–Fawad hopes govt’s decision would prove to be milestone in country’s history
–Senator Mushahid says decision wasn’t unexpected considering security situation
–Ahsan says PML-N doesn’t interfere in administrative matters, Kaira says merit should be upheld
ISLAMABAD: The news of Prime Minister Imran Khan approving a three-year extension in the tenure of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa was met with a mixed response in political circles on Monday.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said that the decision reflects the serious regional situation. He said that Pakistan is at the crossroads of history and the decision has been taken to ensure sustainable security. He hoped that the decision would prove to be a milestone in Pakistan’s stability.
Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) Senator Mushahid Hussain said that the decision was not unexpected given the current political scenario.
“You cannot change horses midstream. We are in the middle of a major security crisis as there is trouble on both eastern and western borders,” he said, adding that General Bajwa has a crucial role as the army chief and it is hoped that the extension would serve the country’s national interests.
PML-Nawaz Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal said that the matter of extending the army chief’s tenure is an administration matter between the prime minister and the COAS. “We have always refrained from commenting over professional matters of the armed forces,” he added.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) senior leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said that extension of the army chief does not amount to breaking news. “This is not a big announcement as the decision had already been made and it was only a matter of time before the government announced it,” he said.
When asked about the PPP’s perception of the decision, he said that it is always better for institutions if the decisions are taken on merit. Responding to a question about the decision’s impact on the regional situation, he said that only time would tell.
Kaira further said that generally such decisions impact the morale of other officers.
THE LINE OF SUCCESSION:
Lt General Sarfraz Sattar, who is serving as the SPD director general (DG) and Corps II commander, is the most senior officer in the army at the moment but he is due to retire in November. He has also served as the Military Intelligence (MI) DG and defence attaché in India. He is likely to be elevated to the position of chairman joint chiefs of staff committee in November.
Lt General Nadeem Raza is the second most senior officer after General Sattar and has served as the X Corps commander. He is presently serving as the chief of general staff (CGS) at the General Headquarters (GHQ). He is from the infantry and a probable hurdle in his elevation could be his role in the possible misunderstandings between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia due to his religious inclinations.
General Humayon Aziz, who is currently serving as the Corps V commander, is the third in line. He has also served as one of the principal staff at GHQ. He comes from the artillery and has also served in Saudi Arabia, making him fluent in Arabic. The reason for not choosing him for the top slot could be the possibility of sending a negative signal to Iran because of his links with the Saudi leadership.
Lt General Afzal is heading the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) at the moment and as lacks experience as a corps commander, he is not eligible for the top slot. He has also served as the engineer-in-chief at the GHQ and the DG of Frontier Works Organisation (FWO).
Lt Gen Sher Afgan is the number four in the line of succession and is presently serving as the Training and Evaluation IG at GHQ. He has also commanded Corps 31 at Bahawalpur and is from the infantry and has served as the Balochistan Frontier Corps (FC) inspector general (IG) as a major general.
A source in the military said that giving an extension to Gen Bajwa is a very good decision for the stability of the country, keeping in view the regional security situation.
“Gen Bajwa’s approach with regards to Afghanistan and Kashmir could be a major factor in giving him a full-term extension. He has never sought assistance from the US and rather he always lobbied for respect for Pakistan,” the source said.
When asked as to how many general officers of Pakistan Army would suffer due to the extension to Gen Bajwa, the source said that only one general officer would be affected as a four star officer would miss elevation. The source said that the promotion of officers down the ladder would not get affected much as is perceived by the general public.
“As an institution, the army does not function on aspirations of an individual but rather it is always a joint institutional decision,” the source added.
“At a time when the US is holding dialogue with Afghan Taliban and the US troops are planning to leave Afghanistan and US elections are also nearing while Pakistan is locked in pitched battles with Indian Army, it was decided to carry on with General Bajwa as the army chief,” the source said.
Keeping in view the three-year term awarded to Gen Kayani, everyone at that point of time had expressed hope for the country. However, later the tenure of Kayani saw maximum troubles for Pakistan Army, including Osama Bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad Operation, US forces attack at Salala Checkpost, etc. The Pakistan-US relations date an unprecedented dip during General Kayani’s second tenure and army’s pride had also faced challenges on domestic and external fronts and it could not prove to be fruitful as was considered at the time General Kayani was granted an extension.
“Let’s hope history does not repeat itself and General Bajwa adds to the morale and prestige of Pakistan Army,” the source concluded.