Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa created history by voluntarily submitting to brief the Senate Committee of the Whole on national security issues. During the process, he deliberated on a wide range of topics from politics and frayed civil-military ties to counterterrorism operations and foreign policy. General Bajwa reaffirmed his commitment to democracy and the rule of law and categorically denied the military’s role in destabilising the civilian government. The ‘in-camera session’ of the Senate, comprising the army chief, accompanied by Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, Director General of Military Operations Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza and Military Intelligence Director General Major General Asim Munir, persisted for nearly four-and-a-half hours.

 

General Bajwa was invited by Senate Chairman Mian Rabbani to share military’s position on certain key foreign policy and security issues. The official agenda of the meeting was to have a “briefing by the Chief of Army Staff and Director General Military Operations on the emerging national security paradigm for Pakistan with respect to recent visits and developments”.

It was the first time that an army chief appeared before a Senate committee. The last time an army chief came to parliament for a briefing was in 2011 after the US raid on al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad when then army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI director general Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha were called to the joint sitting of parliament.

The mood this time was quite different as reportedly, the COAS faced some harsh grilling by the legislators but he responded in a frank, forthright and candid manner, giving a positive account of the role of the army in national affairs. The general went to the extent of offering his resignation if army’s role in the recent religious protest rallies was proven.

The army chief’s interactions with Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan were also shared with the lawmakers.

It was the first time that an army chief appeared before a Senate committee. The last time an army chief came to parliament for a briefing was in 2011 after the US raid on al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad

General Bajwa reiterated that the military was ready to back political leadership’s initiative for normalisation of relations with arch-rival India but reminded the legislators that a large part of Indian military deployments was mostly against Pakistan among other threats emanating from New Delhi. He recalled that India was fomenting instability and terrorism in Pakistan and had in this regard developed a strong nexus with Afghan intelligence agency NDS.

The unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s new national security agency came about a day earlier. The DG ISPR, when asked about it, aptly responded that it was the domain of the foreign office.

First, a word about the derogatory comments from the US president who reminded Pakistan that it’s obliged to help America because it receives “massive payments” from Washington every year. He went on to sink the knife deeper claiming that “We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan.”

This was the only reference to Pakistan in his speech, although the 56-page document that he released deals with it in more details, urging Pakistan to “continue demonstrating that it is a responsible steward of its nuclear assets”. The policy paper also elucidates that “the United States continues to face threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan”.

Nafees Zakaria, the foreign office spokesperson was on the dot when he rejected the unsubstantiated allegations towards Pakistan. He stressed that the unfounded accusations belie facts on the ground and trivialise Pakistan’s efforts for fighting terrorism and its unmatched sacrifices to promote peace and stability in the region. The spokesperson reminded the world that in a troubled neighbourhood, Pakistan continues to suffer at the hands of state-sponsored terrorism, funded and abetted by its neighbours through proxies. These proxies, comprising individuals, organisations and intelligence agencies, are working against Pakistan at the behest of regional adversaries. The self-proclaimed guarantors of peace and phoney regional powers are pursuing this nefarious game of expansionism to the detriment of regional and global peace. Destabilising policies and actions by some countries to maintain their hegemony in pursuit of absolute power are responsible for instability in several parts of the world, including ours.

President Trump, beleaguered by domestic problems, appears to be diverting national opinion by levelling baseless charges against Pakistan. He seems to have lost touch with reality that the Afghan soil, despite substantial US presence, is being constantly used by elements hostile to Pakistan’s stability. Pakistan’s efforts and sincere proposals for effective border management to prevent cross-border movement of militants and return of Afghan refugees are yet to make any headway. On the other hand, a malicious campaign is under-way to undo Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terrorism. Advertently or inadvertently Trump is echoing Indian propaganda against Pakistan.

Dr Subhash Kapila, former military officer and diplomat, currently international relations and strategic affairs consultant with the RAW operated South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG), in his Op-Ed ‘Afghanistan’s Future: Imperatives Of United States Resolve – Analysis’ recommends exactly what Trump is advocating. The RAW operative prescribes that the United States should not attempt a simultaneous process for political peace dialogues. He believes that this distracts and dilutes the execution of military plans by US Force Commanders. Kabila stresses that on no account Pakistan army or the Afghan Taliban should ever be included in any such dialogues even in the mid-term future plans. He desires that the US should impose economic sanctions on Pakistan to deter Pakistan army and the Taliban so as to preclude any turbulence generation by them. He goes on to advise the US to generate counter-pressure-points against China and Russia should they persist in their permissiveness on Pakistan army and Taliban’s continuance of their Afghanistan destabilisation strategies.

The “informed” commentator believes that any more leverage that the United States can employ on China, Pakistan and Russia to fall in line in not letting the Pakistan army and the Taliban generate turbulence and instability in Afghanistan, US should not hesitate in employing them to insulate American aims to bring about security and stability in Afghanistan. According to him, China, Pakistan and Russia today are beset with much domestic vulnerability and so also their peripheral regions are in a state of turbulence. Kabila asks “Is it so difficult for the United States to exploit these vulnerabilities as an overall effort towards ‘dissuasion’ of the trilateral from their geopolitical mischief in Afghanistan affairs?”

I rest my case on Indian intransigence and the “tail trying to wag the dog!”

Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson has reminded the world that as a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan has put in place a highly efficient, robust and centralised command and control mechanism to secure its nuclear assets. The safety and security standards of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal are second to no other nuclear state.

President Trump and Narendra Modi’s opposition to China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have also united the odd couple. China has rejected the US objections, stating that it is a new style of long-term cooperative partnership that will continue in the best interest of the region, that the two countries will fulfil the responsibilities to implement the project.