Pakistan Prime Minister Office on Monday announced that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa will get a three year extension “from the date of completion of current tenure”. The announcement said the decision “has been taken in view of the regional security environment”. Gen. Bajwa’s original term was to end in November after serving as Army chief for three years. He will remain as Army chief till November 2022.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry told The Hindu that the extension shows the seriousness of the situation on the borders. “Gen. Bajwa is considered a man of peace but at the same time, he is a no-nonsense person; his tenure and background knowledge brings a lot of substance on the table.” Mr. Chaudhry believes the history of the subcontinent “can be reshaped in these three years”.
Dr. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, an academic and Leftist politician, said the extension underscores the fact that the Army is Pakistan’s most powerful institution. “On the surface, the Prime Minister is making this decision but in practice, this is a question of the Army’s own internal decision-making or what it wishes to be. From the outside, it is impossible for us to know whether there is any dissent within the institution on this front and one can only conjecture about that but the truth is that once such a decision is made and the Army chief is given an extension in tenure, then one assumes this reflects some kind of coherent will within the institution itself for continuity.” Mr. Akhtar added that he doesn’t think the regional security situation is the real issue. “The real issue is the internal power dynamics in Pakistan and the fact that the Army wants its chief to continue.”
According to senior analyst Irshad Bhatti, this is a “timely and a good decision”. “If you look at Pakistan internally — be it the economy, fight against terrorism or accountability, it is pertinent for the Army to stand behind the government.”
Mr. Bhatti added that as far as the external factors are concerned, Pakistan and the U.S. are playing an important role in Afghanistan’s peace process. “President Trump wants a peaceful exit from Afghanistan and as a victor. On the other hand, we need to deal with Modi’s nefarious designs in Kashmir.” Mr. Bhatti says it will also bring continuity in General Bajwa’s role from Kartarpur Corridor to the White House in the last one year with this government.
“He played an important role for this government in Qatar, China, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia for the betterment of our country. General Bajwa is the first Army chief who met the Chinese President at the latter’s request. He got guard of honour with a 21-gun salute at the Pentagon. His extension was necessary given the circumstances. I think it will benefit Pakistan a lot.”