General Qamar Javed Bajwa took over command of the Pakistan army’s 16th chief on November 29, 2016. I introduce him here as Raheel’s successor because Raheel left a unique legacy. But, I suspect, it won’t be long before Bajwa makes his own mark in our history.
Bajwa has much in common with his predecessor. During the run-up to the elections, both were considered dark horses. Raheel was third senior most among those likely to be promoted and Bajwa fourth. Both held the appointment of the Inspector General Training and Evaluation when they were promoted. Both are Infantry soldiers.
Raheel was tall and broad of built, Bajwa is a little taller and broader.
I do not know Bajwa too well personally. However, some months ago, he came up to me, paid his respects and introduced himself, reminding me that he was commanding a company in the region when I commanded the Kel Brigade.
This voluntary act alone speaks volumes for him. He must be a confident, forthright, steadfast, and an unpretentious soldier to make an acknowledgement that was totally unnecessary.
Though totally out of date with the current crop of senior officers, my current assignment at the National Defence University provides me with the opportunity to interact with serving officers. In doing so, I discover second-hand, how many of them viewed the prospective candidates for succeeding Raheel.
Obviously, views differed on the best candidate for the job but, the virtually unanimous views on Bajwa hold that he is a soldier’s soldier. He is bold, decisive, and humane but also a no-nonsense person. A commander who, like Raheel will seek input but make his own decisions. And virtually everybody agrees with the qualities I listed earlier.
He has commanded 10 Corps and, therefore, is fully familiar with the LOC situation. But he is generally held to be of the view that our domestic threat is the more serious one.
These are the very qualities the present day military needs.
So far, like Raheel, he has started quietly, without pomp, but has not hesitated to confirm death sentences.
Gen Bikram Singh, a former Indian army chief who commanded a UN division in which Bajwa was a brigade commander, holds him in high esteem and has gone public about it. I have not seen the video but, I am told that Singh also cautioned Modi to be careful of Bajwa on air.
Raheel has certainly left very big shoes for Bajwa to fill. I have no idea of how well Bajwa will do; or whether he will stand as tall as Raheel or not. Comparisons, while inevitable are unfair. However, if all I hear of him is true, I have little doubt that it won’t be long before Bajwa has stamped his own presence on the national horizon and is no longer referred to as Raheel’s successor.
In the run-up to his selection, a senator of the Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith, accused Bajwa of having Ahmedi connections and sought his disqualification. To our utter shame, this unauthenticated rumour caught fire on the social media.
Personally, it is a matter of total indifference to me what the religious leanings of any individual are or aren’t. So long as he is the man for the job, he should have it. Religious leanings are a personal matter which no one other than the Almighty should know or pass judgment on. But, to our national shame, people do.
To our greater shame, they are heard and to our infinite shame, they often prevail.
Lt Gen (retd) Tariq Khan, whom I do know and, under whom Bajwa has served, while sharing my abhorrence for the need to clarify this matter, has categorically stated that Bajwa is a staunch Muslim; for the benefit of people like the undeserving “Professor” who started this unnecessary controversy.
What is far more relevant in my view and should be equally more relevant for all citizens of this benighted country, is that Tariq confirms all that has been said here about Bajwa’s suitability for the job and adds more encomiums too.
Since I know Tariq, I can confidently assert that Tariq’s praise is not easily won. His critique can be devastating. And, knowing this; if I had to help decide on Raheel’s successor, I would, without second thought, have picked Bajwa.
So let’s put our faith in our new chief and wish him well.
The only question that still tickles my mind is why the undeserving professor should have sought Bajwa’s disqualification with such an abhorable and malicious rumour? If all, or even most of, what has been stated here is true, the only kind of people who would benefit by his disqualification would be enemies of the state.
We are already fighting an insidious “enemy within” us, do we have some on our senate as well, or was it just an “innocent” mistake?
Published in The Express Tribune, December 8th, 2016.