- Outgoing COAS says despite criticism of armed forces, institutional resolve to remain apolitical will remain steadfast
Outgoing army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that the "political quarantine" of the armed forces will augur well for Pakistan in the long term by "fostering political stability and strengthening the army-to-people bond".
During an interview with Gulf News on Sunday night, Bajwa, who is set to retire on November 29, said that the Pakistan Army has always remained a dominant player in national decision-making.
"Due to its historic role in the country’s politics, the military drew severe criticism from public and politicians alike."
However, he said "we have restricted the army’s role to its constitutional mandated task only by deciding to make it apolitical," a decision he believes will improve the army’s prestige in the long term, as well as help in "reinvigorating and strengthening" the country's democratic culture.
'Prudent to shield Pakistan Army from vagaries of politics'
He also said that public support and affinity towards the armed forces tends to erode when the military is seen to be involved in political affairs, and he considers it prudent to shield the Pakistan Army from the vagaries of politics in Pakistan.
"Despite some criticism and undue vilification of the armed forces through mass propaganda and meticulously crafted false narratives, the institutional resolve to remain apolitical will remain steadfast.
"I am certain that this political quarantine of the armed forces will augur well for Pakistan in the long term by fostering political stability and strengthening the Army-to-people bond."
'Foresee robust, broad-based relationship with Arab brothers
Meanwhile, the outgoing army chief also spoke about Pakistan's bond and fraternal ties with GCC and other Middle Eastern countries, saying that the traditional ties with brotherly Arab states go beyond any cost-benefit calculus.
"Military diplomacy is complementary to Pakistan’s foreign policy and plays its due role in fostering Pakistan’s bilateral relations with other countries, including in the Middle Eastern region.
Our intimate engagements with the Arab countries at the leadership level have continuously helped nurture the long-standing ties and translate them into practical cooperation in areas of common interests," the COAS said.
While commenting on the current challenges Pakistan is facing, Bajwa said that the region had been referred to as a “strategic chessboard” due to its role in great power rivalries in the past — the recent being the two decade-long ‘war on terror’.
"Pakistan’s western border has therefore seen a great deal of instability due to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Post-US withdrawal, a modicum of stability has been seen in the country with reduction in violence. However, the situation remains volatile," he said.
On China, the COAS said that Pakistan’s all-weather strategic partnership with the neighbor has endured the upheavals of strategic environment through many decades.
"The ever-sharpening global power contestation, however, now places Pakistan in a delicate position with regard to balancing our relationship with China and the West."
He further said that Pakistan is trying to steer itself prudently in this increasingly contested strategic environment and "ensuring that we are not pulled into any future iteration of cold war."
'No nation is secure by virtue of its defence forces alone'
In his message to the youth, Bajwa stressed the significance of people’s support for the army, adding that no nation is secure by virtue of its defence forces alone.
"While the armed forces of Pakistan are ready to sacrifice our lives for the motherland, we cannot succeed without the support of our people, especially the large, dynamic and industrious youth of Pakistan, which constitutes around 60 percent of our total population."
He urged the youth to devote their time and energy towards education and skill development. “Honest toil and selfless exertion are the basis of a progressive society.”
He went on to say that the youth must also ensure that they are shielded from divisive propaganda and information warfare that seeks to polarise our society and erode mutual trust.
“Pakistan should always come first — before any other marker of identity.”