NEW DELHI: The top seven generals of the Pakistani Army, whose promotions were scuttled by the move to grant three-year extension to Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, not only joined hands with the chief justice of the country to limit extension period but also encouraged Opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman to organise the Azadi March last month as a pressure tactic.

ET has reliably learnt that the disgruntled generals turned a blind eye and lent tacit support to Rehman to bring the country to a standstill, which in turn defamed Bajwa and his authority. The march also dented the authority of Prime Minister Imran Khan, considered close to Bajwa.

The generals allowed the March to progress towards Islamabad and did not take any preventive action, including in South Punjab.

Rehman is the leader of a faction of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islami.

There is a strong sense among members of the civil society of Pakistan about the role played by a section of the Army brass in encouraging Rehman, according to a Pakistan-based source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"Maulana's Azadi march was the first indication about rumblings in the army. Most people were sceptical about the march even reaching Islamabad. However, it had an easy passage through Sindh and Punjab, no doubt facilitated by the disaffected Generals. Without such support it would have been difficult for the Maulana to have reached Islamabad in the numbers that he did," said Tliak Devasher, member of India's National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and author of three books on Pakistan.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman took to the streets with thousands of his supporters and major opposition parties for a show of strength of Mullah power, the unity among the opposition parties and to get some relief for the opposition leaders still being persecuted by the Khan administration, ET has learnt.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s bail on medical grounds after the Azadi March shows it was a successful attempt by Maulana.