the misadventure which resulted in heavy loss for Pakistan.
“I was the one who during a briefing opposed Musharraf’s lecture as I knew the Kargil area very well because I had led my unit there during the war of 1965,” he recalls.
“India set up commission within weeks but we did not do so. And tragedy is that the commissions we set up fail to meet their targets,” he regrets.