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New Bottle, Old Wine! Pakistan’s New Army Chief, Asim Munir, Will Continue To Expand The ‘Military Empire’

OPED By Nilesh Kunwar

Since armed forces are mandated to protect the territorial integrity of their respective nations, for Pakistan army chief Gen Syed Asim Munir to say that Pakistan’s military “will defend every inch of our motherland” is perfectly in order.

However, by simultaneously adding that in case of an Indo-Pak conflict, the Pakistan army will “take war to the enemy,” Pakistan’s new army chief has given a clear indication that contrary to expectations of him ending Pakistan army’s age-old habit of saber-rattling, jingoism continues to be Rawalpindi’s flavor of the day!

However, Gen Munir’s supporters maintain that it’s too early and unfair to categorize him as a war-monger or an incurable hawk based solely on his provocative threat to “take war to the enemy.” 

Many contend that given the host of problems created by the Pakistan army that he has inherited, from precipitating an unprecedented political turmoil within the country to its abject failure to subdue homegrown terror, the new army chief has no other choice but to project himself as being extremely tough and absolutely uncompromising while dealing with arch-rival India.

Gen Munir has, indeed, a lot on his hands. While the TTP’s writ runs in erstwhile FATA, Rawalpindi’s grand plan of achieving ‘strategic depth’ by installing a pliant dispensation in Kabul went horribly wrong.

Despite being patronized by Rawalpindi and hosted in Pakistan for nearly two decades, after seizing power in Afghanistan, the Taliban has refused to act as Pakistan’s minion.

Furthermore, despite Pakistan army’s spy chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed ensuring that members of the Haqqani network [which was Rawalpindi’s most trusted ‘strategic asset’] got the most influential posts in the government, Kabul has not only refused to play the role of a minion, but also declined to act against TTP.

Though Rawalpindi’s persistent meddling in Pakistan’s politics is no secret, no army chief had ever admitted this. So, what compelled outgoing army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to accept the military’s interference in politics for the past 70 years” is the reason behind widespread public criticism of the Pakistan army, and that too, just days before he hung his uniform, is rather intriguing.

Furthermore, by giving an assurance that “the military decided…that it would never again interfere in any political matter in future,” and his pledge that “we are strictly committed to it,” Gen Bajwa has effectively ‘straight-jacketed’ Gen Munir.

File Image: Pakistan Army

While time will reveal the true nature of Gen Munir’s approach towards India, but just within a few days, the new army chief has made it absolutely clear that he has no intention of honoring his predecessor’s promise of Rawalpindi having decided “that it would never again interfere in any political matter in future.” 

Au contraire, by saying that “The world must ensure justice and deliver what is promised to the Kashmiri people as per UN resolutions,” he has unambiguously indicated that even though being irrefutably political in nature, the issue of Kashmir very much remains the exclusive preserve of Rawalpindi!

Similarly, his stern warning that “No one will be allowed to disrupt the hard-earned gains of war against terror made thus far” made during his Tirah Valley visit near the Afghanistan border too is a clear message to Kabul that Rawalpindi will continue dictating Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy.

On the home front, Gen Munir hasn’t yet made any public statement on PTI chief Imran Khan’s ongoing political slugfest with the Shehbaz Sharif government.

However, with media reports of Pakistan President Dr. Arif Alvi flying down to Lahore and convincing Khan on Gen Munir’s appointment as army chief, it’s apparent that Rawalpindi had sent across a strong message to the cricketer-turned-politician through Alvi.

Resultantly, Khan put up a defiant stance while congratulating the new army chief on his promotion by him reminding of ‘Quaid-i-Azam’ Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s famous words – “Do not forget that the armed forces are the servants of the people and you do not make national policy; it is we, the civilians, who decide these issues and it is your duty to carry out these tasks with which you are entrusted.” 

However, by telling PTI workers to “please ensure there is no criticism of the new Chief and Army Staff,” it’s evident that despite reiterating Jinnah’s views on the supremacy of the legislature, Khan has rightly reckoned which way the wind is blowing.

It’s clear that just like Cassius in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Khan too has realized that “the fault … is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.” 

This explains his desperation to mend fences with the same Rawalpindi that he, till a few days ago, was repeatedly humiliating through the use of uncharitable words like “establishment” and “neutrals.”

Hence, while some may have great expectations from Gen Munir, there are really no plausible reasons for over-optimism.

Pakistan army is too deeply involved in running the country, and come what may, no army chief would ever like to preside over the dissolution of this massive military empire by surrendering extra-constitutional powers being exercised by Rawalpindi.

Hence, while the Pakistan army may present the country with a new ‘bottle’ every three [or six] years, the wine it contains always was, is, and will remain old!

  • Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir & the North East. He is a prominent military analyst and writes for many newspapers, journals, and think tanks. VIEWS PERSONAL OF AUTHOR
  • Contact EurAsian Times at etdesk (at) eurasiantimes.com
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