File photo of Pakistan's PM Imran Khan with its Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa | @peaceforchange | Twitter
File photo of Pakistan's PM Imran Khan with Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa | @peaceforchange | Twitter
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On 18 August, Imran Khan completed a year as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The very next day he announced that the tenure of Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa will be extended by three years. Earlier, he was set to retire on 29 November, but after the extension, he will now remain the army chief till 29 November 2022.

Why did Imran Khan give General Bajwa a three-year extension as army chief?

Convincing the General?

I remember when the government of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) gave a three-year extension to then Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in 2010, it was Imran Khan who had criticised then PM Yousaf Raza Gilani and said, “If you want to make Pakistan strong, you must make its institutions strong and institutions can only become strong when you don’t give preference to individuals over institutions”.

In several of his interviews, Imran Khan had said that even if a country is fighting a war, its army chief should not be given an extension.

But in the last one year, Imran Khan has made many U-turns – the latest was this Monday when General Bajwa was given an extension “in view of the regional security environment”.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi further mentioned the situation in Kashmir and Afghanistan as reasons for the decision on General Bajwa. He said, “A clear message was being conveyed to India that there was continuation and clarity in the political and military leadership in Pakistan.”

During recent briefings and meetings, General Bajwa had said more than once that he was not interested in an extension.

But a few weeks ago, some TV channels claimed that PM Imran Khan had decided to extend the tenure of General Bajwa, and he would make an announcement at an appropriate time. The prime minister’s office did not deny this, giving fuel to the speculation that Imran Khan was trying to convince the General to accept an extension in service tenure.

Also read: Imran Khan had once opposed extension for army chief. Today, he’s given one

Bajwa and Sharif

In 2014, General Bajwa was the Corps Commander of Rawalpindi when Imran Khan was staging a protest in front of Parliament house and demanding the resignation of then PM Nawaz Sharif.

The general impression in those days was that the military establishment was supporting Imran Khan against Nawaz Sharif. Bajwa emerged as one of the pro-democracy Generals who advised his boss General Raheel Sharif that army should not interfere in politics.

Raheel Sharif wanted not only an extension but also the title of Field Marshal. Then PM Nawaz Sharif refused to oblige him and appointed Qamar Javed Bajwa as the new army chief, who was not even the most senior in the service at that time.

Bajwa enjoyed excellent relations with Nawaz Sharif, but the situation changed in April 2016 when the Panama Papers scandal hit the Sharifs, finally leading to the Pakistan Supreme Court disqualifying Nawaz from holding public office in 2018.

Why Bajwa is important for PM

Imran Khan was one of the luckiest PMs of Pakistan in 2018. When he became Pakistan’s prime minister, both army and judiciary supported him. Yet, he was not able to bring a change in Pakistan’s policies or politics.

It is not just the ‘regional security situation’ that forced Imran Khan to give an extension to General Bajwa. Many in Pakistan believe that Imran Khan cannot survive without Bajwa. He has privately praised Bajwa many times. “I became Prime Minister because like me General Bajwa also believes in Naya Pakistan,” Imran Khan has said in the past.

Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan has failed to provide any economic relief to the common people of Pakistan. In April, the PM replaced finance minister Asad Umar with Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, who was the finance minister in the PPP government. Even this change yielded no positive results.

It was not the job of the army chief to run here and there, asking for economic aid, but still General Bajwa did it. It is widely believed that the General visited Saudi Arabia, UAE and China, and arranged for some loans, giving the Imran Khan government some breathing space.

But Imran Khan’s popularity has nosedived since then. Last month, opposition parties in Pakistan held rallies against the government, accusing it of destroying the economy and muzzling its critics.

Also read: Pakistan’s India policy set to get more rigid as General Bajwa gets expected extension

Can Bajwa defend the government?

Just when things were getting difficult at home, the Narendra Modi government announced abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. The India-Pakistan tension is a blessing in disguise for Imran Khan. It has helped him divert people’s attention from Pakistan’s economic woes to the threat of a war with India.

Imran Khan’s announcement regarding tenure extension of General Bajwa came on a day when opposition parties met in Islamabad and decided to launch a mass movement against ‘fascist’ Imran Khan. His government arrested Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam on 8 August when she was meeting her father in jail. Last week, Faryal Talpur, sister of PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, was shifted from hospital to jail against doctor’s advice.

Will General Bajwa rescue Imran Khan from a possible mass movement by the opposition?

An army chief can fight a foreign enemy, but it’s not easy to fight political opponents of a civilian government. It is expected that General Bajwa will be more careful in his second term by not getting involved in political battles inside Pakistan. His immediate challenge is to defuse the India-Pakistan tension and push Afghan Taliban for a peace agreement with Washington.

The political and military leadership are on the same page in terms of tackling the ‘regional security situation’. But the same security situation may force General Bajwa to defend only Pakistan, and not the government of Pakistan.

Also read: This is General Bajwa’s dilemma after Modi govt’s Article 370 move in Kashmir

The author works for Geo TV and tweets @HamidMirPAK. Views are personal.

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  1. A military coup is in the offing in naya pakistan! Someone needs to take the fall for the Kashmir fiasco…it will be the heads of Bajwa’s and Imran Khan.

  2. Like every media person in Pakistan, Hamid Mir is also a mouthpiece of the ISI. Take everything he says with a pinch ( a very big pinch) of salt.

  3. Here is a comparison between economies of the two neighbouring countries- India and Pakistan: (1)Though India’s GDP saw a five-year decline at 6.8 per cent for FY19, the size of its economy (about $2.7 trillion) is still nine times bigger than Pakistan ($305 billion). Despite touching a maximum of 5.8 per cent growth in FY18, Pakistani economy’s growth for FY 19 plummeted to 3.3 per cent, well below a target of 6.2% set last year, with major sectors all performing poorly. The budget presented in June 2019 also projected the economy to grow at a rate of 2.4 per cent in FY20. (2) Whereas the inflation rate in India is well below 4%, in Pakistan it has increased to 9.11% in May 2019. The inflation rate is estimated to be between 11 to 13% in the current fiscal year. (3) Pakistan’s overall budget size is of Rs. 6 lakh crore, while the fiscal deficit is Rs.3.5 lakh crore, equivalent to 7.2% of its GDP, in India the ratio is at 3.4%. (4) While India spends 8% of its budget on defence, in Pakistan the ratio is 17%. (5) Most importantly, India has interest burden to the extent of 17% of its budget (which too requires moderation), for Pakistan the ratio is at whopping 42%! To conclude India faces many economic challenges and need structural reforms to bring back its economy on the growth path, for Pakistan the story is dismal to put it mildly. The soaring inflation rate could be cause of worry for Imran Khan and General Bajwa. Both are now coupled and are jointly and severally accountable for the state of dismal affairs in Pakistan. The General cannot extricate himself from the failures of the civil government in Pakistan. As in India or anywhere else in the sub-continent, high inflation rate can make establishment extremely unpopular leading public resentment and unrest. Both Imran Khan and General Bajwa should worry more about Pakistan’s economy rather than raising meaningless and futile noise about Kashmir.

  4. There was no army personnel in Pakistan taking principled stand. The day they join, they are taught anti-India sentiments and Kashmir issue. Most of the Pakistani army general children are educated abroad and no one stays in Pakistan, post retirement. Either they leave on their own or exiled. A country created out of hatred, cannot expect to be principled.

  5. With no internal support within Pakistan and international support only from China and a bit from UK, with country in financial doldrums Imran Khan is probably in an most unenviable position. Extension to Bajwa may be an escape route for him and ensuring safe passage out of Pakistan. Kashmir policy has back-fired terribly on Pakistan and major part of the financial crisis is purely because of the covert support and expenditure it was incurring in keeping the fire of militancy stoked all the time to divert the attention of the population from all other problems the country was facing. Even the nuclear threat would back fire terribly on Pakistan as one small action could result in a big response from India which might result in total destruction . Since conventional war cannot be sustained long, given the economic condition, Pakistan has no choice but to keep quiet and indulge in empty rhetoric. This would mean loss of face for the Pakustan PM leaving him no choice but to abandon and quit. With no other viable alternative the country is again gearing up for military rule for some time. Alternatively, if Pakistan chooses to part company with militant elements, with the help of its army to keep them at bay, chances of a dialogue could brighten up for a new dawn. However, there should not ever be another going back on it as it would mean total loss of credibility for any regime in Pakistan.

  6. It’s an insightful observation that India’s abrogation of Article 370 has helped Imran Khan divert attention from all his failures. Of course, he remains a puppet of a fascist oligarchy (aka “miltestablishment”). As far as India is concerned nothing has changed and we must pursue our best interests with determination.

  7. The extension was necessary because of the abnormal situation in Indian held Kashmir.
    Gen Bajwa was not interested in the extension – what makes this correspondent think than every Pakistani General wants to take advantage, of the system.
    A war with Pakistan is likely if the situation in the valley gets out of control and there are deaths of civilians.
    At present nobody can predict how Kashmir will play out not even Ajit Doval.

    • Jihad clown Masood Ali 🤡:
      Get a life. Your country is a completely isolated beggar. You have to circulate the begging bowl constantly. You claim to have 15 billion$ foreign reserves but beg around to boost the number. Bangladesh has 40 billion dollars$.
      Take care of the loss of civilians in daily bomb blasts in Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Sialkot, Quetta, Wazirisran and all over paki.

    • Bajwa wanted the extension because he went through the trouble of replacing the chief of ISI with his protege more than 8 months ago. Imran Khan said that the tenure of the chief shouldn’t be extended even in war. But we all know that he was selected by the miltestablishment for a civilian facade to go around begging for money, so now he just swallows the indignity and eats his words.

  8. Used to think Gen Raheel Sharif took a principled stand against seeking an extension. To become Field Marshal – like Sam Bahadur – one must take 93,000 enemy soldiers prisoner, slice a country in half. Serving under Durga. 2. PM Imran Khan should have focused on the economy. As a professional politician, his primary duty lay in improving the lives of ordinary citizens. As for troubling political rivals, what goes round comes around.

  9. As per Porki’s news channel, Bajwa’s extension was planned in June 2019 by U-turn, ball tampering PM. Now, he is just a feigning excuse…hahahaha

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