Pakistan Reader# 421, 24 November 2022
On 23 November, outgoing COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said that the army had “unconstitutionally interfered in politics” for the last 70 years, and condemned the political parties for “erring” and showing intolerance towards its rivals. In what could be Bajwa’s last public appearance as COAS, he said that he was “ready” to forgive the PTI for spreading a “false and fake narrative” against the army, while also saying that he is ready to “leave the controversy” behind. Bajwa mentioned the criticism that the army faces in the country because of its continuous involvement in politics, and admitted that the army’s interference has been “widespread” and has ranged from “dislodging” civilian governments through coups and controlling dispensations of power structures indirectly. He said, “I’m ready to forgive this inappropriate and aggressive attitude against me and the military and get past it because Pakistan is bigger than [all of] us.” Additionally, he said that the army had “started its catharsis” and hoped that the political parties to “review” their outlooks as well.
The legacy of Gen Bajwa
Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa served as the COAS of Pakistan for six years and is dubbed as the most powerful man in the country. He became the COAS on 29 November 2016 and sought prominence after Gen Raheel Sharif was seeking an extension to his term. He moved to gain control over the country’s political economy amid controversy surrounding Imran Khan, his own posting, and the vilification campaign after 2016. He rearranged the “top brass” of the military and developed a “doctrine of realism” to direct Pakistan to peacefully coexist with its neighbours. He believed in the normalisation of relations with India and oversaw the change in regimes as he was beginning to position himself as the chief. He increased his involvement in diplomatic and economic affairs and sought an extension to his term which was to end in November 2019. The Supreme Court provided Bajwa with a 6-month extension to his tenure, but the political frenzy between the PTI and the opposition parties rushed the judgement and by January 2020, the SC passed the bill and granted the extension until November 2022.
Bajwa held a secure position as the COAS through November 2022, with his retirement highlighting his desire to strengthen Pakistan’s democracy and hopes that the political economy resists itself amid the instabilities it faces. (Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Army has resolved to shun politics, assures Bajwa,” Dawn, 24 November 2022; Uzair M Younis, “The legacy of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa,” Dawn, 22 November 2022)