- Challenges and opportunities
That the tenure of the COAS has been extended by three years is by no means an extraordinary event. What is unusual are other matters. That the announcement has come more than two months before the date of retirement was presumably meant to put an end to speculation at a time of confrontation on the LoC and the working boundary and the worrisome situation in Indian occupied Kashmir.
Relations between the army and the elected governments in the past have rarely been marked with as much cordiality as under the PTI and the present COAS. The harmonious relations provide opportunities as well as challenges to both. The PTI government claims it is on the same page with the army, which is borne out by the government’s over-dependence on the army during the last one year. PTI’s opponents however claim that the understanding predates the 2018 elections.
In September last year Gen Bajwa undertook a three-day visit to China where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping also on special invitation. This was the period when there were reports about certain influential persons in the PTI government expressing reservations about the CPEC. Gen Bajwa helped remove worries about Pakistan. He also paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and UAE to clarify that the new government wanted to work with the Gulf countries.
Will the bonhomie help the government carry out its promises made during the elections? Will the understanding put an end to the widespread polarisation in the country? Will measures be taken to dispel the widely entertained perception that opposition leaders are being subjected to political vendetta? Will the Kashmir policy group, as it has been constituted, be able to get the illegal and immoral annexation of the occupied Kashmir undone and get the Kashmir issue resolved in the light of the UN resolutions? Will the army and PTI government bring peace in Afghanistan?
The army carries a big responsibility by being on the same page with the PTI government. Failures on the part of one side is likely to bring the other under focus. It remains to be seen if working together would be in the best interest of the country.