BFF-30 Pakistan extends military chief’s tenure amid Kashmir row

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Pakistan extends military chief’s tenure amid Kashmir row

ISLAMABAD, Aug 19, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Pakistan extended its military chief’s
tenure Monday, ensuring stability in what is arguably the country’s most
powerful position as tensions soar with rival India and Washington is
expected to announce a withdrawal deal in Afghanistan.

“General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed as chief of army staff for
another term of three years,” read a statement signed by Prime Minister Imran
Khan and released by his office. “The decision has been taken in view of the
regional security environment.”

The extension, which had been widely expected, was also confirmed by the
military’s spokesman.

The Pakistani military has long played an outsized role in national
life, ruling the country for roughly half its 72-year history and offering
the muscular reassurance against nuclear arch-rival India that many
Pakistanis see as vital to their identity.

Bajwa was appointed to lead the military in 2016, taking over from the
hugely popular General Raheel Sharif, who won the hearts of millions with his
bruising campaign against Islamic militants.

Bawja’s extension marks the second time in nearly a decade that the
country’s top general had their traditional three-year term extended.

It comes as tensions have skyrocketed with New Delhi after Prime
Minister Narendra Modi stripped the disputed Kashmir region of its autonomy
earlier this month.

US President Donald Trump urged the nuclear-armed rivals over the
weekend to come back to the negotiating table, conveying to Pakistani Prime
Minister Imran Khan the importance of “reducing tensions”.

Both India and Pakistan have controlled portions of the former princely
state of Kashmir since independence in 1947. The dispute over the Muslim-
majority region has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes
between them.

Earlier this year they again came close to all-out conflict, after a
militant attack in Indian-held Kashmir in February was claimed by a group
based in Pakistan, igniting tit-for-tat air strikes.

The Pakistani military is also believed to be playing a vital role in
ongoing peace talks between the US and Taliban that aim to secure a
withdrawal of American troops in exchange for insurgent promises that
Afghanistan will not be used as a safe haven for groups such as Al Qaeda or
Islamic State.

Pakistan was the Taliban’s chief sponsor when it took power in
neighbouring Afghanistan during the 1990s.

Its influence over the group, which has waged an insurgency since it was
ousted from power by US-led forces in 2001, is seen as key in facilitating a
political settlement with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Talat Masood, a military analyst and retired general, said the need for
continuity was at the heart of the decision.

“I don’t think Pakistan would have thought of a change in command in
these circumstances,” he told AFP.

The understanding between Premier Khan — branded by his opponents as
the army’s “blue-eyed boy” — and Bajwa “has been excellent”, he added.

BSS/AFP/BZC/1930HRS