The Government of Pakistan has approved a three-year extension to the tenure of Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Monday.
“General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed Chief of Army Staff for another term of three years from the date of completion of current tenure,” said the statement. “The decision has been taken in view of the regional security environment,” it added.
Gen. Bajwa was appointed the head of Pakistan’s armed forces in November 2016 by then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He is the 16th man to have led the Pakistan Army.
The military’s spokesman also confirmed the extension, which had been widely predicted by analysts and observers.
The Pakistani military has long played an outsized role in national life, offering muscular reassurance against archrival India that many Pakistanis see as vital to their identity.
Bajwa took 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. General Kayani, who preceded General Sharif, also had his 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. 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 India-Occupied Kashmir in February, perpetrated by a local separatist, was claimed by a group based in Pakistan, igniting tit-for-tat airstrikes.
The Pakistani military is also believed to be playing a vital role in ongoing peace talks between the U.S. 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.