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Six Implications Of Gen Bajwa’s Continuation As Army Chief

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EDITORIAL: Despite repeated clarifications from the ruling party, some voices had questioned the finality of the decision on the extension of tenure for Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. It appears that any speculation has been finally put to the rest with the press release issued by the PM House.

This development would also serve to underline the fact – oft repeated but still unfortunately overlooked by some quarters – that the Pakistani military is a disciplined force which respects chain of command over any other consideration. The military leadership enjoys the confidence of the government and the two are firmly on the same page as matters stand today.

The policy-level implications of this continuity in the tenure of General Bajwa will be far-reaching as one might expect. Let us briefly go over some of them.

FIRST, the much referenced “Bajwa Doctrine” remains in practice. There are multiple facets to this doctrine, but key among them is a commitment to keeping the armed forces out of involvement in politics. The military is supposed to stand behind the government and the decisions of the judiciary. Internal security threats in the country are to be dealt with firmly. And some developments such as the 18th Constitutional Amendment will be open to debate, reconsideration or, at the very least, review. Legal hurdles to the pursuit of the doctrine have either been overcome already or are in the process thereof.

SECOND, the government led by the Imran Khan and the PTI, having come to power after the 2018 elections, are likely to remain partners of choice for General Bajwa in pursuit of key policy objectives. History tells us that political dynamics change but thus far Imran Khan seems to the best ‘bet’ for the establishment.

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THIRD, with respect to the regional affairs, a policy of optimism and engagement of various major players is likely to continue. This would mean, in the case of India, proceeding with the Kartarpur Corridor initiative despite the lack of interest shown by the government of PM Narendra Modi. In Afghanistan, it would mean the continued pursuit of a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in that country, while keeping Pakistan’s perspective centre-stage.

FOURTH, at the global level, it would mean continuing Pakistan’s balancing act between the United States and China. It would be pertinent to mention here that a general improvement in relations with the US has been one of the key foreign policy achievements of General Bajwa’s previous tenure as Army Chief.

FIFTH, the military leadership has taken a prominent role in addressing the economic crisis as part of the larger strategic challenges facing the country. General Bajwa’s tenure as Army Chief has been marked by a realization that strategic security is dependent on economic stability and vice versa. It likely that the policy of taking the military leadership closely on board in managing and resolving Pakistan’s economic woes will continue.

SIXTH, with regards to the country’s democratic opposition, it is likely that the Army Chief will uphold, as already mentioned, a key aspect of his overall doctrine. We are referring here to the military’s realization that involvement in political matters has adverse consequences. Therefore, it is likely that PM Imran Khan’s accountability drive against leaders of the major opposition parties is likely to continue unabated.

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The ruling party has highlighted its objections even while allowing incarcerated former PM Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical reasons. This would suggest that there is still much appetite in PM Imran Khan’s government to pursue its tough stance on opposition leaders who it considers corrupt.

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