Outgoing army chief, who retires on Nov, 29, was addressing ceremony to honor war martyrs.
In what he said was his last address as the army chief of Pakistan, General Qamar Javed Bajwa admitted on Wednesday that recent criticism of the army was due to its history of interfering in politics but also warned political parties that the army’s patience in dealing with such attacks had its “limits.”
Gen. Bajwa, who has already served two three-year terms as army chief, will step down on Nov. 29.
The appointment of a new army chief is always a delicate matter in a country that has suffered four military coups and where the army, even when not in power, is the invisible guiding hand of politics. But the selection of a new head of the army is even more significant at a time when the military, and its incumbent chief, have faced unprecedented criticism, much of it at the hands of former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his followers.
Khan was removed from office after a no-confidence vote in parliament in April. He has blamed his ouster on a conspiracy by the United States, the country’s military and his political opponents. American and Pakistani officials deny the accusations.
Since his removal, Khan has made a stunning political comeback, winning several by-elections, and regularly drawing tens of thousands of supporters onto the streets, where he has demanded fresh elections and lashed out at the current government and the military.
The show of force has also intensified frustrations among young, social-media-savvy Pakistanis and the older generation alike, who have come out in fierce criticism of what they deem entrenched corruption and the ever-present hand of the army in the country’s political system.
On Wednesday, in an address at the military headquarters which he said would be his last as chief of the army, Gen. Bajwa addressed the rampant criticism of the army, admitting that it was the result of its “illegal” and “unconstitutional” interference in politics in the past.
Then, in a not-so-veiled reference to Khan’s party, Gen. Bajwa said:
“Army had many opportunities and ways to respond to this inappropriate onslaught but the army showed patience in the interests of the country and avoided giving any negative statement. But everyone should understand that this patience has its limits.”
In what many have read as both an olive branch and a warning to Khan, the general said he wanted to ignore “the inappropriate and offensive attitude” toward himself and the army and move forward.
“Individuals and [political] parties come and go but Pakistan will always be there,” the army chief said. “The army has started its catharsis, and I am hopeful that our political parties will also reflect on their attitude … It is time that all stakeholders put their personal egos to a side, learn from the mistakes of the past and move forward to take Pakistan out of crisis.”
The appointment of a new army chief comes at a time when Pakistan is attempting to survive deep economic turmoil and recover from record-breaking floods.
Among the frontrunners for the post are Lieutenants-Generals Asim Munir, the army’s quartermaster general, Azhar Abbas, the chief of general staff, Nauman Mahmood, president of the National Defense University, and Faiz Hameed, the former chief of Pakistan’s premier Inter-Services Intelligence agency and currently the commander of the army’s Bahawalpur Corps.
Courtesy: Arab News (Published on Nov 23, 2022)