Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday approved an extension in the tenure of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa for three years. "General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed Chief of Army Staff for another term of three years from the date of completion of his current tenure," stated a brief notification issued by the Prime Minister's office. It added, "The decision has been taken in view of the regional security environment."
The announcement comes nearly three months before the retirement date of General Bajwa. General Bajwa was appointed as the Chief of Army Staff by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in November 2016 and he was due to retire in November 2019. The extension comes amidst critical developments on Pakistan's eastern and western frontiers.
Tensions between Pakistan and Indian flared this month after New Delhi stripped occupied Jammu & Kashmir of its special constitutional status and imposed a crippling curfew in the territory that has continued for weeks. Islamabad angrily slammed the decision, taking the matter to the United Nations Security Council and expelling India's ambassador, downgrading ties and suspending bilateral trade.
Born in Gakhar Mandi, Gujranwala, General Bajwa was commissioned on October 24, 1980 in the 16 Baloch Regiment, the battle-hardened force that in the past has given three army chiefs - General Yahya Khan, General Aslam Beg and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), General Bajwa is a graduate of Canadian Forces Command and Staff College-Toronto, Naval Post Graduate University-Monterey, California and National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad. He has been an instructor at the School of Infantry and Tactics, Quetta, Command and Staff College, Quetta and the NDU.
He has also been Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade and Chief of Staff of Rawalpindi Corps. General Bajwa has commanded the 16 Baloch Regiment, an Infantry Brigade as well as Infantry Division in Northern Areas. He had also commanded Pakistan Contingent in Congo.
Having served as corps commander of Rawalpindi, General Bajwa has vast experience of dealing with issues related to Kashmir and the Line of Control. Agencies add: Khan's move comes as his political opposition is planning protest rallies over his alleged failures in handling the country's ailing economy. Bawja's extension marks the second time in nearly a decade that the country's top general had their traditional three-year term extended.
It comes as tensions have skyrocketed with New Delhi after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the disputed Kashmir region of its autonomy earlier this month. US President Donald Trump urged the nuclear-armed rivals over the weekend to come back to the negotiating table, conveying to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan the importance of "reducing tensions".
The Pakistani military is also believed to be playing a vital role in ongoing peace talks between the US and Taliban. Talat Masood, a military analyst and retired general, said the need for continuity was at the heart of the decision. "I don't think Pakistan would have thought of a change in command in these circumstances," he told AFP. The understanding between Premier Khan and Bajwa "has been excellent", he added.