Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders have warmly welcomed the decision of granting extension in service of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa while terming it an excellent decision under prevailing circumstances.
Notably, the decision took place in view of the regional security environment, the letter said. General Bajwa took the command of the army on November 29, 2016.
In past, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of offering an extension and a promotion to Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif because “he is afraid of the army”.
In his post-midnight address to a rally in the capital, Mr Khan said, in so many words: “The prime minister is repeatedly asking the army chief to take an extension and become a field marshal because he fears him; [PM Sharif] has all other institutions under his control.”
His claim came as the capital was rife with rumors that the army chief might be promoted to the rank of field marshal, in recognition of his success in leading Operation Zarb-i-Azb.
However, in current setting, PM Imran views the extension of COAS tenure a dire need of the moment.
The Bajwa Doctrine focused on the internal security and believes in totally wiping out terrorism from Pakistan. Notably, the old idea of distinguishing between good or bad Taliban has faded away.
As a colonel, he was General Staff Officer Grade-1 [Operations]. The ‘G1-Ops’ is a very important colonel in any outfit, and when that outfit is the 200,000 strong X Corps (also known as Pakistan’s army within the army), he really is a very important G1-Ops. As a brigadier, Bajwa served as Chief of Staff, essentially the right-hand man to then X Corps commander, Ashfaq Kayani. As a major general, he commanded the famed Force Command Northern Areas, which has been holding down the fort in the ‘world’s highest battlefield,’ Siachen, since the ’80s. And as a three-star, he took over the X Corps itself: all India-focused positions, but then again, his predecessor Kayani had similar commands (Chief of Staff of X Corps, General Officer Commanding, Murree, and then Commander X Corps).
US- Taliban Peace Talks
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad called on Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa in December 18 and discussed with him the peace talks arranged between the US and Afghan Taliban by Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. Notably, the US envoy appreciated Pakistan’s role in the peace process.
Challenges and opportunities
That the tenure of the COAS has been extended by three years is by no means an extraordinary event. What is unusual are other matters. That the announcement has come more than two months before the date of retirement was presumably meant to put an end to speculation at a time of confrontation on the LoC and the working boundary and the worrisome situation in Indian occupied Kashmir.
Moreover, relations between the army and the elected governments in the past have rarely been marked with as much cordiality as under the PTI and the present COAS. The harmonious relations provide opportunities as well as challenges to both. The PTI government claims it is on the same page with the army, which is borne out by the government’s over-dependence on the army during the last one year. PTI’s opponents however claim that the understanding predates the 2018 elections.
In brief, the army carries a big responsibility by being on the same page with the PTI government. Failures on the part of one side are likely to bring the other under focus. It remains to be seen if working together would be in the best interest of the country.