Gen Bajwa hopes army to stay apolitical

In interview with Gulf News, COAS deems political intolerance, terrorism and economy biggest challenges for country

News Desk November 28, 2022
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa. PHOTO: ISPR/FILE


Outgoing Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said he was certain that the “political quarantine of the armed forces” will bode well for the country in the long term.

“Despite some criticism and undue vilification of the armed forces through mass propaganda and meticulously crafted false narratives, the institutional resolve to remain apolitical will remain steadfast. I am certain that this political quarantine of the armed forces will auger well for Pakistan in the long term by fostering political stability and strengthening the army-to-people bond,” he said in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

General Bajwa admitted that “Pakistan Army has always remained a dominant player in national decision-making. Due to its historic role in the country’s politics, the military drew severe criticism from public and politicians alike”.

“We have restricted the army’s role to its constitutionally mandated task only by deciding to make it ‘apolitical’. This decision, though being viewed negatively by a segment of society and led to personal criticism, will facilitate reinvigorating and strengthening democratic culture, and assist in supporting state organs to effectively perform and deliver. Above all, this decision will help enhance the army’s prestige in the long term,” he stated.

“Pakistan Army has enjoyed unmatched respect and trust of the Pakistani Nation throughout our history. Army’s positive and constructive role in Pakistan’s National Security and development has always received unwavering public support,” the general added.

“I believe that public support and affinity towards the armed forces tend to erode when the military is seen to be involved in political affairs, and, therefore, I considered it prudent to shield Pakistan Army from the vagaries of politics in Pakistan,” he explained.

He urged the Pakistani youth to shield itself from “divisive propaganda and information warfare that seeks to polarise our society and erode mutual trust”.

General Bajwa who is due to retire on November 29, told Gulf News in an interview that “no nation is secure by virtue of its defence forces alone. While the armed forces of Pakistan are ready to sacrifice our lives for the motherland, we cannot succeed without the support of our people, especially the large, dynamic and industrious youth of Pakistan, which constitutes around 60 per cent of our total population.”

“Pakistan’s armed forces draw their strength and support from Pakistani nation and this support keeps us motivated in confronting the threats to Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and internal security,” he said.

“My message to our young generation, the future of Pakistan, is to devote their time and energy towards education and skill development. Honest toil and selfless exertion are the basis of a progressive society,” he added stressing that the youth “must also ensure that they are shielded from divisive propaganda and information warfare that seeks to polarise our society and erode mutual trust. Pakistan should always come first — before any other marker of identity”.

The challenge ahead

Reflecting on the challenges the country presently faces, the COAS said that: “Streaks of political intolerance in our society is a worrisome new trend; we will keep striving for a society which is tolerant, rational and does not discriminate on the basis of political orientation, faith, ethnicity or creed.”

Responding to the interviewer, General Bajwa said that “on the internal front, Pakistan’s successful counter-terrorism campaign has turned the tide of terrorism. We continue to make meaningful efforts to overcome the menace of extremism and residue of terrorism.”

During the interview, the COAS also reflected on the nearly two-decade-long anti-terror campaign adding that “Operation Rudd-ul-Fassad, which, was aimed at elimination of terrorists and extremists groups, is the continuity of our phased drive against militancy, which commenced in 2017 and has helped achieve impressive gains against terrorists and their abettors.”

Calling the army’s strategy geared against terrorism as “a wholesome people-centric developmental approach with a focus on mainstreaming of our tribal areas” he said that “the emancipation of people of border areas remains top priority of Pakistan’s civil and military leadership”.

“Another major concern is economic frailty, which tends to exacerbate other issues concerning human security such as health, education, access to food and clean water, and mitigating threats posed by climate change,” he added.

Meanwhile, the COAS also noted that on the international front “stability has remained elusive due to historical conflicts and unresolved disputes”.

“The region has been referred as the strategic chessboard due to its role in great power rivalries in the past — the recent being the two-decades-long war against terror led by US and the West in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s western border has therefore seen a great deal of instability due to the conflict in Afghanistan. Post-US withdrawal, a modicum of stability has been seen in the country with a reduction in violence. However, the situation remains volatile,” he said.

“Pakistan’s all-weather strategic partnership with China has endured the upheavals of the strategic environment through many decades. The ever-sharpening global power contestation, however, now places Pakistan in a delicate position with regard to balancing our relationship with China and the West. Pakistan is trying to steer itself prudently in this increasingly contested strategic environment and ensuring that we are not pulled into any future iteration of cold war,” General Bajwa continued.

“Our western neighbour Iran’s peculiar geo-strategic orientation has been a source of concern for the international community; however, Pakistan has always desired peaceful and friendly relations with our Muslim neighbour and tried to maintain a positive working relationship,” he noted.

During the interview, the general made special mention of the “fraternal ties” Pakistan enjoys with the Arab countries in the Middle East.

 “Military diplomacy is complementary to Pakistan’s foreign policy and plays its due role in fostering Pakistan’s bilateral relations with other countries,” the COAS added.

Terming his four decades of military service “a profound privilege”, General Bajwa said that he has “witnessed Pakistan Army as a constantly evolving force, which has always orchestrated and synergised its response with the changing threat paradigm and rapidly transforming the character of war.”

Adding that the army has made efforts to “effectively align” itself with the “requirements of [the] future battlefield”, the outgoing army chief said that he foresaw the institution “as a cohesive, agile, adaptive and a modern force, which can complement other elements of national power by maintaining a credible deterrent capability to help foster a secure environment for national development and socio-economic well-being.”

It may be noted that the new army chief Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir, will take charge on November 29 as the incumbent General Qamar Javed Bajwa would doff his uniform the same day after completing six years in office.


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