THE outgoing Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa spoke his heart at the Defence and Martyrs Day ceremony held at the GHQ in Rawalpindi on Wednesday making frank admissions and emphasizing the need for making a new beginning for the sake of the country.
He lambasted the anti-Army narrative and urged the political forces to give up the tendency of not accepting the mandate of the people.
He rightly pointed out that the country was facing an extreme financial crisis and no single party could take the country out of the financial crisis.
General Bajwa remained intimately involved in the affairs of the country for the last six years, which saw tumultuous developments and, therefore, his analysis of the situation and prescription for the future really matters much and needs to be taken seriously by all stakeholders.
The most striking feature of the speech of the Army Chief was that he confirmed that the Army has taken a conscientious decision not to interfere in political affairs and has been strictly abiding by this commitment since February 2021.
Similar statements were made by the Director-General, ISI, Lt General Nadeem Anjum and Director-General, ISPR, Major-General Babar Iftikhar who referred to the Senate elections and said there was no complaint of interference since then.
General Bajwa has rightly pointed out the outstanding services rendered by Pakistan Army both during war and peace that are being valued highly by the people of Pakistan as well.
There can be no different opinions that the nation stands fully behind the defence forces when it comes to defence of geographical frontiers of the country is concerned but, as pointed out by the COAS himself, the Army faced criticism for its political postures — either assumption of power through Martial Law or through tactics widely called as political engineering.
It was because of this reason that the leadership of the institution took a firm decision to maintain a distance from political affairs and instead focus on its professional responsibilities and duties.
This policy, if pursued in letter and spirit by all those succeeding General Bajwa, has the potential to promote not just image and prestige of the institution but also put the country on the path of political and democratic stability which would in turn ensure economic progress.
While the Army has taken a praiseworthy decision, it is now for the political leadership to forge consensus on the issue and resolve collectively not to drag the Army again in political matters.
Similar pronouncements should also come from the judiciary as it is being seen as highly partisan and its verdicts hardly spark confidence among masses because at most of times these are based on considerations other than merit, transparency and legal/constitutional provisions.
A related issue highlighted by the COAS was the anti-Army narrative in the context of so-called regime change.
Worst kind of character assassination of senior officers was resorted to in the name of a foreign-sponsored conspiracy but now attempts are being made to backtrack from this disastrous narrative.
Those who have been accusing the United States of conspiring to bring about a change in Pakistan have already taken a U-turn on the issue and now it is also claimed that the Army might not have been involved but it should have stopped the conspiracy.
This is being done despite the fact that the change of the Government had nothing to do with any conspiracy and everything was done while remaining strictly within the framework of the Constitution.
In fact, attempts were made to subvert this constitutional process through illegal and unconstitutional moves and that is why the judiciary had to interfere to ensure the rule of law.
No one would dispute that the debacle of East Pakistan was a political failure and not a military defeat as our forces put up a valiant fight against foreign enemy as well as domestic elements in the face of enormous challenges.
But there is a need to analyse what went wrong politically and how to avoid repetition of such mistakes in future as follies inflict harm on the overall strength of the federation.
Things can definitely improve if issues are debated thoroughly in parliament and decisions taken with consensus to address the challenges. There is no substitute to the supremacy of the parliament.