–PM Office says extension given ‘in view of regional security environment’
–Extension marks second time in nearly a decade that the country’s top general had their traditional three-year term extended
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday approved a three-year extension in the tenure of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
As per a notification issued by the PM Office, the decision has been “taken in view of the regional security environment”.
General Bajwa was appointed as COAS on November 26, 2016, by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He took over command of Pakistan’s military from General (r) Raheel Sharif, despite being fourth in order of seniority. His extension marks the second time in nearly a decade that the country’s top general had their traditional three-year term extended.
Prime Minister Imran’s first year in office has been characterised by a rare harmony in the traditionally fraught relationship between the country’s civilian and military leaderships, with Gen Bajwa last month defending the tough economic measures taken by the PTI government as “difficult but extremely essential”.
Tensions between Pakistan and Indian flared this month after New Delhi decided to strip occupied Kashmir of its special constitutional status and imposed a crippling curfew in the territory that has continued for weeks. Islamabad angrily slammed the decision, taking the matter to the United Nations Security Council and expelling India’s ambassador and suspending bilateral trade.
Relations between the two countries had already been strained after a suicide car bombing in February that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in occupied Kashmir led to an aerial dogfight between Pakistani and Indian jets.
The country observed a ‘Black Day’ on Thursday to coincide with India’s independence day celebrations, in solidarity with the people of occupied Kashmir.
The decision also comes as Pakistan is playing a key role in ongoing peace talks between the US and Afghan Taliban that aim to secure a withdrawal of American troops in exchange for insurgent promises that Afghanistan will not be used as a safe haven for groups such as Al Qaeda or the militant Islamic State.
Born in Gakhar Mandi, Gujranwala, Gen Bajwa was commissioned on October 24, 1980 in the 16 Baloch Regiment, the battle-hardened force that in the past has given three army chiefs, including Gen Yahya Khan, Gen Aslam Beg and Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Gen Bajwa is a graduate of Canadian Forces Command and Staff College-Toronto, Naval Post Graduate University-Monterey, California and National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad.
He has been an instructor at the School of Infantry and Tactics, Quetta, Command and Staff College, Quetta and the NDU.
He has also been Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade and Chief of Staff of Rawalpindi Corps. General Bajwa has commanded the 16 Baloch Regiment, an Infantry Brigade as well as Infantry Division in Northern Areas.
He had also commanded Pakistan Contingent in Congo, where he worked alongside the former Indian army chief General Bikram Singh, who according to The Hindustan Times, described Gen Bajwa as an ‘outstanding and professional soldier’.
Before being made the army chief, Gen Bajwa was serving as the Inspector General Training and Evaluation at the General Headquarters (QHQ), the same post his predecessor General (r) Raheel was holding before his appointment as army chief in November 2013.
Having served as corps commander of Rawalpindi, Gen Bajwa has vast experience of dealing with issues related to Kashmir and the Line of Control.