Following the SC’s cliffhanger verdict today, Gen Bajwa will retain the top military position for another six months.
Three years ago General Qamar Javed Bajwa took charge as the country’s chief of army staff. With his retirement due in November 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan approved an extension in his tenure citing “regional security situation” back in August this year.
Gen Raheel Sharif hands over baton of command to Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The matter of his extension, however, took an unanticipated turn on November 26 when the Supreme Court suspended the notification by the government and grilled the attorney general on how the whole matter was handled.
Following two days of lengthy court proceedings and back-to-back cabinet meetings — all in an attempt by the government to satisfy the top court on the legal grounds of the move — the Supreme Court announced on November 28 that Gen Bajwa will retain the top military position for another six months. The three-member bench announced the much-anticipated verdict after being assured by the government that parliament will pass legislation on the extension/reappointment of an army chief within six months.
Here, Dawn.com takes a look at some of the key highlights from Gen Bajwa’s three-year tenure as the Chief of Army Staff.
The ‘Bajwa doctrine’
During the course of Gen Bajwa’s tenure, the term and the idea of a ‘Bajwa doctrine’ came under much discussion. In January 2018, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said Gen Bajwa wanted to make Pakistan a peaceful country and referenced the ‘doctrine’ as the army chief’s vision for the country.
“The Gen Bajwa doctrine will bring a durable peace in the country,” he said, adding that cooperation between state institutions was vital in the war against terrorism.
The ‘doctrine’ came under discussion and was criticised by some sections of the civil society and the media. However, the army dismissed media conjecture on the ‘Bajwa doctrine’ and emphasised that this was in fact only a concept around security and had nothing to do with the country’s political and constitutional matters.
“Every army chief has their own perspective and General Bajwa’s is to promote peace which existed in the past. That is what the Bajwa doctrine is,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said.
“Going by this so-called doctrine, it would seem that the army chief has a grand vision about everything — from critical political problems to the economy and foreign policy. Should we be surprised? Not really. Didn’t we witness similar wisdom being attributed to previous army chiefs?
“But the virtues ascribed to Gen Qamar Bajwa make him appear head and shoulder above his predecessors; a messiah the country has long been waiting for.”
During Gen Bajwa’s term, the Pakistan Army, in February 2017, launched ‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’ (RuF). The operation was announced in the aftermath of a fresh resurgence of terror attacks in the country.
At the time the operation was launched, ISPR said Radd-ul-Fasaad — which translates roughly to ‘elimination of discord’ — was aimed at indiscriminately eliminating the “residual/latent threat of terrorism”, consolidating the gains made in other military operations, and further ensuring Pakistan’s border security.
In May 2019, Maj Gen Ghafoor said the operation was progressing satisfactorily. Sharing statistics, he said 47 major operations and 100,000 intelligence-based operations had been undertaken, which had resulted in the recovery of over 64,000 weapons and 5.1 million units of ammunition.
“In our fight against terrorism, the Pakistan Army has been the most proactive institution. But now, to compensate for a dithering civil government and match expectations built by the last army chief, it may be biting off more than it can chew.
“Raddul Fasaad is an effort to address the rise of terrorism across the country — a situation that has, rather than being contained, escalated.”
Afghan border fencing
One of the major successes under the RuF has been border fencing.
In June 2017, fencing along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border commenced in an effort to improve the security situation along the international boundary. Last year, the army announced that work on fencing was going apace and the project would be completed by December 2019.
A total of 1,000 kilometres of the border has so far been fenced decreasing chances of unauthorised border crossing. Additionally, border security with Afghanistan has been buttressed by the construction of 300 border forts. A total of 843 forts are planned to be constructed.
Tensions with India
Meanwhile, tensions between Pakistan and India flared in February after a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in occupied Kashmir. India blamed Pakistan for the attack and attacked Pakistan. Pakistan responded and this led to an aerial dogfight between Pakistani and Indian jets.
Following the Pulwama incident, COAS Gen Bajwa said that defending the motherland was the most sacred act and that the army was ready to perform its duty to safeguard the country’s boundaries.
The crisis between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India had raised fears of an all-out war after the Pakistan Air Force on February 27 shot down two Indian aircraft for violating Pakistani airspace. An Indian pilot was also arrested but was later released by Pakistan as a goodwill gesture.
Following India’s airstrike on February 26, DG ISPR had held a press conference on the same day to discredit India’s claims regarding Line of Control (LoC) violation. He also debunked claims made by India that its airforce had “struck the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Balakot”.
“If solely words are used to beat the war drums and there is no further military adventurism, hundreds of millions in South Asia would heave a sigh of relief as the horrors of what an ever-spiralling conflict between two nuclear powers could lead to are too grave to contemplate.”
In October, DG ISPR said the Pakistan Army had killed more than 60 Indian soliders during firing at the LoC since February 27.
The heavily militarised LoC which splits the disputed region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan has been constantly witnessing ceasefire violations in a serious breach of a November 2003 truce agreement.
According to Syed Shahid Mohyiddin Qadri, secretary civil defence and state disaster management authority, the latest ceasefire violations, as of October 16, had pushed the civilian death toll in the current year to 47.
In September, on the occasion of Defence and Martyrs Day, Gen Bajwa and Prime Minister Imran visited the restive area.
Article 370 revoked
Relations worsened between India and Pakistan after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stripped Kashmiris of the special autonomy they had for seven decades through a rushed presidential order on August 5.
Later that month, Gen Bajwa said the Pakistan Army was fully prepared to thwart any Indian misadventure and aggression.
In October, while visiting troops stationed along the LoC, the army chief vowed “to never leave Kashmiris alone” in their fight against Indian oppression.
CPEC security and ties with China
Alternatively, Pakistan’s relations with China have deepened over the years with projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Commenting on the extension of Gen Bajwa as chief of army staff, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said: “We believe [that] under the leadership of Gen Bajwa, Pakistan Army will continue to make contributions to upholding Pakistan’s sovereignty and security interests and regional peace and stability.”
“We have noticed this decision by the Pakistani government. General Bajwa is an extraordinary leader of Pakistan Army,” he added.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said Gen Bajwa was a sincere and old friend of the Chinese government and the army and he had made positive contributions to relations between China and Pakistan.
During his tenure so far, the army chief has held meeting with the Chinese leadership. Most recently, in October, Gen Bajwa called on Commander Army General Han Weiguo, People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and General Xu Qiliang, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), at the PLA’s headquarters during a two-day visit to China along with Prime Minister Imran, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other senior ministers and officials.
In September 2018, Gen Bajwa, on special invitation, called on the President of China Xi Jinping to discuss the region’s security challenges.
The army chief has also reiterated the military’s commitment to ensure the security of CPEC.
In 2016, COAS Bajwa had expressed hope that the timely completion of CPEC would usher in a new era of development in the region.
China and Pakistan have been pursuing the multi-billion dollar project since 2015 that involves connectivity and infrastructure projects.
In June, amidst a surge in terrorist activity in Balochistan, the army reaffirmed its commitment to ensure security of CPEC.
Security officials believed the sudden intensification of attacks was linked to the launch of the second phase of CPEC, the progress on border fencing and the fluid situation in Afghanistan. The attack on a hotel in Gwadar accentuated concerns about CPEC security.
“For the second time in a month, Balochistan is the scene of a terrorist attack. Even more disturbing, the incident took place in Gwadar city, whose port is the gateway to CPEC and the veritable jewel in the crown of the multibillion dollar project — which makes the area one of the most heavily secured in the restive province.”
Security issues have been one of the major friction points in the long troubled civil-military relations. The military has been in the driving seat on security and foreign policy matters, but civilians have in the past taken flak for failings in the fight against extremism and terrorism.
Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in his last tenure got his security briefing five months after assuming office whereas former premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi only got a chance to visit the Joint Staff Headquarters after eight months in office.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Imran’s first year in office was characterised by a rare harmony in the traditionally fraught relationship between the country’s civilian and military leaderships.
The premier held his first official meeting with COAS Bajwa in August 2018 shortly after assuming the office of the prime minister. The interactions between the military head and Prime Minister Imran have been frequent since.
In an unprecedented move in recent times, the premier was also invited to the annual Defence Day ceremony at the military headquarters last year, where the army chief has always been the main speaker.
In his speech at the ceremony, the premier had rejected the perception of a civil-military imbalance in the country as a myth and said both sides were united to make the country great once again.
The following week, the premier visited the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) where he was received by Gen Bajwa and Gen Mukhtar, and given a detailed briefing on “various strategic, intelligence and national security matters”.
“Security briefings for a newly elected prime minister may not be unprecedented, but the excitement over Imran Khan’s intensive parleys at GHQ and the ISI headquarters certainly are.
“Our hyper-animated information minister described how proud the prime minister and the cabinet ministers were at the rare honour of meeting “the command of the world’s best army”.”
“The PTI-led government faces many challenges. One it does not acknowledge is that of civil-military relations. Yet, in a constitutional democracy, if civil-military relations are not clearly conducted within the framework of civilian supremacy they will, sooner or later, become problematic. Many see the current state of civil-military relations as providing a civilian mask for selective military rule.
“The political salience of the military in Pakistan is too obvious to be denied. This needs to be addressed if the country is to be governed and transformed into a modern democracy that can overcome the challenges of the 21st century.”
In April 2018, Gen Bajwa said “hybrid war” had been imposed on Pakistan to internally weaken it while noting that the enemies were failing to divide the country on the basis of ethnicity and other identities.
“Our enemies know that they cannot beat us fair and square and have thus subjected us to a cruel, evil and protracted hybrid war. They are trying to weaken our resolve by weakening us from within,” he said.
It was the second time that Gen Bajwa address the idea in an apparent reference to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).
movements lie in the challenges and problems that populations face at home and are not engineered from outside. But external forces can easily exploit the situation if the state fails to address the genuine grievances faced by the people.”
This year, in April, DG ISPR said the Pakistan Army wanted to make every effort to resolve the issues faced by Pashtuns in tribal areas, but that the manner adopted by the PTM to voice such grievances would no longer be tolerated.
“We want to do everything for the people [of tribal areas], but those who are playing in the hands of people, their time is up. Their time is up,” Maj Gen Ghafoor said, referring to PTM.
The military has also long suggested that ‘fifth-generation warfare’ is being thrust on Pakistan.
“Hands up if you’ve heard the terms ‘fifth-generation warfare’ and ‘hybrid war’ recently on Pakistani media, both print and television, and on social media.
“A fifth-generation war is one where non-state actors take on the state, where information spreads quickly through the internet, and where military engagement and the protocols of war as they were drawn up after both world wars are now mutating into something more amorphous, less easily defeated. This kind of war is on full tilt in Pakistan; our very existence is threatened by it.”
Interactions with the business community
On a domestic level, a meeting between the army chief and some of the most powerful business tycoons of Pakistan in October garnered much attention. Bajwa reportedly told a group of businessmen that the country’s “improved internal security environment” had “created space for increased economic activity”.
A number of business leaders who met Gen Bajwa in Rawalpindi had told Dawn that the meeting “was held in a comfortable and cordial atmosphere” and its main purpose was to focus on areas where an economic revival could be brought about, as well as building confidence between the government and the business community.
At the beginning of the year, while speaking to a delegation of the business community, Gen Bajwa had asked them to play their role in the country’s economic stability and take advantage of the improved security situation.
“The first thing to note about the meeting last week between a delegation of leading businessmen and the army chief is the fact that it happened at all.”