By Asad Ali
The history of Pakistan will always remember General Qamar Javed Bajwa – true soldier – as savior of democracy who stood by constitution despite all odds. Bajwa joined the Pakistan Army in 1978 and was commissioned in 1980 in the 16th Battalion of Baloch Regiment at the Sialkot Cantonment – the same unit that his father commanded. He has been honored with the Order of Military Merit by Jordan’s King Abdullah II as well as Nishan-e-Imtiaz and Hilal-i-Imtiaz.
COAS Bajwa wisely handled the matters pertaining to anti-militant operations particularly operation Radd-ul-Fasaad and recognized peace in the country as his key mission. He earned great respect in the military circles of the world due to his dedication and military acumen.
He took up as COAS on the day army chief Raheel Sharif got retired. Since assuming the position of COAS, Gen. Bajwa proved his worth for the position with his real leadership qualities. He played smartly for Pakistan both on diplomatic and military diplomacy fronts. His unrelenting approach to foreign and domestic policies was termed as the “Bajwa Doctrine”.
He contributed a lot for the nation in international disputes settlement. Under his leadership, Karkey Karadeniz Electrik Uterim dispute settlement was one of the examples of Pakistan Army efforts for the economic welfare of the country. The evidences were presented to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Tribunal by the Core Committee. Pakistan Army amicably resolved the Karkey dispute and saved USD 1.2 billion penalty imposed by ICSID. If the dispute had not been settled and Pakistan would have paid the amount, Pakistan’s GDP would have shrunk by nearly 2% and Pakistan would have defaulted on its international obligations.
Similarly, due to Army’s countless efforts under the leadership of General Bajwa, Pakistan was saved from $11 billion penalty in Reko Diq case and reconstituted a project aimed at excavating huge gold and copper reserves from the site in Balochistan. The Reko Diq agreement was a result of COAS’ personal efforts as he convinced all parties for a national consensus. Reko Diq will prove to be a game changer for federal, provincial governments and people of Balochistan. It shall not only restore an investment friendly image of Pakistan but will also accrue major economic benefits, development of indigenous mineral exploration capability and result in a momentous socio-economic boost for people of Balochistan.
Thanks to General Bajwa that Pakistan also made unprecedented progress in FATF action plans. Due to the strong will of military leadership under the guidance of COAS Bajwa, Pakistan was able to project its progress as sustainable and irreversible, addressing various legal, financial and terrorism-related aspects through enactment of the laws. Pakistan passed Ánti-Money Laundering Act (Amendments) to strengthen AML/CFT regime and discourage money laundering; Foreign Exchange Regulatory Act (Amendments) to take effective and prompt actions against Hawala / Hundi networks; passed Mutual Legal Assistance Act to support international mutual assistance against AML/ CFT and passed Anti-terrorism Act (Amendments).
Similarly, Security to CPEC projects remains a hallmark of General Bajwa’s leadership who took all measures for expediting projects under CPEC and security provided to CPEC and Chinese officials was ensured by the Army building trust of Chinese friends. Army foiled all the nefarious designs of the enemies to sabotage CPEC project.
Providing security to Chamalang coal mines, raising special security division for protection of CPEC routes, developing road infrastructure for CPEC and assisting government in development and construction of much-needed dams at considerably low costs through FWO have provided much-desired economic leverage to government. The success of CPEC can be accredited to Army as well. The efforts of Special Communication Organisation (SCO) in northern Pakistan are also commendable as it has provided the much-needed support to CPEC projects and has persisted as the soft prong of diplomacy and nation-building tasks. Pakistan has achieved so much in war against terrorism under the leadership of Bajwa and security situation has been normalized to great extent.
Kartarpur Corridor and promotion of religious tourism also remains a credit of the current military leadership. The FWO developed Kartarpur Corridor, connecting Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to Gurudwara Dera Baba Nanak in India and remained main organisation for construction of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib. Despite hostile attitude by India towards the idea, state-of-the-art Darbar Sahib Kartarpur project was completed in record time of 10 months, thus fulfilling a long awaited legitimate desire of Sikh Yatrees.
The international cricket in Pakistan was ban after the infamous attack on Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 in Lahore. Despite all efforts, it seemed that international cricket would never resume in Pakistan. The soft prong of military diplomacy remained agile and proactive, by inviting military teams from Australia, England and Sri Lanka to play cricket, thus changing international perception and providing confidence to international teams. Interestingly, the matches were held in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and even Waziristan to dispel all fears. The military diplomacy was crucial in changing international perception and the military-to-military engagements paved the way for resumption of international cricket in Pakistan.
Military diplomacy remains the unseen hand in national discourse and yet provides the required and desired efforts wherever needed. The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) described Pakistan’s military diplomacy as “more action, fewer words”.
It was untiring efforts of the General Bajwa to facilitate governments of time in securing much-needed financial assistance from KSA and China. Similarly, Army and its leadership played monumental role in convincing KSA and China in rollover of their loans.
Gen Bajwa’s military colleagues say he is not attention-seeking and remains well-connected with his troops. He is extremely professional, but very easy-going and full of compassion. Gen. Bajwa is also said to be an apolitical person without any biases.
The writer is Islamabad based expert of strategic affairs