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October 20, 2019

Peace in Pakistan owes much to Gen Bajwa

October 20, 2019

COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa

LONDON: A retired senior British Army officer says Pakistan has established orders within its borders under the command of General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

In an article for the Spectator magazine, Major-General (retired) Jonathan David Shaw wrote that visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Pakistan is “showcasing Pakistan as it is today” rather than the past and the visit shows how Pakistan has transformed its internal security situation.

Shaw recently visited Pakistan and toured its various areas.

The author is the former head of the SAS, as well as being the two-star in charge of Pakistan policy.

In addition to his former Special Forces background, the Oxford educated General regularly writes for the Financial Times, Telegraph and Spectator.

He wrote: “When I used to go to Pakistan regularly over the period 2009-10, I saw a country facing an existential crisis. Pakistan harbours 2.7million refugees from the 1979 then 2001 invasions in Afghanistan. They settled amongst their fellow Pashtuns in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) which provided the breeding ground of jihadis to fight first the Russians until their departure in 1989 then the Coalition from 2001. By 2008, they had moved out of the FATA, an area not under government control, into the Swat Valley, a direct threat to the authority of the central government and also geographically on the route to the capital Islamabad.

“The Pakistan military was in a quandary about how to respond. For the attitude of the Pakistan population to their own military was at best ambivalent, conditioned as they were by tribal custom and also the fight against the Russians to support their fellow Pashtun Muslims against the infidels. By 2009, the reputation of the Pakistani army in the eyes of its own population was so tainted that soldiers’ funerals had to be conducted in secret, such was the lack of support to their operations. The Swat insurgency proved to be pyrrhic for the extremists as the brutality of their behaviour and imposition of strict sharia law in a region known for its beauty and choice as a wedding destination shocked the population into supporting the government fight back.

In 2009, the army did re-take Swat region; and that was the high water mark of the insurgency.”

The army officer wrote that the real psychological turning point came with the attack by the Tehreek-e -Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014 which killed around 158 people.

He said action against militants had yielded dividends for Pakistan.

“I visited the Khyber Pass section of the 833km fence, with 700 guard forts along its route, soon to be augmented by CCTV and sensor devices. This $1bn effort has choked off the Haqqani and TTP terrorist networks. And in a further sign of national CT resolve, all those on the US ‘watch-list’ in Pakistan have been arrested. Much credit for this must go to the Chief of the Army Staff, General Bajwa. He was picked as COAS over the heads of more senior officers on account of his strong pro-democracy attitudes. He brings to the role an unusually beneficent attitude to India, having served as COS to an Indian 3 star on a UN mission in Congo. And he has since proved an able interlocutor in trying to de-escalate tensions in Yemen, between KSA and Iran, and of course in Afghanistan.”

Jonathan Shaw wrote that General Bajwa had focused on supporting the softer aspects of societal regrowth.

General Bajwa told Jonathan Shaw for the Spectator article: “A strong army needs a sovereign economy.”

He added: “His character and broad vision for the overall strength of Pakistan explains why PM Imran Khan has recently extended him for a second three year term. And he is well-matched to his PM, who has shown strength and courage with his anti-corruption drive, his Peace and Prosperity agenda and his release of the Indian pilot shot down in the Pulwama incident in Kashmir this February.”

He added: “As what has become known as the ‘Bajwa doctrine’ has it, now is not the time to ask for more from Pakistan; now is the time for the world to give more respect to Pakistan.”