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August 21, 2019

COAS extension


August 21, 2019

On multiple occasions in its relatively brief history Pakistan has seen the tenure of its army chief being extended. This has happened once again with an official notification from the Prime Minister’s Office stating that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa would serve for an additional three years after his tenure formally ends in November this year. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has explained that Prime Minister Imran Khan has used his constitutional powers for this purpose given the regional security situation, including tensions with India after its annexation of Kashmir, and developments with Afghanistan on the western border. Military analysts have also noted that the internal security situation made the move necessary.

In the past General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s tenure as army chief was also extended under the then President Zardari; this was at the time criticized by Imran Khan, who was in opposition back then. As prime minister, though, he must have realized that high office places on its incumbent responsibility that cannot be ignored. At the present moment, all the political parties appear to be on the same page and no one has questioned the step – even though none of the opposition parties has given out a formal statement on the issue yet. This is rare consensus – even if implied – in a country where there has been much divide and dissent between political parties, particularly in recent times.

According to security analysts, given the delicacy of the current geopolitical situation, continuity had become important and General Bajwa’s retention till November 2022 will ensure this. The army chief has been playing an increasingly important national role. He is a member of key committees which deal not only with security but also the economy, and has accompanied the prime minister on a number of important visits in world capitals. As such he will naturally be familiar with the precise requirements of Pakistan at this juncture and how the military can assist in meeting these. Any decision that strengthens Pakistan as a country is welcomed by everyone at this point, and analysts from all sides of the political spectrum have been quick to do so. And as the foreign minister put it, the extension is a very clear message to Indian belligerence that Pakistan’s political and military leadership is not only ready, but also on one page. We are certain that as part of a national team, the army chief will be able to help keep Pakistan on a strong footing.

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