LEGACY OF A GENERAL: Bajwa leaves country and army divided

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General Bajwa should take the responsibility for much of the political mess the country had witnessed of late. In fact, Bajwa is leaving the country deeply divided with Imran Khan stoking up political ire over the army at every given opportunity–rarely has been the most powerful institution in the country riddled with criticism and humiliation since the 1971 war … a special comment by Dr Sakariya Kareem

General Qamar Javed Bajwa is leaving a nation and its army divided, a division which he is equally responsible since he took over as the Chief of Army Staff in 2016. In his last address, Bajwa struck a confessional note by admitting that much of the public ire against the army was due to its political role. It could perhaps be a rare statement from a serving COAS of Pakistan, but it does not offer any confidence that the army has learnt any lessons from the recent months of turmoil and public humiliation. Bajwa’s own record is highly disappointing in this matter.

It was Bajwa, and his predecessor, Raheel Sharif, who conspired to bring Imran Khan to replace Nawaz Sharif. Sharif was literally hounded out of the country by Bajwa and his men. Bajwa was also instrumental in keeping afloat a hybrid regime run by Imran Khan till both of them fell out over many things, perhaps the most critical being the replacement of the ISI chief, Lt. General Syed Asim Munir. Munir is now the new COAS-select.

Imran Khan, in many ways, was the bogeyman created by Bajwa and his men and should therefore accept his responsibility in the muck which the army had to face in the past few months. Bajwa dodges the issue by putting the blame for `false narratives` on political parties, more so on Imran Khan and his party, PTI.

Bajwa’s singular failure has been to keep the army together on the most challenging task of safeguarding the force from public anger. Imran Khan’s twitter war had ransacked the military fortress to such an extent that a division among the Generals and other officers became public.  Imran Khan had managed to elicit support from the military families in Punjab of all places. Bajwa had to employ all his experience and men to stem the tide of dissent among the rank and file.

Bajwa’s promise to let go of the army’s political obsession is hard to believe given its long history dating back to the Ayub Khan era. The history of Pakistan is littered with coups and failed coups. Of the 75 years of independence, almost 33 years Pakistan has been under the direct rule of Generals. For several more years, the army has been running the government from behind the scenes. Politics has been an integral part of the Pakistan Army. Bajwa has only promoted this aberration as much as other Generals. To turn around at the fag end of his career in the army is at best disingenuous.

Bajwa should take the responsibility for much of the political mess the country had witnessed of late. In fact, Bajwa is leaving the country deeply divided with Imran Khan stoking up political ire over the army at every given opportunity–rarely has been the most powerful institution in the country riddled with criticism and humiliation since the 1971 war.

It is not surprising that Bajwa mentioned the 71 war and called it a `political failure` and not a military failing, another claim which can easily be countered. There are countless narratives, most of them backed up by hard evidence, it was the greed, lust and inefficiency of Generals which led to the Pakistan Army’s ignominious defeat. There will be few takers for Bajwa’s claim of bravery even in Pakistan.

Bajwa’s exit, coming as it did with the news of ill gotten wealth his family members managed to create during his extended tenure, does not offer any hope but only a short pause to the Pakistan Army’s stranglehold over the country.

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