General Qamar Javed Bajwa took up his new post yesterday as Pakistan’s new Chief of Staff in a smooth transition of authority that further reaffirmed Pakistan’s successful restoration of democracy and prime ministerial authority after the departure in 2008 of former President Pervez Musharraf, who took control by a coup and accrued excessive authority to the president’s office. Musharraf was a career army officer, which also confused the distinction between the authority of the civil government over the country’s military.
It is encouraging that Bajwa is known as a supporter of close relations between the civil government and the military establishment, which may be why Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif selected him for the job. It is also good thing that Bajwa may not be automatically hostile to India, and his profile makes a point of reporting how he was happy to serve under an Indian officer who eventually became the Indian Army chief, on a United Nations mission in Congo.
It is important that Bajwa builds on the work of his predecessors, Generals Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Raheel Sharif, in combating militants, who are Pakistan’s major security challenge.
But there is a danger that Bajwa might follow Kayani and Sharif, who started their terms as Chief of Staff as determined to fight the terrorists, and both ended up thinking more about confronting India.
Kayani initially said that domestic terror required more “immediate attention” than the threat from India but by the end of his term, India-Pakistan ties were struggling.