Gen Qamar mulls different set of methods for security

Senior military official says army is expected to allow institutions to play their part

Kamran Yousaf January 09, 2017
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa

ISLAMABAD: It’s still early in army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s tenure, but the enormity of the challenges the country is facing means he has his work cut out for him.

Like his predecessor, his major challenge is to take the fight against terror to its logical conclusion. But will he follow in Gen (retd) Raheel Sharif’s footsteps?

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Since 2001 — when Pakistan was thrust into this long drawn out battle — the army has gone through three chiefs before Gen Qamar. All three of them followed different paths to tackle militancy.

While Pervez Musharraf was focused more on al Qaeda and its affiliates, his successor Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is credited with going after homegrown militants.

Kayani’s successor Gen Raheel, meanwhile, took the fight to North Waziristan, which was then seen as the headquarters of all local and foreign terrorist groups.

Operation Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014, and the National Action Plan (NAP) adopted after the Army Public School massacre near the end of that year resulted in a 50% decline in terrorist incidents in the country.

But the last quarter of 2016 has been deadly. Major attacks, particularly in Balochistan, were a grim reminder that the battle against militancy is far from over.

Against this backdrop, a senior military official has given rare insight into the how the current army chief will deal with militancy. The official – who requested not to be named since he is not authorised to speak to the media – said that while the overarching objective is still the same, Gen Qamar will certainly employ different methodologies when dealing with security. The official did not elaborate what these ‘different methodologies’ would entail.

The major reshuffle in the army within days of Gen Qamar assuming command suggests he wants to have a team of ‘likeminded’ commanders to pursue his strategy. The first thing the army under Gen Qamar is engaged in at the moment is an ‘honest and realistic’ appraisal of the security situation.

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“The findings of this appraisal so far indicate a lot more needs to be done,” the official said. “There will be no absolute peace. This is the new normal,” he added in candid remarks about the success of the ongoing anti-terror war.

He explained that like the rest of the world, Pakistan needs to reconcile itself with this ‘new normal’ whereby certain elements might keep trying to undermine security but the government and other organs will have to ensure that such incidents will not affect state business.

“We have achieved this new normal … the challenge now is to maintain it.”

During Gen Raheel’s tenure, it was often said that the military establishment was in charge of the country’s security and foreign policy. The security official dismissed that narrative but emphasised that the armed forces will have a central role given the current environment.

“We have seen in recent decades that countries with no or weak armed forces couldn’t survive,” the official argued, saying that had there been no strong army, Pakistan would have met the same fate. “Just throw 1,500 terrorists in any country… you will see how it disappears,” he said, adding that Pakistan was dealing with a far bigger challenge where it not only had to deal with homegrown militants but also ones backed by external forces.

The official said it was a war of narratives as much as an actual battle. “And as part of this war of narratives, the wrong impression is being given that the army controls the country’s security and foreign policy.”

The official said that the army under Gen Qamar would follow a more cohesive strategy where all institutions would play their respective part in steering the country out of this problem.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2017.



Farru | 7 years ago | Reply Over half a dozen bloggers are missing. Is this a new strategy? It is coming from him or civilians?
Pakistani | 7 years ago | Reply No wonder NS appointed him as the Army Chief!!....'like minded', indeed.
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