Although the president is his boss on paper, Pakistan’s chief of army staff is de facto the most powerful person in the nuclear-armed state. Javed Bajwa joins the world’s most powerful at a time when the relations between Pakistan and India is set to move northwards, partly thanks to his efforts. He has a difficult task of keeping peace in the state where terrorist groups are present while managing a complex relationship with India. Two years into his tenure as the head of the world’s sixth largest Army, Bajwa has established himself as a mediator and proponent of democracy.
‘De facto, the most powerful person in the nuclear-armed state’, ‘Mediator and proponent of democracy’ that is how Forbes magazine described Pakistan’s General while listing him at number 68 of world’s most powerful persons in 2018.
What Sets Him Apart?
General Bajwa has huge expertise in leading from the front, particularly in crucial regions like Baltistan and Kashmir. His approach towards Pakistan’s arch-rival and neighbour India remains passive yet firm which makes him a calm and composed General, who is ready to act pragmatically rather than being impulsive.
He has exhibited qualities of a thorough professional. He conscientiously kept aloof from politics throughout his career which further boosts his credentials as a real military general. Relevant details of this force to reckon with, are covered in succeeding paragraphs.
Tracing the Roots
General Qamar Javed Bajwa was born on 11th November 1960 in a small town of Ghakar Mandi of Gujranwala district in Pakistan. His father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Pakistani army. General Qamar Bajwa is the youngest of five offsprings of Iqbal Bajwa. Lieutenant Colonel Muhammad Iqbal Bajwa passed away while in service in 1967 in Quetta, Balochistan.
Bajwa’s father-in-law was also a distinguished Army officer who rose to the rank of a Major General. Bajwa completed his secondary and intermediate education from F. G. Sir Syed College and Gordon College in Rawalpindi before joining Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul in 62nd Long Course. Bajwa is an alumni of Canadian Army Command and Staff College in Canada, Naval Postgraduate School in the United States and National Defense University, Pakistan.
Brouhaha Prior to Taking over as Chief
A few days before being appointed as the Chief of Army Staff, a politician Sajid Meer alleged that General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his relatives follow the Ahmadi religion which started a controversy leading towards serious objections for his promotion as the chief. Lately, many people have been accused and persecuted in the country by religious scholars for following the Ahmadi sect.
Ahmadis are also known as Qadiyaanis who are the believers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiyaani. Constitution of Pakistan under the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in 1974 declared Ahmadis as Non-Muslims for the first time in Pakistan which by far has not been changed in the constitution.
General Qamar Javed Bajwa, is the 10th and current Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Pakistan Army since 29th November 2016. Bajwa was educated at the Sir Syed College and Gordon College in Rawalpindi prior to joining the Pakistan Military Academy in 1978. He was felicitated with Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military) in 2007 and Nishan-e- Imtiaz (Military) in 2016. His achievements and important milestones in career are appended below:
- General Qamar Javed Bajwa was commissioned in 16th Baloch Regiment on 24th October 1980. This regiment alone has produced three out of the sixteen army chiefs in the past, namely:
- He is graduate of Canadian Forces Command and Staff College (Toronto) Canada, Naval Post Graduate University, Monterey ( California) the USA and National Defense University, Islamabad.
- He has also commanded Pakistan’s Contingent in Congo as part of the United Nations peacekeeping service.
- He has commanded Rawalpindi Corps and was serving Inspector General Training and Evaluation at GHQ.
- Former Indian Army chief, General Bikram Singh, praised General Qamar Javed Bajwa as a ‘true professional’.
Doctrine of a General
Myths are often woven around persons with aura and influence. It was, perhaps a first in the history of Pakistan when a term was coined to articulate a serving General’s thought process. “Bajwa doctrine” is a term used by some media circles and, indeed, by the Inter-Services Public Relations chief (DG-ISPR) himself in an interview with a TV channel.
With one glance through important tenets of this doctrine, it becomes clear that the Army Chief has a grand vision about everything. From crucial political problems to the economy and foreign policy.
Virtues ascribed to Gen Qamar Bajwa set him apart and a cut above his predecessors. Is he the messiah the country has long been waiting for? The so-called doctrine proposes to bring about an unprecedented change in foreign policy, making a clean break from the “Self-glorifying” approach of the past 70 years.
Basic Tenets of the So-Called Doctrine
According to this “doctrine”, the General envisions better relations with neighbouring countries and balance in dealing with world powers. Although extremism is certainly not acceptable but the mainstreaming of tamed jihadists is important.
While being portrayed as “Pro-democracy” and a staunch supporter of the rule of law, the general appears unhappy about the way Pakistan’s political system works, lamenting the 18th Amendment in the Constitution that, he believes, has turned the country into a confederation. His greatest concern appears to be economic policy mismanagement that is seen as the main culprit behind bringing Pakistan to the brink of bankruptcy.
Doctrine for Change
Indeed, in an interaction with a group of journalists, the Army Chief did bring out all significant components of the vision which is now being hailed as a grand “doctrine” for change. The truth is that the General was giving voice to the thinking of his institution and it must not be projected as his own vision. One may agree with his (or rather the Army’s) identification of the problems Pakistanis face, but the solutions to critical political and economic issues are overly simplistic.
Army General, Member of Development Council
Simplistic, they may be but his conviction has found favours with PM. On 18th Jun 2019, Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has been appointed a member of the newly-formed National Development Council headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. This move is expected to further expand the powerful Pakistani military’s influence.
The National Development Council (NDC) is mandated to set policies and strategies for development and provide guidelines for regional cooperation. The powerful army, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 70 plus years of existence, has hitherto wielded considerable power in the matters of security and foreign policy. But now, the military will play greater role in economic matters of Pakistan as the Khan-led government grapples with serious financial woes.
Military Rulers of Yore
In the past military rulers of Pakistan have successively seized power on the pretext of turning things around and fixing problems but they ended up leaving the country in the same mess if not worse. Similarly, while there may be little doubt regarding the expressed intentions, the views enunciated on the political situation, economy and other issues have exposed the widening cleavage between the elected civilian government and the security establishment that has strengthened multiple power centres.
While generals do not seek to take over power, some feel that is the easiest thing to do in a crisis situation. The long shadow of the military, in a nexus with the judiciary, will hover over the emerging political setup. It is apparent that most of the country’s law-enforcement and investigative agencies are already operating under the watch of the security establishment. This is not a happy situation for a vibrant democracy.
More must be done to bridge the gap between the civil and military leadership on key foreign policy issues rather than presenting an alternative “doctrine” on wide-ranging domestic and foreign policy issues. Unfortunately, Pakistan doesn’t have a national narrative on anything. The so-called Bajwa doctrine then is more institutional thinking than one man’s views.
What is most alarming, however, is the military’s adverse view of the 18th Amendment. The landmark legislation that has lent greater autonomy to the provinces was passed unanimously by Parliament with all major political parties on board. Albeit, some provinces have encountered capacity problems in the discharge of their responsibilities, but this lacuna can be resolved in due process.
More importantly, the amendment has strengthened the federation and obviated a perpetual source of friction between the Centre and provinces. The unitary form of government and concentration of power at the Centre had created serious anomalies, particularly for the smaller provinces. Indeed, there is a need for a unified education system in the country and for streamlining provincial laws. But any attempt to strike down the amendment would be disastrous.
COAS talk on ‘Pak’s Regional Security Perspective’ at IISS.
“Pak is at the cusp of achieving sustainable, irreversible, enduring peace & stability. This can be complemented through meaningful international partnership, support & will to take on regional challenges”, COAS.(1of2). pic.twitter.com/kQwVm4szNn
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) June 22, 2019
In overall analysis General Bajwa appears to be a very capable person trying to spread his tentacles in all spheres including diplomacy and foreign policy. His forthcoming visit to the UK is a case in point. He seems to have gauged the situation on the ground correctly when he asserted:
“We have no threat from India; in fact we have threats from the extremist between us”.
22 Jun 19/Saturday Written by Naphisa