It is strange that Pakistan’s Generals should realize the importance of placing geo-economics over geo-politics only towards the fag end of their careers.
After misadventures like Kargil, there was talk that General Musharraf of Pakistan favoured peace with India and wanted to pursue friendly relations between the two neighbours. The rest is history.
Now we hear Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa doing the talk that the Army must stay away from politics. He has also said on more than one forum that Pakistan must stay committed to the pursuit of geo-economics over geo-politics. General Bajwa has been speaking of the significance of putting Pakistan’s house in order and seeking reconciliation with Iran, Afghanistan and India.
Gen Bajwa Has Come To This Wisdom Late
Bajwa isn’t the political head of Pakistan, but he is effectively the Chief Executive Officer of the fifth most populous state of the world. It is a Herculean talk for a Pakistan General to even do this talk. Bajwa seems to have come to this wisdom rather late. He has even been saying that Pakistan Army should stay away from politics.
So here are the objectives that Bajwa seems keen on. One, positively change civil-military relations. Second, keep single-minded focus on economic growth so that Pakistan can be saved from sinking. Third, work for a cordial and mutually rewarding relationship with the three vital neighbours – Iran, Afghanistan and India.
Perhaps General Bajwa is aware of what the international analysts are talking of. The relative decline of Pakistan in South Asia is being discussed increasingly. A nation which forever carries a begging bowl cannot hope to be taken seriously internationally. Pakistan’s generals and politicians have built vast personal fortunes while the country is reeling economically.
Too Late For Gen Bajwa To Walk The Talk
Yes, General Bajwa is doing the right talk now. He is saying the right words. He is saying the things that have the potential to revive Pakistan. But fact of the matter is that Gen Bajwa does not have time on his side to walk the talk. General Bajwa’s second term as the Pakistan Army Chief is ending on November 29. He has ruled out an extension for himself.
Bajwa is keen on all these objectives of peace and reconciliation. But will the next Army Chief of Pakistan want to pursue the same policies? Nobody can vouch for that.
Pakistan’s internal instabilities are a cause of concern. The nation is politically and economically weak. Pakistan’s new Army Chief shall be CEO of a country in bad shape. Noted international political analysts have observed that bringing the nation back on rails will require a root and branch overhaul of Pakistan’s national strategy
The problem is that if Pakistan remains stuck in the same groove, there is only more and more trouble ahead for it. Pakistan economy has been on a downward slide for too long. Pakistan’s debts are too big and the nation’s Gross Domestic Product is too low. Tax collection is too little. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is staggering.
Imran Khan On War Path
Ever since Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan was thrown out of his job, he has been on the war path against Bajwa. Installing Imran Khan in the seat of the prime minister has perhaps been the biggest error of judgment Gen Bajwa may have made. In 2018, Bajwa – firmly in seat as the Pakistan CEO – ousted Nawaz Sharif from the prime minister’s chair on trivial grounds.
Then the rigging of the national election followed. A motley majority in the national assembly was somehow stitched together for Imran Khan. And the cricketer-turned-politician was seated in the prime minister’s seat with much fanfare. Imran Khan called for building a Naya Pakistan and many Pakistanis believed him.
General Bajwa’s gamble on Imran Khan backfired. No other Pakistan politician has managed to launch such a serious and focused offensive against the Army before. Imran Khan is using all his political capital in mobilizing the people against the Army and the current political establishment. He is calling the Shahbaz Sharif regime as an “imported government”.
Imran Khan is also highly vocal in his criticism of the United States. During his time as prime minister, Imran Khan had marched into the anti-American camp. After being ousted from power, again and again Imran Khan has alleged that his political opponents conspired with the US to topple his government. For all the noise being made by Pakistan, the fact is that for now, he is a “has been” in Pakistan politics.
Tough Road Ahead For New Army Chief
The Army rules Pakistan. Imran Khan the politician may keep shouting, but the Army isn’t listening. A bigger worry for Pakistan is whether Bajwa’s successor shall also imbibe his wisdom on taking the country out of the current quagmire. Pakistan Army has fattened its ranks and fed domestic politics on its anti-India stance. Pakistan-Afghanistan relations are in a bad state. The nation itself is in a state of dysfunction.
In the midst of this chaotic situation, the dominance of Pakistan Army over the nation’s polity has weakened. The new Pakistan General shall assume office next month. Will he pursue the policies that Bajwa started advocating towards the end of his tenure? Will he decide to move further into the China camp? Or will he revive ties with Washington and move closer to the Biden administration?
All these are questions which are of importance for India. Pakistan’s internal instabilities are a cause of concern. The nation is politically and economically weak. Pakistan’s new Army Chief shall be CEO of a country in bad shape. Noted international political analysts have observed that bringing the nation back on rails will require a root and branch overhaul of Pakistan’s national strategy.