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Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in his final public address as the army chief, criticised anti-military narrative and urged political stakeholders to set aside labels of ‘imported’ and ‘selected’ to move forward for the country’s sake.

The army chief made these remarks on Wednesday during his speech at the Defence and Martyrs day ceremony, which is held annually at the General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi on September 6 to commemorate the sacrifices of fallen heroes of the 1965 war. However, it was
[/url]postponed this year in solidarity with flood victims across the country and rescheduled for today.

Today, I am addressing the Defence and Martyrs Day as the army chief for the last time,” Gen Bajwa, who is set to retire by November 29, said at the start of his speech. “I am retiring soon. This time, this [ceremony is being held] after some delay.”

Today, I am addressing the Defence and Martyrs Day as the army chief for the last time,” Gen Bajwa, who is set to retire by November 29, said at the start of his speech. “I am retiring soon. This time, this [ceremony is being held] after some delay.”

“To criticise the army is the right of [political] parties and the people, but the language used [should be careful],” he said.

Gen Bajwa said that a “false narrative was created”, from which “an escape is now being attempted”.

He said the army had initiated its process of “catharsis” and expected that political parties would follow suit as well and reflect on their behaviour. “This is the reality that there have been mistakes from every institution, including political parties and civil society.”

The COAS said that lessons should be learned from such mistakes so the nation could move forward.

‘Time’s come for political stakeholders to set aside ego, move forward’

Gen Bajwa said the country was facing “serious economic” issues and no one party could take the country out of the financial crisis.

“Political stability is mandatory and the time has come for all political stakeholders to set aside their ego, learn from past mistakes, move forward and take Pakistan out of this crisis.”

He stressed the need for the nation to shed intolerance and adopt a “true democratic culture”.

Gen Bajwa rued the political parties’ criticism, first after the 2018 general elections and then again following the successful vote of no confidence this year, recalling that whoever lost branded the other as either “selected” or “imported”.

“We need to reject this behaviour,” he said. “Victory and defeat are part of politics and every party will have to develop the strength to accept its victory as well as defeat so an elected government comes in the next election instead of an imported or selected one.”  He said that if Pakistan wanted to move forward then it would need to shun intolerance and the attitude of “I don’t accept”.

The COAS lauded the sacrifices of martyrs and praised their families, saying that the army would “continue to serve and protect the country”.

At the onset of the event, a tribute video was played about the recent catastrophic floods in the country and the scale of destruction they caused. The video also showcased the military’s rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts.

‘East Pakistan was a political failure, not military one’

Gen Bajwa also discussed the army’s performance and actions in Bangladesh during the 1971 civil war, which said were topics that most people avoided. “I want to correct some facts here. Firstly, former East Pakistan was a political failure and not a military one,” he said.

He said the number of soldiers fighting was not 92,000 but 34,000 and the others were in different government departs. He added that these 34,000 soldiers were confronted by an Indian army of 250,000 soldiers and 200,000 members of the Mukti Bahini.

“Against these heavy odds, our army fought bravely and gave exemplary sacrifices which were acknowledged by Indian army chief field marshal Manekshaw.”

He said the nation had yet not owned up to these sacrifices which was a “great injustice”. “Taking advantage of this occasion I salute these martyrs and will continue to do so. They are our heroes and the nation should be proud of them,” Bajwa added.

Gen Bajwa will be retiring by the end of the month after commanding the army for six years. He was appointed army chief in 2016 for a three-year tenure, which was extended by another three years after parliament legislated on the tenures of services chiefs on the orders of the Supreme Court.

After spending six years as Pakistan’s most powerful man, Gen Bajwa leaves behind a country at odds with itself, and adrift globally.

When he became Pakistan’s most powerful man on November 29, 2016, General Qamar Javed Bajwa may not have fully grasped how consequential his tenure would be. Born in Karachi on November 11, 1960, Bajwa had reached the pinnacle of his career and held the destiny of the world’s only nuclear-armed Muslim majority country, days after celebrating his 56th birthday.

Trained as a soldier in the 16th Baloch Regiment, the general’s rise to the very top of Pakistan’s treacherous power structure would not be smooth: his predecessor, General Raheel Sharif was reportedly seeking an extension and just days before Bajwa’s nomination, “a vilification campaign on social media” against him began in earnest.

But while General Bajwa moved quickly to solidify his control over Pakistan’s political economy, the turbulence that faced his tenure in those early moments was going to be a feature, not a bug during both his three-year terms — by the end of which, he would oversee the collapse of the model of hybrid democracy that has governed Pakistan since 2008, and Pakistan’s military would experience a dramatic decline in its standing across the country.

The emergence of hybrid democracy

Despite its transition to a parliamentary democracy, Pakistan’s political economy continues to be dominated by the military, especially the army. Through overt and covert influence, the institution exercises immense control over national security, foreign policy, the economy, and politics. This influence has continued to create uncertainty and volatility in the country for decades, and the flawed and floundering democracy that emerged after General Musharraf’s dictatorship was no different.

Pakistan’s hybrid regime is coming to an end. What next?

While General Kayani, tried to reduce the military’s direct role during his tenure that lasted from 2007 to 2013, this was more of a tactical retreat than a more substantive and strategic one. The military was highly unpopular and was facing a deadly insurgency that was killing or maiming thousands of soldiers every year. To deal with the security crisis at hand, it made sense for General Kayani and his commanders to take a back seat — he called back officers “who had been seconded to government departments” in 2008.

Despite this intent, however, the military entered the fray when it had to guard its interests, key among them being the Memogate Scandal soon after the American raid which killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011. During that episode, Kayani made it “clear that it was a conspiracy against” Pakistan’s military, and the episode brought to the forefront once more the power wielded by the military, especially the general who headed the Pakistan Army.

Appointed by General Musharraf as his successor, Kayani also ended up getting an extension in July 2010. This precedent would soon plague successive prime ministers, including Imran Khan.

Despite this turbulence, it was during Kayani’s tenure that Pakistan saw the first-ever smooth transition of power from one civilian government to another. Nawaz Sharif, who became prime minister for a third time, would once more get to pick an army chief, announcing on November 27, 2013 that Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif would be promoted to the chief of army staff’s position following General Kayani’s retirement.

General Sharif hailed from a family of soldiers, with his brother Major Shabbir Sharif posthumously receiving the Nishan-e-Haider for his service in the 1971 war. At the time of his appointment, General Sharif had been serving as the Inspector General for Training and Evaluation, helping prepare Pakistan’s soldiers for the asymmetric war the country was facing.

But while the military had to remain focused on dealing with the menace of terrorism, the historical issues that had plagued civil-military relations throughout Pakistan’s history were now going to test the shaky foundations of the country’s hybrid democracy.

The rise of the PTI

Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N) emerged as the largest party in the country during the 2013 elections, winning 166 seats out of the 272 on offer. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came in third, winning 35 seats compared to the 45 won by the Zardari-led Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). But Khan’s star was on the rise and he was claiming that the elections were rigged.

What began as an initial demand to probe fraud in four constituencies snowballed into an opposition campaign, first through rallies in the Punjab, and then in the form of an anti-corruption movement announced on April 22, 2014. The march would begin on August 14, 2014, and was dubbed the “Azaadi March”, with Khan promising to bring a million protesters to Islamabad in a bid to pressure the Sharif government into investigating electoral fraud.

Maulana Tahirul Qadri, a cleric who led the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), also announced his intent for another protest, signalling to many that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment was seeking to weaken Prime Minister Sharif’s government in Islamabad. The protesters camped in Islamabad for 126 days, with Khan giving speeches to crowds gathered on an almost daily basis. More importantly, however, the speeches were broadcast live whenever Khan came to the stage, giving a major political boost to Khan and his party.

The protest was called off after the tragic Army Public School attack in Peshawar on December 16, 2014; 150 people died, among them 134 students. But while the protest was called off, the lack of trust between the military and civilian government had only grown. These differences came to the forefront when Mushahid Ullah Khan, a senior PML-N leader, claimed in an interview that Lt General Zaheerul Islam, who was serving as the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, was planning to leverage the protests to conduct a coup. According to the PML-N leader, another intelligence agency had recorded Lt Gen Islam and “the tape had been played to the prime minister and chief of army staff.” These claims were denied by Major General Asim Bajwa, who was serving as the military’s spokesman and called the claims “totally baseless,” but were confirmed by Rick Olson, the US Ambassador to Pakistan at the time, to strategic analyst and author Shuja Nawaz.

While Mushahid Ullah Khan was forced to resign, the trust deficit between the military and the Sharif government had grown into a yawning gap. The Panama Papers revelations on April 3, 2016 jolted the entire world, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his entire family. While Sharif addressed the nation and said he was not afraid of accountability, his political opponents led by Imran Khan saw blood in the waters. A petition was filed with the Supreme Court of Pakistan on August 29, 2016, and by November 1, a five-member bench began hearing the cases.

While the court was hearing the case, the civil-military deficit, which had so far been a yawning gap, became an irreparable rift: on October 6 2016 Cyril Almeida wrote a front-page article for Dawn, which highlighted the civilian government’s position that “Pakistan faces diplomatic isolation” due to Pakistan’s policies, key among them being a lack of action against the Haqqani network and failure to complete the Pathankot investigation. What followed was “an astonishing and potentially ground-shifting exchange between the ISI DG and several civilian officials.”

The Dawn Leaks scandal, as it came to be known, jolted Pakistan like an earthquake: Almeida was placed on the exit control list, the civilians issued strong denials, and by the end of October Information Minister Parvaiz Rasheed had resigned from his position due “to a lapse on part of the information minister.”

All these events unfolded in the backdrop of the Panama Papers case and an upcoming change of guard at the military: General Raheel Sharif was expected to retire on November 29, 2016. Over his three years, General Sharif had succeeded in building not only the military’s reputation — the successes in the war on terror had brought peace to much of the country — but also a cult of personality around his figure. Throughout 2016, banners appeared in Islamabad and other parts of the country, asking General Sharif to seek an extension like his predecessor.

While the army chief had tried to put the speculation to rest by saying that “I don’t believe in extension and will retire on the due date,” the murmurings did not go away. According to Shuja Nawaz in his book The Battle for Pakistan, General Sharif “had by then also become a prisoner of his own propaganda machinery.” And in a recent video, journalist Azaz Syed reiterated the reports that General Sharif had been seeking an extension to the very end.

But Prime Minister Sharif had decided to appoint a new general to run the army, eventually settling on Lt General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who had been the Inspector General for Training and Evaluation, the same position General Raheel Sharif occupied prior to his elevation to chief of army staff.

While General Sharif did not get the extension he was looking for, he did get an extremely beneficial exit package: he had been allocated lands worth over Rs. 1.35bn in Lahore and was “granted approval” to go lead Saudi Arabia’s 41-nation military alliance.

Bajwa’s rise to the top, however, was marred by false allegations regarding his religious beliefs. To his credit, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not let these claims change his decision and on 29 November 2016, General Bajwa was elevated to the position of chief of army staff.

The Bajwa Doctrine and “same page” governance

The early months of a new chief are spent settling into the new position and for General Bajwa, time was of the essence. The Supreme Court was hearing the Panama Papers case, Imran Khan was going for the PML-N’s jugular, and Bajwa’s own posting had been mired in controversy, courtesy the vilification campaign referenced earlier.

But Bajwa inherited an institution and a political economy that had largely recovered from the impact of the Musharraf dictatorship: terrorism had been dealt a heavy blow, counter-terror operations in urban cities like Karachi had enhanced the military’s operational and political footprint, and money was flowing into the economy.

By December 2016, General Bajwa was in his stride, reshuffling the top brass of the military including the removal of Lt General Rizwan Akhtar from the ISI and Lt General Asim Salim Bajwa from the military’s media wing.

On July 28, 2017, Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from serving as prime minister and subsequently barred from public office for life; Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in jail while his daughter was given a 7 year sentence.

While the PML-N managed to hold onto power, electing Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister, it was increasingly becoming evident that PML-N would face an uphill battle in the upcoming 2018 general elections. In the months leading up to the elections, many PML-N members switched loyalties and the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) emerged as a political force that posed a challenge to the PML-N. The rise of the TLP led to speculation that this was also an attempt by the military establishment to cut the PML-N down to size — videos of military officers handing TLP workers money after a protest, for example, fueled this speculation.

As Bajwa settled into his office, he began to develop his own strategy on how to manage Pakistan’s political economy as its most powerful person. He believed in a “doctrine of realism which focuses on the peaceful coexistence with the neighbouring countries.” The Bajwa Doctrine, as it was dubbed, offered a lens into the army chief’s vision for Pakistan.

General Bajwa, according to Sohail Warraich who wrote about the Bajwa Doctrine, believed in a democratic future for Pakistan. He was “courageous” in saying that “Pakistan has no expansionist designs about Afghanistan” and wanted to rebuild ties with the likes of the United States and Saudi Arabia, who “were unhappy with the Nawaz government.”

Bajwa believed that normalisation with India was in Pakistan’s interest and that India would soon “realise the need of a peace dialogue with Pakistan.” The army chief was also committed to eliminating terrorism, and wanted to make sure that “no safe havens be spared” for terrorists.

Bajwa also believed “that [the] army had no direct role in politics but had reservations about the 18th Amendment, which he would be “happy to do away with.” Reports also suggested that the army chief “stressed that the army will support and assist the civilian government for national interest” and that the general will “not do anything that upends existing structures and dynamics.”

A few months after the Bajwa Doctrine came to light, Pakistan had a new prime minister: Imran Khan had ascended the constitutional throne of power in Pakistan’s democracy with the opposition parties calling into question the 2018 elections.

Some years ago, Khan had vehemently argued that the 2013 elections were rigged. Now in power, he faced an opposition wielding the same arguments against him. Despite the shrill objections of the opposition and a collapsing economy, Khan argued after celebrating his first 100 days in power that “there’s not a single decision that doesn’t have the support of the army.”

This same-page mantra was to be repeated time and time again during Khan’s three-and-a-half-year government, and for much of that period, this was true.

But the early months of the government indicated that Pakistan’s powerful military establishment had come a long way from General Kayani’s decision to withdraw military officers from secondment. Under General Bajwa, the military, especially Bajwa himself as chief of army staff, began to play a more overt role in the daily governance of the country.

For example, Bajwa and his institution began overseeing the fight against locusts and a serving major general was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority (NAPHDA). The strategic China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) facing various challenges, required a new agency: Lt. Gen. (retd.) Asim Saleem Bajwa was appointed chairman of the newly-formed CPEC Authority.

Bajwa also significantly increased his own involvement in diplomatic and economic affairs. While his predecessors like Raheel Sharif had also engaged in diplomacy, Bajwa took things to a new level: he flew on firefighting missions to China and Saudi Arabia, after remarks made by members of the PTI government stoked tensions. Given the so-called Bajwa Doctrine’s desire to improve relations with these countries, it was only necessary for the chief of army staff to go abroad and rebuild ties after the civilians faltered.

Given his growing influence, it was not a surprise that General Bajwa was also seeking an extension when his three-year appointment ended in November 2019. On August 19 2019, Prime Minister Imran Khan decided to extend General Bajwa’s tenure by another three years. The notification, which was just two sentences long, said that “the decision has been taken in view of the regional security environment.” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi defended this decision, saying that it signals “continuity and clarity” in leadership.

But the notification was not going to be the end of the drama: on November 26, 2019, Pakistan’s Supreme Court suspended the extension, and subsequently provided for a 6-month extension in his tenure, with parliament required to pass legislation related to the army chief’s appointment.

Paralysed due to ongoing political tensions between the ruling PTI and the opposition parties, parliament sprang into action: the legislation was rushed through parliament and by January 2020, both the national assembly and senate had passed the bills “with widespread support from both the governing coalition and the opposition benches,” sending them over to the president for his signatures. Pakistan’s civilian politicians, who could barely agree on anything of substance, magically united on a one-point agenda of giving Pakistan’s most powerful man three more years in office.

But while Bajwa was secure in his position through November 2022, Khan’s own government was beginning to realise that the same page was running out of space. The civil-military tensions that had plagued Khan’s predecessors would soon upend his own government, ending Khan and his party’s love affair with Pakistan’s military establishment, in particular General Bajwa.

End of the romance

Where did things begin to fall apart? That is a question that historians will eventually piece together based on various accounts of people who were deeply involved in ensuring that the civilians and the military, especially Bajwa and Khan, remained on the same page.

The inflection point which brought out the differences into the open was the process of appointing the successor to Lt General Faiz Hameed, who had served as Director General of the ISI. Appointed to the position on 19 June 2019, Hameed had previously served as the Director General of Counter Intelligence (DG-C) at the ISI — note that in recent weeks, Imran Khan has called out the DG-C by name, alleging that the officer in that position is behind the assassination attempt on Khan.

Hameed became DG-ISI after the removal of Lt General Asim Munir eight months after his appointment. While it remains unclear about why Munir was replaced, there are a range of theories within the power corridors suggesting that it may have been the earliest signs of a falling out between Imran and the military.

Perceived as someone close to Khan, Hameed has been accused of going out of his way to support his government in maintaining its grip on power. Opposition leaders talked of late night calls from unknown numbers ahead of votes, secret cameras were discovered in voting booths ahead of the Senate elections, and journalists critical of the Khan government were kidnapped, beaten, and even shot at. Following his ouster, the former prime minister himself acknowledged that “sometimes we would have to ask our agencies to bring those members to assembly for voting.”

It was no surprise then that Khan wanted to keep Hameed at the ISI, but the military’s own traditions and processes stood in the way. The ensuing dispute over the ISI chief’s appointment went on for weeks, with Khan telling his cabinet that “the precarious situation in Afghanistan demanded that the [then] ISI chief stay on for some time.” This logic was similar to the one deployed to grant Bajwa his extension, but the chief of army staff, the man who ultimately decides where his commanders get posted, was having none of it.

While Khan as prime minister did have the ultimate authority over appointing someone to lead the ISI, his government had ceded tremendous space to the military since coming to power. In addition, Khan’s alleged desire to see Hameed succeed Bajwa as chief of army staff, meant that Hameed had to be rotated out of the ISI to become a corps commander — army tradition demanded that a candidate for chief of army staff serve in this position.

As the military refused to accede to Khan’s request, the prime minister settled on interviewing all of the candidates nominated by Bajwa, telling his party that the issues related to the appointment “had been amicably settled” between himself and the army chief.

A new DG-ISI had been appointed and on November 18 2021, Hameed paid a farewell call to Imran Khan; he was going to be posted to lead the army’s XI Corps in Peshawar. Lt General Nadeem Anjum took over as the 25th Director General of the ISI, bringing to an end the triumvirate of Khan, Bajwa, and Hameed that had governed in sync for over three years.

The relationship between Khan and Bajwa had been strained prior to this saga as well.

On the foreign policy front, normalisation of relations with India was a point of division. An example is the reversal of the decision to resume trade with India in April 2021. Bajwa had routinely signaled the need for better relations with India and had invested significant effort to achieve and uphold a ceasefire on the Line of Control. The army chief’s desire to build on the ceasefire and pursue normalisation, however, was consistently undermined by Khan and his government’s rhetoric, which frequently lambasted the Narendra Modi-led government in Delhi as being “inspired by the ideology of the Nazi regime”.

Cooperation with the United States on counter-terrorism following the fall of Kabul was another bone of contention. While the military wanted to find ways to cooperate with Washington, Khan adopted the position of “absolutely not”. In addition, Bajwa found himself playing the role of firefighter with key allies China and Saudi Arabia, with cabinet members of Khan’s government making public remarks that irked the leadership in Beijing and Riyadh.

The economy was also not doing particularly well, and Bajwa routinely met business leaders to hear their complaints about the state of affairs — businessmen would express their concerns about the Khan government, arguing “that the government does not go beyond verbal assurances and that its words do not match its actions.” The outcome of these meetings would be assurances from the chief and the “all-out support of the army” and the chief advising businessmen to “set up more industries and enhance exports.”

These governance issues were of particular concern in Punjab, the crown jewel of Pakistan’s power politics. Usman Buzdar, a dark horse in the running for the chief minister’s position in Punjab, had been handpicked by Khan for this position. But Buzdar, had been found wanting in the role, with his job made all the more difficult due to other competing interests within the PTI. Bajwa had tried to influence Khan to pick someone else, to no avail.

The falling out between Bajwa and Khan signalled an opening to the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) parties — a new DG ISI was not interested in supporting Khan keep his coalition together, and Bajwa had had enough of Khan.

As the first quarter of 2022 neared an end, it was evident that the military, led by Bajwa, had decided to not keep propping up Khan and expending resources to keep his coalition together. While Khan alleged that the United States was behind a conspiracy to topple his government, the fact was that Khan’s benefactors were no longer interested in propping up his government.

Like prime ministers past, Khan had also fallen out of favor and while he and his party tried his best to stem the tide, their efforts proved futile. On March 8, 2022, the opposition had submitted a vote of no confidence motion to the national assembly and by the end of March, Khan’s coalition partners had publicly left the government. On April 3, Pakistan entered a constitutional crisis, with the National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri dismissing the motion, leading the opposition to approach the supreme court.

The court overturned Suri’s decision, leading to another session on April 9, with Speaker Asad Qaiser deciding to resign from his position right before midnight. A flurry of activity occurred in Islamabad, including the opening of the higher courts, and in the early hours of April 10, Imran Khan was ousted in the first successful vote of no confidence in the country’s history.

But Khan was not going away without a fight. An outpouring of public sympathy added wind to his sails and he began a national protest campaign against the “imported government” brought about by a foreign conspiracy. Khan’s speeches not only targeted the United States for conducting regime change, but also targeted the military’s top leadership, referring to them as Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq, the former a general who had betrayed Siraj ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal, and the latter another general who had betrayed Tipu Sultan.

Where do we go from here?

Khan’s agitation and public speeches targeting the military leadership is not unprecedented: Nawaz Sharif had called out both Bajwa and Hameed during his speeches when he was agitating against Khan’s “selected government.” But what has been different this time is the sheer scale and magnitude of the attack on the military’s leadership and its role in politics through the PTI’s sophisticated and unbeatable social media campaign.

While the military has tried to push back against this narrative, it has been found wanting: for the last few years, the close relationship between the military and the PTI meant that the former leveraged the latter’s communications assets, particularly on social media, to great advantage.

The end of the bonhomie, however, meant that the military was left without any significant capabilities to compete with the PTI’s machinery.

As a result, the PDM government, which had in the past condemned similar actions by the PTI, has adopted repressive tactics from the old playbook: hounding social media personnel from the PTI, intimidating journalists and anchors with a leaning towards Khan and his narrative, and coordinating with the Sharif government to pursue various cases in a bid to suppress expression.

In the PDM government, Bajwa has also found another convenient partner that is eager to cede space to the military, so long as it stays in power. As a result, Bajwa has continued to showcase the power of his office: he has had calls with the US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to try and secure economic assistance from the IMF, continued to engage with foreign leaders, and members of his institution have continued to engage in political affairs.

As Bajwa retires and ends his six year tenure as chief of army staff, the painstaking work his predecessors did to rebuild the military’s reputation and stature has been brought to nothing, if sentiments on social media are anything to go by. While Bajwa professed a desire to strengthen democracy, he has left behind a political economy that is ripping apart at the seams. His desire to insert the military into the economic and business policy making domains has yielded suboptimal results.

In Bajwa’s last days in office, a journalist who was hounded out of Pakistan has been brutally murdered in a targeted attack in Kenya and the country’s former prime minister, who is arguably the most popular politician in the country, barely survived an assassination attempt. The military, long seen as a guarantor in the political disputes that routinely engulf Pakistan, has had its image tarnished, perhaps beyond repair.

It is also ironic in a way that the key risks highlighted in the Dawn Leaks saga did come to pass. Pakistan’s grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) forced a change of policy, with Pakistan going so far as to punish Sajid Mir, a man on FBI’s most wanted terrorist lists. For years, Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership had claimed that Mir had been dead. However, intelligence gathered by the United States and subsequently shared with the Pakistanis, proved that Mir was alive and in Pakistan. In order to get Pakistan removed from the FATF grey-list, the military finally had to act, and only when Mir was punished did the FATF logjam come to an end.

In terms of the relationship with India, the military is now eager to open trade and explore normalisation of ties. This again is an about face, because years earlier when Nawaz Sharif tried to pursue a similar path, with Narendra Modi coming to Lahore in a surprise visit, the three-time prime minister was called a traitor and was undermined.

Worst of all, Bajwa leaves behind an institution in a state of flux, with the army’s internal divides and rivalries coming out into the limelight. These developments are breeding concern about the military’s unity of command, especially in countries concerned about Pakistan’s stability.

The military’s growth in terms of influence and power has also brought about a lot of additional economic opportunities. The institution remains a dominant economic actor in the country, gaining in excess of $1.7bn in annual benefits “mainly in the form of preferential access to land, capital and infrastructure, as well as tax exemptions.” In addition, the continued policy of either seconding military officers to key government posts, or appointing retired officers to government agencies or state-owned enterprises, has become a powerful tool of patronage. No-bid contracts to military-run organizations have also become the norm.

Given the stakes, it is no surprise that there are internal divisions within the military leadership over who gets to succeed Bajwa, and by extension, control the resources and power on offer.

Bajwa’s legacy, then, is of a man that inherited a largely stable political system. A flawed but floundering democracy was slowly making progress, and while an emerging contender for power in the form of Imran Khan and his PTI was giving the status quo parties a run for their money, he would have been unable to become prime minister without the establishment’s support.

On the economic front, while there was a brewing economic crisis at hand in 2018, it was not an unmanageable one. Foreign relations were in flux, but there was enough latent capacity to maintain good relations with key partners, including the United States, Saudi Arabia, and China. But the political upheaval caused during the Bajwa years, much of it driven by the military establishment’s growing interference in politics, turbocharged the pace at which things deteriorated. Relations with India remain frozen, with the military now closer to Nawaz Sharif’s position prior to his ouster. On the western front, the return of a Taliban regime has created new terrorism challenges for the country, with a resurgent TTP mounting attacks and demonstrating reach in areas like Swat.

After spending six years as Pakistan’s most powerful man, Bajwa leaves a country in a significantly weaker position: society is deeply polarized, the economy is on the brink of default, foreign partners are withholding significant support due to the ensuing political instability, and the long-term bet on Khan has blown up in the military’s face. Such has been the failure of this experiment that the military is back to dealing with the likes of Zardari and Nawaz to stabilise a collapsing political economy.

Bajwa’s successor, then, has his work cut out for him. While the military is professing that it is apolitical — something we have heard in the past as well — the next chief will quickly realise that remaining apolitical is easier said than done. The hybrid democracy that emerged following the end of the Musharraf dictatorship has become untenable, largely due to the military’s own actions. Today, there are no off-ramps available for negotiating a new compact across and within institutions, and the military cannot simply retreat into the barracks.

The risk then, is that the ongoing chaos leads Bajwa’s successor to make more poor choices. Given that the military’s role in Pakistan’s political economy has only grown during Bajwa’s tenure, it may be likely that a new chief feels confident enough in doing things his own way. This temptation has always been there for army chiefs across Pakistan’s history: the civilians are incompetent, they argue, so we need to run the show ourselves, because if we do not, Pakistan will fall apart.

Bajwa’s successor would be well-advised to learn from history and realise that overt and covert intervention by the military in Pakistan’s political economy does more harm than good.

The best choice would then be to take a back seat, perhaps akin to the approach Kayani adopted, and in an organised manner withdraw the military from political and economic affairs. This, however, is easier said than done and will require immense restraint on the part of the top military leadership.

For Bajwa, this is the end of the road and he must be judged by his own doctrine, where it was stated that he “would not like to be remembered as Nero playing flute when Rome was on fire,” concluding by stating that the “success of any doctrine is not measured by intentions but by the results.” Given the state of Pakistan today, it will not take a genius to figure out how Bajwa’s reign ought to be judged.

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RE: PAKISTAN'S VISION 2025 - by globalvision2000administrator - 11-24-2022, 01:28 AM

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