Islamabad: In his first appearance before the political leadership, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa reaffirmed his commitment to democracy and rule of law.
The Army Chief categorically denied the military’s role in destabilising the civilian government and urged parliamentarians to take lead role in framing foreign and security policies.
“You are the policymakers. You should come up with policy guidelines. We will follow you,” Gen Bajwa was quoted by media as telling the senators.
He was accompanied by Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, Director General of Military Operations Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza and Military Intelligence Director General Maj Gen Asim Munir. Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani chaired the committee session that lasted about four-and-a-half hours.
Gen Bajwa came to brief the legislators on national security issues but discussed a wide range of matters from ravelled civil-military ties to counterterrorism operations and foreign policy. Discussing national security matters, the army chief asked the lawmakers “to prepare policy guidelines in the light of emerging regional realities”.
In a goodwill gesture, the army chief was reported as saying that military was ready to back political leadership’s initiative for normalisation of relations with arch rival India.
“We want good relations with our neighbours. We want them to add to our security, nobody should be using their territory against us,” Gen Bajwa said with reference to Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and Iran. He also briefed the statesmen on his recent visits to Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE and different aspects of military diplomacy in the backdrop of geostrategic changes.
It was the first time in six years that an army chief addressed Pakistan’s lawmakers since the 2011 briefing by the then army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Director General Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha who were called to the joint sitting of parliament after the US raid on Al Qaida chief Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad.
Senators termed army chief’s briefing as a historic day for democracy and civil-military relations.
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“This is for the first time that such an open and detailed briefing was given. Everyone is very satisfied with the COAS briefing. This is a very good thing for civil-military relations as the confusion created by the current situation has been cleared,” Senator Mushahid Hussain said.
The Pakistan Peoples Party leader and Senator Sherry Rehman said all parties were on one page as far as national security was concerned. The best part about the Senate briefing, she said, was that a state institution believes it is answerable to the public’s elected representatives.
Commenting on General Bajwa’s briefing to the Senate, PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) Senator Pervaiz Rasheed said that both sides talked very openly, asked questions, and presented their stance.
Senator Hasil Bizenjo said Gen Bajwa had underlined the division of work with governance being civilians’ domain and security being military’s responsibility.
PML-N Senator Asif Kirmani said the informative briefing was a significant step for both the Senate and Army. “The briefing has clearly made us more aware of matters and helped us with understanding matters [pertaining to national security]” he said.
Senator Nehal Hashmi, quoting the army chief said: “He [COAS] said that forming defence and foreign office policies are the job of lawmakers, and [when pertinent] implementation and accountability is the army’s job,” Hashmi said.