New Pakistani army chief committed to war on terror

By Zahir Shah

New army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa (hands upturned in prayer) presents a floral wreath at a martyrs' monument in Peshawar on November 30. [ISPR]

New army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa (hands upturned in prayer) presents a floral wreath at a martyrs' monument in Peshawar on November 30. [ISPR]

PESHAWAR -- Pakistan's army has a new commander but the message on fighting terrorism remains unchanged: there will be no reprieve.

Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the new army chief, made that point by going to North Waziristan on November 29 on his first field visit.

Troops have been fighting insurgents in that tribal agency since Gen. Raheel Sharif, Bajwa's predecessor, ordered them there in June 2014 as part of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.

'No terrorists'

The army is going to take the war on terrorism to its logical conclusion - the elimination of terrorism from Pakistani soil - he told troops in North Waziristan.

"We will continue to move ahead of the gains already made so far," he said, according to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), highlighting the sacrifices that tribes and security forces have made over the years.

"No terrorists of any hue will ever be allowed to come back," he said.

Ensuring Pakistan's security from external and internal threats will remain his ultimate objective as chief of army staff, Bajwa said, outlining his priorities moving forward.

They include forming new Frontier Corps units as soon as possible to secure the Afghan border, he said. He also urged the timely return of temporarily displaced persons (TDPs) to their homes in the tribal belt and assistance in enabling their peaceful resettlement.

Before going to North Waziristan, Bajwa on November 29 paid a visit to XI Corps Headquarters in Peshawar, where officers briefed him about the security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Malakand Division, as well as on-going counter-insurgency operations, progress in resettling TDPs, and development projects.

Consolidating gains

Tribal members in North Waziristan and terrorism analysts had high praise for Bajwa's decision to visit the turbulent agency, which also underscored his determination to bring displaced tribe members home and to develop the tribal areas.

"It's a good omen that ... winning the war on terror is a priority and that [he intends] to win it at all costs," retired Gen. Talat Masood, an Islamabad defence analyst, told Pakistan Forward.

Bajwa's determination to fix border security will make Pakistan more secure, he said.

Requirements for lasting peace in the region include stability in FATA and the return home of all TDPs, Parvaiz Iqbal Tareen, a scholar at the University of Peshawar Area Study Centre, told Pakistan Forward. Plans to upgrade both FCs show Bajwa's intention of building on the legacy of his predecessor, he said.

One observer sees this time as transitional.

Bajwa took command when troops were consolidating the gains of Zarb-e-Azb, Islamabad-based journalist Kamal Haider told Pakistan Forward. The new phase might be distinctly different from the previous one, which saw the application of great force, he said.

Tribesman and TDP Noor Ali Wazir considers Bajwa's journey to North Waziristan a harbinger of his own return home to FATA someday.

"We are worried that, after Raheel Sharif retired, we might see a lull in resolution of our issue," he said. "It's good to hear that they are expediting steps to help us return."

Bajwa's visit to the battlefield sent a clear message to terrorists, Peshawar-based journalist Farzana Shah told Pakistan Forward.

If terrorists were hoping they could relax after Raheel retired, Bajwa made clear that "the war on terror will end only when Pakistan has won", she said.

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