Pak's most powerful man, Gen Bajwa leaves in a significantly weaker position

by IANS |

New Delhi, Nov 22 (IANS) After spending six years as Pakistan's most powerful man, General Qamar Javed Bajwa leaves a country in a significantly weaker position: society is deeply polarised, the economy is on the brink of default, foreign partners are withholding significant support due to the ensuing political instability, and the long-term bet on Khan has blown up in the militarys face.

Uzair M. Younus, Director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center wrote in Dawn, that such has been the failure of this experiment that the military is back to dealing with the likes of Zardari and Nawaz to stabilise a collapsing political economy.

In terms of the relationship with India, the military is now eager to open trade and explore normalisation of ties.

This again is an about face, because years earlier when Nawaz Sharif tried to pursue a similar path, with Narendra Modi coming to Lahore in a surprise visit, the three-time Prime Minister was called a traitor and was undermined, Younus wrote.

As Bajwa retires and ends his six year tenure as chief of army staff, the painstaking work his predecessors did to rebuild the military's reputation and stature has been brought to nothing, if sentiments on social media are anything to go by.

While Bajwa professed a desire to strengthen democracy, he has left behind a political economy that is ripping apart at the seams. His desire to insert the military into the economic and business policy making domains has yielded suboptimal results, Younus wrote.

But while General Bajwa moved quickly to solidify his control over Pakistan's political economy, the turbulence that faced his tenure in those early moments was going to be a feature, not a bug during both his three-year terms -- by the end of which, he would oversee the collapse of the model of hybrid democracy that has governed Pakistan since 2008, and Pakistan's military would experience a dramatic decline in its standing across the country, the article said.

After spending six years as Pakistan's most powerful man, Gen Bajwa leaves behind a country at odds with itself, and adrift globally.

Worst of all, Bajwa leaves behind an institution in a state of flux, with the army's internal divides and rivalries coming out into the limelight. These developments are breeding concern about the military's unity of command, especially in countries concerned about Pakistan's stability, Younus said.

The military's growth in terms of influence and power has also brought about a lot of additional economic opportunities.

The institution remains a dominant economic actor in the country, gaining in excess of $1.7 billion in annual benefits "mainly in the form of preferential access to land, capital and infrastructure, as well as tax exemptions."

In addition, the continued policy of either seconding military officers to key government posts, or appointing retired officers to government agencies or state-owned enterprises, has become a powerful tool of patronage. No-bid contracts to military-run organizations have also become the norm.

Pakistan's grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) forced a change of policy, with Pakistan going so far as to punish Sajid Mir a man on FBI's most wanted terrorist lists.

For years, Pakistan's military and civilian leadership had claimed that Mir had been dead.

However, intelligence gathered by the US and subsequently shared with the Pakistanis, proved that Mir was alive and in Pakistan. In order to get Pakistan removed from the FATF grey-list, the military finally had to act, and only when Mir was punished did the FATF logjam come to an end, Younus wrote.

In Bajwa's last days in office, a journalist who was hounded out of Pakistan has been brutally murdered in a targeted attack in Kenya and the country's former Prime Minister, who is arguably the most popular politician in the country, barely survived an assassination attempt. T

he military, long seen as a guarantor in the political disputes that routinely engulf Pakistan, has had its image tarnished, perhaps beyond repair, Younus wrote.

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