Pakistan’s location as neighbours to two significant regions, Central Asia and the Middle East has given it a strategic importance and relevance in regional and global politics right through its 75 years of independence. Two Afghan wars in its backyard have posed extreme challenges for Pakistan and impacted its politics and economy. The hostility with many times bigger India remains another major challenge as Pakistan celebrates its 75th anniversary.
Like his predecessors, General Qamar Javed Bajwa has faced these and other challenges in his nearly six years in office. Pakistan was still facing the fallout of the war on terror when Gen Bajwa took over as Chief of Army Staff in 2016. His first major challenge was to weed out the deep-rooted remnants of the war on terror and consolidate the edge over militants won after huge sacrifices by the people of Pakistan and the military and other forces. Afghanistan had become a staging ground for attacks on Pakistan by a multitude of hostile forces and one of the biggest challenges was to clear the Afghan corridor. From the grave security situation at the start of Gen Bajwa’s tenure till the exit of international forces in August 2021 from Afghanistan is one of the biggest achievements for Pakistan with far-reaching local, regional and global consequences. In this background, under Gen Bajwa’s watch, General Headquarters and its teams have played a vital role to clean up terror-related financing and networks which have paved the way for the possibility of Pakistan’s exit from the FATF Grey list. Relations with India are at an all-time low mainly due to Hindutva politics.
Another major change during Gen Bajwa’s years in office has been the shift of Pakistan’s focus from geo-strategic to geo-economics. Gen Bajwa has played an important role in reinforcing old relations and making new alignments in the region. It was due to him that friendly countries in the region have provided concessional credit of over USD 15 billion to rescue Pakistan’s finances from distress. He has played a similar role in the revival of the IMF program this month.
Let’s have a look at these aspects one by one
1- Operation RADD-UL-FASAAD
Operation Radd ul Fasaad launched in February 2017 under Gen Bajwa’s command has consolidated gains from Operation Zarbul Momin which started in 2014. Operation Radd ul Fasaad was meant to end sleeper cells and allied financing and support network of terrorists which were destabilising the country from bases in FATA and across the Afghan border. Over 400 operations have been conducted under Operation Radd ul Fasaad to successfully eradicate such networks in urban centres and other places. Under this operation, action is taken against 78 terrorist organisations, their assets were frozen and their movement was kept in check by the armed forces. This operation has a major impact on the law and order situation in the country’s economic hub i.e. Karachi. Karachi’s ranking in the Global Crime Index has improved to 115 compared to the top ten most dangerous cities in the world back in 2014. Billions of dollars worth of economic activity have been added to the national GDP in Karachi and other major urban centres due to the benefits of Operation Radd ul Fasaad. The success of this operation has paved the way to curtail terror financing and other networks which have helped achieve one of the major targets of the FATF program. One of the highlights of this operation was the collaboration of armed forces, other law enforcement forces, the general public and the media especially in urban centres to eradicate terror networks.
2- Departure of international forces from Afghanistan
Pakistan faced the worst onslaught on its western border during the presence of international forces and a massive Indian footprint in Afghanistan. Billions of dollars were doled out to terror outfits in Pakistan to destabilise the country’s security, economy and politics.
Resolutely, the Pakistan Armed Forces fought off all these nefarious designs till the time it became politically and economically unviable for the aggressors to stay in Afghanistan. Eventually, international forces left Afghanistan last August and a new Taliban government replaced the Ashraf Ghani’s government. Gen Bajwa and his team have been engaged with international power centres and the new Afghan government to ensure a smooth transition and curtailment of the humanitarian crisis.
3-Role of GHQ in FATF compliance
Due to widespread illegal operations of non-state actors at the behest of hostile foreign powers, terror financing networks posed extremely serious challenges to the integrity and repute of Pakistan’s financial system. This was one of the most serious concerns of the FATF review committee and pivotal to getting Pakistan out of the FATF grey list and saving it from a downgrade to the Black List. Gen Qamar Bajwa established a Core Cell at GHQ led by then DGMO Major Gen Nauman Zakria in 2019. The Core Cell’s mission is to work with over 30 departments, ministries and agencies to ensure compliance with FATF 27 points.
As FATF announced Pakistan’s compliance with all 27 points, Gen Qamar Bajwa remarked, “FATF’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terror Financing (CFT) action plans by Pakistan is a great achievement and a monumental effort paving way for whitelisting. The Core cell at GHQ [General Headquarters] which steered the national effort & civil-military team which synergised implementation of action plan, made it possible, making Pakistan proud,”
It was due to these coordinated efforts of civil and military leadership that outgoing FATF president Marcus Pleyer declared that Pakistan will be removed if the on-site visit finds that its actions are sustainable. “A formal announcement on Pakistan’s removal would follow an on-site inspection, which would be conducted before October this year,” he announced in June 2022.
The GHQ Core Cell demonstrated a significant increase in AML investigations and prosecutions and reported more than 800 cases of money laundering. The cell demonstrated substantial increases in the number and value of assets seized with a 71 per cent increase in the number of assets and an 85 per cent increase in the value of assets seized.
Where four years ago the country was fully or largely compliant with hardly 10 out of the 40 universal FATF recommendations, it now stands compliant with 35, placing it among the top five nations that have AML and CFT regimes compliant with FATF standards.
4- Relations with India
Relations with India are at an all-time low due to the Indian regime’s Hindutva politics. India got a strong rebuke from Pakistan’s armed forces when Modi for his election campaign in 2019, dropped payload in Pakistan’s territory. Gen Bajwa with his leadership team gave a thumping response which led to the downing of Indian jets and the capture of an Indian Pilot. Relations further soared with the unilateral annexation of Kashmir and Pakistan state is contesting it all global forums. Pakistan established the Kartarpur corridor to facilitate Sikh pilgrims as a goodwill gesture during this period.
5- Military diplomacy and relationships
General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s years in office as COAS are noticeable due to his outreach to regional and global defence establishments that yield considerable influence in their national decisions. There have been strong consultations between security establishments and the ruling leadership of China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other regional countries.
Gen Bajwa’s outreach has helped register Pakistan’s concerns about Indian aggression, instability in the Afghan Corridor and the impact of both on Pakistan’s economy and security. Unprecedented economic relief packages have been running into billions of dollars that have been provided to Pakistan in the last few years due to Gen Bajwa’s outreach.
6- Change in Security Paradigm to Geo Economics
Realising the country’s dire need to shift priorities, National Security Division after detailed discussions with the then government and military leadership, launched a new Security policy earlier this year. Pakistan has now shifted focus from geo-strategic to geo-economics with self-reliance as the main objective. Gen Bajwa became a member of a National Development Council to extend institutional support to overcome the country’s economic woes. And as stated above, has used Pakistan’s security establishment leverage and goodwill with friendly countries to secure economic relief packages for stabilisation.
General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s years as COAS are marked with a strong intent to redeem Pakistan from the adverse impact of the war on terror on Pakistan’s economy and security. Hindutva politics and instability in the Afghan corridor posed the greatest challenges for General Bajwa during his tenure and both are addressed effectively and more actions are in pipeline. General Bajwa’s tenure is also unique that he has worked with five prime ministers and armed forces faced accusations of interference in politics. For the last couple of years, armed forces have adopted an “apolitical stance” and left it to politicians to settle their political battles. The shift of our National Security Policy to geo-economics is also a major transition during Gen Bajwa’s tenure.
The armed forces have shown flexibility by cutting development budgets and also not taking pay raises at times during these tough economic years. Another contribution of the armed forces under Gen Bajwa is towards the fight against Coronavirus under NCOC and the unmatchable role of the medical corps and Combined Military Hospitals (CMH) during this grave crisis.
-Compiled by Sidra Ali and Zara Ahmed
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