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Friday, October 19, 2018
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The Bajwa Doctrine: Old Wine in Old Bottle
About two months ago Pakistani military’s public relations wing, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), produced, as if from a magician’s box, a document it called Bajwa Doctrine. The authorship of the Doctrine is unclear although an impression is sought to be created that Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa fathered it. There is a suspicion that just before the general elections this year, the ISPR is at its old game of projecting the Army Chief as the promised saviour whenever Pakistan is in shambles because of civilians misrule and corruption. This doctrine has two parts: (1) foreign relations and (2) domestic issues. Gen Bajwa is shown as taking a much tougher stand on United States’ demand of ‘do more’ than taken by Gen Pervez Musharraf who buckled down unclear the US threat of bombing Pakistan to stone age if it didn’t agree to stand by it in the war on global terrorism. As against it Gen Bajwa’s brave reply to the US demand of ‘do more’ is ‘no more’. He is, thus projected as a braver patriot and more capable general than was Gen Musharraf. Gen Bajwa’s bravery vis-a-vis the US is due to his childlike faith in China. Some Pakistani commentators have called it as ‘unhealthy’ faith.

On Afghanistan a pro-doctrine commentary in the Pakistani daily The News, “The Bajwa Doctrine: from Chauvinism to Realism” says “This Doctrine openly abandoned the idea (if it ever existed) of strategic depth and Afghanistan as the fifth province of Pakistan”. One may recall both these possibilities were seriously weighted during the Afghan War in the 1980s when Gen Ziaul Haq ruled Pakistan. About India the Doctrine, according to the news commentary says that Pakistan is ready for peaceful negotiations with India but without compromising on Kashmir.

Thus the Bajwa Doctrine’s foreign policy adds up to nothing. For example, there is nothing new about Gen Bajwa’s reply to the US demand of “do more” with “no more”. Pakistan has badly complied with the US ‘do more’ demand even after taking money for it. Thus the “no more” stand makes no sense. That the Bajwa Doctrine abandons the idea of strategic depth is not new that repeated by the Pakistan Army in the past a number of times because it knows the Bajwa Doctrine does not make a promise that Pakistan will not allow terrorists to use its soil to conduct attacks in Afghanistan.

Similarly, the Bajwa Doctrine absolutely ignores India’s conditions for peace talks. India wants Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism as a pre-condition to peace talks. But the Bajwa Doctrine totally ignores India’s concern when it says Pakistan is ready to talk peace without compromising on Kashmir. The News commentary says the so-called doctrine is fully aware of the Chinese advice of solving Kashmir with negotiations and not war.

Thus we see the doctrine is an old wine in old bottle. It essentially seeks to maintain the status-quo in relations with the US, Afghanistan and India. The message in the doctrine is that good relations with Afghanistan and peace with India is not Pakistan Army’s priority.

Then why this Doctrine? From the Army’s point of view the purpose and timing of it are very crucial. It looks the first part i.e. foreign relations, is just a camouflage for Army’s domestic traditional conspiracies against civilians and their rule. The timing of the doctrine makes it glaringly conspiratorial. It comes about seven months ahead of the 2018 general elections expected in July. It claims to support democracy but in fact tries to cause public disenchantment by alleging that politicians who came to power under democracy have made the country insecure. It especially mentions the 18th Constitutional Amendment passed by the Parliament as threatening the federation of Pakistan. The News commentary says the Doctrine says this amendment as Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Six Points which led to the breakup of Pakistan in 1971. The Doctrine alleges the 18th amendment has converted Pakistan into a confederation from a federation. Parliament had passed this amendment to restore provincial autonomy as was provided by the 1973 Constitution. Parliament had argued the 18th amendment would strengthen the Federation.

The Bajwa Doctrine or, more correctly, the Army Doctrine, must have been in the preparation since 2008 when the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won the elections and formed the government replacing Gen. Musharraf’s quasi-civilian government. The PPP’s policy of friendship and peace with India was not approved by the Army. It is suspected that then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad, who otherwise claimed to be very independent, was trying to curry favour with the Army by doing his worst to destabilise the PPP government on ridiculous grounds. He went to the extent of disqualifying Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.

The Army was not happy either with Nawaz Sharif whose Pakistan Muslim League (N) formed the next government after winning the 2013 elections. The Army’s problem with the PML(N) government was its plans to develop trade relations with India; to try Gen Pervez Musharraf on treason charges for suspending the constitution in 2007, and to hold peace talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP). The Sharif government received a severe jolt when Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan and PAT led by Maulana Tahirul Qadri organised on August 14 a massive dharna in Islamabad claiming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. The common impression in Pakistan was that the Army was behind the dharnas. For those who kept a watch on this dharna, it was difficult to question this impression. Sharif survived the dharna by giving up its peace policy towards India; its plan to hold peace talks with the TTP and by practically abandoning the enthusiasm to try Gen Musharraf.

But Nawaz Sharif was not spared for long. In July 2017, the Supreme Court disqualified him to be a Member of Parliament. He was even disqualified to be the president of his own party. As a result the party and also its government are in a precarious condition on the eve of the elections. It is said that the army does not want the PML(N) to return to power. Now Sharif openly accuses the Supreme Court of acting against him at the behest of somebody else. Here he implied the Army. The Bajwa Doctrine expressed faith in the Panama Joint Investigative Team (JIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate corruption charges against Sharif. Sharif’s disqualification was supposed to be on the basis of the JIT report. The Doctrine says it stands by the Supreme Court. The Doctrine also says the Army had no role in the court’s Verdict against Nawaz Sharif. But it accuses Nawaz Sharif of spoiling of relations with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the US and the Army is mending them now.

On March 28 ISPR Chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor was perhaps giving an example how the Army was mending relations with Saudi Arabia when he told newsmen that Pakistani troops were sent to that country under the 1982 agreement. The decision to send the troops was reportedly taken by Gen Bajwa inspite of a Parliament resolution against sending troops out of Pakistan to fight elsewhere. Parliament resolution was adopted to forestall a possible move to send Pakistani troops to Saudi Arabia to fight in Yemen on its behalf. But it is kept a secret why the troops have gone to Saudi Arabia. Maj Gen Ghafoor told newsmen that the Bajwa Doctrine should be seen from a security point of view.

The Bajwa Doctrine accuses Sharif of ruining the country’s economy. It says, the money spent on motors and motorways should have been spent on education. It also expresses unhappiness over Benazir Income Support Programmes.

If somebody must see something new in the Bajwa Doctrine, it is this: Pakistan has plucked courage for the first time to tell Americans that it will do “no more” what it has not been doing despite its promise to do so. But it is too early to say how long Pakistan can held on to its “no more” boldness and say the Doctrine was misreported by the media.
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