Islamabad, November 26 (Dawn):Pakistan’s new army chief, Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, is said to consider Pakistani domestic extremism a bigger threat than India. He feels so despite his extensive involvement in Kashmir and the Northern Areas.
Gen Bajwa has served with a UN mission in Congo as a brigade commander alongside former Indian army chief Gen Bikram Singh, who was also there as a division commander.
Gen Bajwa was something of a dark horse in this race for the post of COAS.He is currently serving at the General HQ as Inspector General of Training and Evaluation — the position Gen Sharif held before becoming army chief — he has commanded the 10 Corps, the army’s largest, which is responsible for the area along the Line of Control (LoC).
Gen Bajwa has extensive experience of handling affairs in Kashmir and the northern areas of the country. As a major general, he led the Force Command Northern Areas. He also served in the 10 Corps as Lieutenant Colonel, where he was GSO.
His military colleagues say he is not attention-seeking and remains well-connected with his troops.
“He is extremely professional, but very easy-going and full of compassion,” an officer who had served under him said, adding that he was not protocol-minded either.
Gen Bajwa is also said to be an apolitical person without any biases.
He is from the infantry’s Baloch Regiment, which has given three officers to the post of army chief — Gen Yahya Khan, Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Kayani.
Abbas Nasir, a former editor of Dawn has suggested that the first and foremost task of Pakistan’s new army chief, Gen.Bajwa, should be to ask the government to work out a “measured response” to the Modi-Doval-led Indian attempts to test Pakistan’s patience by constantly provoking, prodding and poking it with artillery fire along the Line of Control.
“At the heart of Pakistan’s response would have to be the calculation as to which country can least afford an escalation at this time. India’s enormous market and the investment opportunities in a huge country have been seen as New Delhi’s major selling points since the turn of the century. But New Delhi’s intransigence by seeking no accommodation with the Kashmiris and its attempt to bulldoze all opposition to its rule in the occupied valley using the most brutal methods somehow appear at cross purposes with its policy of presenting itself as a safe haven for investment,” Nasir observes.
“Given the subcontinent is home to both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons, turmoil in India-held Kashmir and regular hostilities across the Line of Control can potentially escalate into something that the authors of the cavalier approach of the Modi administration may not have considered,” he adds.
Say No To Absorption of Militants Into the Forces
But Nasir warns Bajwa against absorbing anti-India militant groups into the regular army.
“The unresolved issue of the status and freedom afforded to jihadi groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad which may not have targeted Pakistan or its forces but that have fallen from the position of ‘asset’ and ‘force multiplier’ to outright liability, must be focused on,” he says.
“These groups are a liability, because with their actions. They can cause the government and the army to be sucked into an unwanted and unwise confrontation with India on unfavorable terms and at a bad time. Is it hard to imagine what another Mumbai-like murderous act of insanity could trigger today?”
“One has heard of mainstreaming plans. While there can be no two opinions that anyone in the country who has not broken the law has the right to be part of the mainstream regardless of their ideological and political moorings, the suggestions going around to induct some of the militants into the security forces fills me with foreboding.”
“This foreboding is particularly strong as those who make the suggestion forward no statistics or data from anywhere in the Muslim world where de-radicalization has been so successful that ‘former’ jihadis have joined the disciplined security forces and given up on their agenda completely. Many Pakistanis will need to be reassured that it will not be a case of out-of-the frying pan-and-into-the-fire,” Nasir says.
Side by side with evolving a well-thought-out and gamed approach to Indian hostilities, the new army chief will need to move quickly to consolidate the gains of his predecessor’s operation in North Waziristan Agency. The past few weeks have seen fresh spurts of terrorist violence, including IED attacks, in the South Waziristan and Mohmand agencies, Nasir said.
“Equally pressing is the need to look at the people and groups involved in the increasing attacks on targets in Balochistan that are being claimed by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi al-Alami and the militant Islamic State group. This is a real threat as, after the killing of Malik Ishaq and other effective intelligence-based operations by the Counter-Terrorism Department of the Punjab police, many elements of the sectarian terrorist group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi are said to have moved to Balochistan.”