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General Bajwa’s Battle

by Benazir Shah
33 comments

Courtesy ISPR

Pakistan’s new Army chief has only one battle to wage, and win.

At dusk on Nov. 26 in Rawalpindi, Qamar Javed Bajwa, his wife, Ayesha, and sons, Saad and Ali, were at the graves of Bajwa’s mother and mother-in-law when the call came. The Prime Minister wanted a meeting with the 56-year-old lieutenant-general. The family soon left the cemetery for their home—upon which friends and strangers alike had already descended with an unsaid anticipation. His family tended to the surprise visitors; the general changed into his uniform and made his way to the Prime Minister’s residence in Islamabad.

“And that was that,” Saad, 27, tells Newsweek. The news broke quickly. His father, a dark horse candidate for the job, ranking fourth in seniority and with little appetite for the limelight, had officially been named Chief of Army Staff-designate. Three days later, he became the 16th man to lead the Pakistan Army, the world’s sixth largest.

“Every Army chief has had his own legacy or way of doing things,” says Saad, who is a barrister in Islamabad, “our father believes in the supremacy of the Constitution. He always says he wants the Pakistan [that the] Quaid-e-Azam envisioned, a Pakistan where institutions are more important than individuals.”

Pakistan Army chief, Gen. Bajwa, with his wife and two sons, 1992. Courtesy Ali Bajwa

Born Nov. 11, 1960, in Karachi, into an Army family, General Bajwa is the youngest of five siblings. He enlisted in 1978 and was commissioned two years later in the 16 Baloch Regiment. The career infantry officer has taken several military training courses and participated in army exercises in Canada and the U.S. He has commanded the Army’s X Corps in Rawalpindi, led the Force Command Northern Areas, and served as commandant of the Army’s School of Infantry and Tactics, Quetta. Like his predecessor, General Bajwa was inspector-general for training and evaluation at the Army’s General Headquarters, Rawalpindi, before taking the top post.

The general assumed office during yet another uptick in tensions with India, with almost daily reports of gunfire and shelling between Pakistani and Indian troops across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary that divide Kashmir. As commander of the X Corps, which is responsible for peace and security along this grim stretch, and with his past experience in the Northern Areas, General Bajwa is deeply familiar with the situation.

It also helps that Indian officers also respect him. In 2007, he was part of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he worked with the man who would become India’s Army chief, Gen. Bikram Singh. The former Indian Army chief has described Bajwa as an “outstanding and professional solider.” The respect is mutual, says Ali, the new chief’s 25-year-old son who is a petroleum engineer. Bajwa found Singh to be “a very professional and fair commander.”

A wider historical perspective informs General Bajwa’s worldview. His library consists almost entirely of books on history, diplomacy, and politics. Both sons describe him as a voracious reader, a well-thumbed book always on his bedside table. “He has a keen interest in European history,” says Saad, “He also reads extensively about India. In fact, last month on his birthday, we gifted him a book each. One was on India, because we knew he would enjoy reading it.”

The reading habit apparently came later in life, says Saad. “We’ve been told he wasn’t the brightest student in school, but he excelled in military academics since his early days in the [Pakistan Military Academy]. He’s always had a tremendous capacity for hard work. And he prefers the ability to work hard over talent alone.”

The general enjoys cricket, both watching and playing it, and he particularly admires Viv Richards and Javed Miandad. He is also fond of Noor Jehan tunes, which he has crooned in the past, according to the sons. The one thing he cannot abide, they say, is irresponsibility.

Bajwa with his wife, Ayesha Amjad, November 2016. Courtesy Ali Bajwa

Tackling extremism and terrorism, say his sons, will be the Army chief’s top responsibility. Earlier this month in Karachi, General Bajwa made it known through the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations wing that an all-out effort would be made to consolidate gains from the successful antiterrorism (and contentious anticorruption) operation in the megalopolis, and elsewhere, and that terrorism holdouts would be eliminated indiscriminately.

It was the Karachi Airport attack on June 8, 2014, that prompted military action through Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which gained even more public buy-in and dedication after the shocking slaughter of innocents at Peshawar’s Army Public School on Dec. 16, 2014. Saad remembers his father coming home that terrible evening, shaken. “He kept saying over and over, ‘This has to be the end. There must be consensus against terrorism; it is the biggest threat to Pakistan’s existence.’” General Bajwa has pictures of the schoolchildren slain in Peshawar framed in his office—a constant reminder of the battle he is determined to win.

With additional reporting by Sameen Khan

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33 comments

Majid December 23, 2016 - 1:46 pm

Nice interview. Looks like a nice family. Seems future of democracy is bright in Pakistan.

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suleman December 23, 2016 - 3:37 pm

Its a long road ahead of him. Our Wishes for him

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Anjum December 23, 2016 - 6:40 pm

Good article gives clear picture of army chiefs defined goals..We are confident under his able leadership army will be considered best on completion of his tenure iA.

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Faisal December 23, 2016 - 8:03 pm

Good choice as Army Chief.
Seems an educated, sober General & groomed up kids with great values.
Great future for democracy, insitutions & Pakistan

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Haseeb Ahmad Ayazi December 23, 2016 - 9:03 pm

Very nice piece to read

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Yasir December 23, 2016 - 9:07 pm

Corruption-free institutions should be the goal rather than institutions running with full-blown corruption and derailing the system into quagmire. The Constitution must be protected by moral role models. Anyone keeping quiet on corruption is part of the problem. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and nations with injustice have been wiped out.

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I Ahmed December 24, 2016 - 2:24 am

Well done Yaser, you are 100% right. Pakistani want CORRUPTION FREE INSTITUTIONS. So far they all (politicians and Generals) been part of corrupted machine.
They all know and do nothing as corrupt system benefit them all.

Every Pakistani want justice and peaceful living but in Pakistan Justice department (Courts and Judges) protect corrupt government and all the officials from top to bottom, where there is no justice humanity disappears and this is current position of Pakistan.

I pray for a better change.

Regards

I Ahmed

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Jawed Akhtar Shaikh December 23, 2016 - 9:36 pm

It seems that good choice has been made , by appointing him the chief . We are sure that he would prove his mettle and make the right decisions to bring this country out of this mess we are in .We pray that he would be successful in his endeavor .

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asmat jamal December 23, 2016 - 10:11 pm

Do we have democracy min Pakistan?
Are political parties following constitution?
Isnt constitution a bitch of the house of Nawaz and Zardari which is amended and customized to protect their plunder?
Respect for democracy and constitution in Pakistan means supporting plunder and promoting poverty

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Kashif December 23, 2016 - 11:38 pm

It looks that Gen Qamer Javid Bajwa is neither interested in politics nor his personal publicity.He is just a professional soldier which is good for Pakistan.

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adenwala December 24, 2016 - 2:41 am

Why are his sons being interviewed , in the first place ? in order to know him , his sub-ordinates, or his peers from school days or military academy would be more appropriate. It is strange that in a democratic country, military personal’s family are given space on public sphere. Not seen such practices happening in China, Russia, India or Israel, and obviously it is not a news story at all in any European nations or USA. The interview is good, probably because what else one can ask the sons (of all the people) about the newly selected COAS

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Sajjad ahmed December 24, 2016 - 10:09 am

We pray for his success,because his success is the success of nation.ALLAH PAK bless army chief and his family.

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Hafeez December 24, 2016 - 1:41 pm

Same here of sajjad ahmad allah bless you general bajwa sahib

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Anwer Siddiqui December 25, 2016 - 4:02 am

Dear and honorable Chief of Army Staff, General Amjad Bajwa, Salaams
All Pakistanis whether living at home or abroad would love to see the day when Pakistan is FREE from terrorism and corruption, as high priorities. I among all support you and wishing you successes in your future endeavors in achieving goals.
Sincere and caring,
Anwer Siddiqui

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Bill@l December 24, 2016 - 6:24 pm

The Prime Minister wanted a meeting with the 56-year-old lieutenant-general……
“And that was that,” Saad, 27….. The news broke quickly. His father, a dark horse candidate for the job, ranking fourth in seniority….
Yet again merit system failed in Pakistan!

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Khurram December 24, 2016 - 9:22 pm

Is this the job of his sons? Our nation clearly missing COAS General Raheel Sharif.

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mazhar memon December 25, 2016 - 1:32 am

Our new army chief might be nice and professional as the perception created by this interview, other side of the coin is great confidence displayed by both our prime minister and Mr. zardari, they seems to have taken sigh of great relief, question will remain where will Pakistan and people of Pakistan end up?is our prosperity and well being locked in safes at panama and likes of surrey mahals or we will really see functional democracy and rule of law.
Mazhar Memon

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Ahmed Mukhtar December 25, 2016 - 11:04 am

Beautifully narrated by BS.

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Majid Azim December 25, 2016 - 6:04 pm

He is a honest and dedicated professional offr. But I am surprised that why we expect an Army Chief only to finish the corruption. Why we all as a one Nation decides and join hands to eliminate the corruption and corrupt leaders. This is the responsibility of you and me.isn’t it?

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Zia ul Haq December 27, 2016 - 9:39 pm

A great General who have Lot of love for motherland IA Will prove with times to come.

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Sameer sethi December 27, 2016 - 10:28 pm

Is he a convert from Hindu to Muslim as bajwa is a surname that Hindus have in India

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hamza khan February 23, 2017 - 8:30 pm

NO!!

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kahloon December 28, 2016 - 11:49 am

democracy will gets strength during his tenure and i hope army officers will be accountable for there wrong doing in his tenure and there will be no pressure on courts regarding the case of musharaf. fake police encounters will be stop.

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Hannan December 29, 2016 - 8:16 pm

Dedicated, hardworking and honest man who seems focused in his approach to eradicate extremism from Pakistan. Extremism is growing with each passing day which is evident from news that are being circulated in recent days. He is the right man for the right job. Bravo Gen Bajwa!!

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shakil January 17, 2017 - 11:10 pm

The new COAS seems a perfect officer to lead the most disciplined institution of the country. However, there were officers of his calibre who have lead the army before, but fell victim to strategic manipulations of outside influences that made them work within a limited scope. Unfortunately, the rest of country’s population lacks education which is the biggest cause of our society being disorganized and backward. It can be seen that the advanced nations of the world have populations in which the ordinary citizens work on the pattern of army discipline and efficiency in their daily lives. I wish that the army, instead of being used only in emergency situations, would open all over the country sort of ‘boot-camps’ to train our civilian young men physically and mentally to become active and alert. Maybe the new COAS would be able to persuade the elected representatives to put education of all children at the top of the top-priorities of the national policy. This is a front that is as important if not more, as the anti-terror front we face.

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Upamanyu January 25, 2017 - 7:30 pm

I am delighted to know about this personality, hope we now have a more professional cross country relationship which shall bring peace & prosperity for both of our countries & not at cost of each other’s present & future.

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Hafiz November 12, 2018 - 11:35 pm

Good article gives clear picture of army chiefs defined goals..We are confident under his able leadership army will be considered best on completion of his tenure. God Bless you

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ali ahmad November 27, 2018 - 11:13 am

i think general bajwa is one of the best army chief in pakistan history

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ali ahmad December 8, 2018 - 1:42 pm

Bajwa is a great man and leader in the miltry stablishment.

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Urdu Talk Shows December 8, 2018 - 6:03 pm

Corruption-free institutions should be the goal rather than institutions running with full-blown corruption and derailing the system into quagmire. The Constitution must be protected by moral role models.

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Asad April 11, 2019 - 1:17 am

Power is a zero sum game. Those who have lost it will continue to struggle (to get it back) and those who have usurped it will continue to jealously guard it. What this cadre of generals did in 2017 in their judicially backed de-facto coup against an elected prime minister was not only treasonous, given their oaths of office and required subordination to the constitution, as observed by the Supreme Court recently, they also tanked the national economy which threatened the livelihood of hundreds of millions and put Pakistan once again on the auction block of foreign powers from whom bailouts were sought, in addition to millions of Pakistan that were displaced through military “operations” that have never been audited for civilian deaths and displacements, why are they not being held accountable? The answer is, power. It was this misplaced power that yet again took the region to the brink of nuclear annihilation. Bajwa is a criminal.

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Pakistani Talk Shows May 9, 2019 - 9:21 am

I am agree with your opinion.

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Tariq Mahmood August 19, 2019 - 6:01 pm

Old is gold PM IK need proper leading personality.like Gen Bajwa. He has lot of experience to solve and defend our Pakistan problems. He is like a open book for our country and a big lesson for enemies.this crucial time PM done great decision for COSA. We welcome and pray that he will successful to safe country,benifical our Pak Army.

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