The myth of the Bajwa doctrine

Press reports emanating in Pakistan and Western newspapers mention the Bajwa doctrine (credited to the Pakistan army chief, General Bajwa)…

The myth of the Bajwa doctrine

General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Press reports emanating in Pakistan and Western newspapers mention the Bajwa doctrine (credited to the Pakistan army chief, General Bajwa) now being adopted by the state.

It was initially enunciated by the Director-General, Inter-Services Public Relations at a press conference earlier this year. Subsequently, it was highlighted when General Bajwa spoke to select journalists.

However, since the interview was neither recorded nor publicly broadcast, some confusion remains. In an article published by the Royal United Services Institute, a Pakistani analyst gave a summary of the doctrine as being considered by Pakistan.


It is established that within Pakistan, it is the army which calls the shots on almost all matters pertaining to national security and foreign policy. In recent times, the army has also commented on economic and political issues.

The chief’s latest comments on the eighteenth amendment is an indicator of the army’s interference in decisions which remain the purview of the national assembly.

The only realistic aspect pertaining to Bajwa’s supposed doctrine is his strong reluctance to accept anyone in power who opposes his views. This was the reason for Nawaz Sharif’s fall from power and pulling his party down in various states and the senate.

Since Bajwa could not consider a coup, as international pressure would make it detrimental to the state, he adopted the legal route, roping in the Supreme Court, which as in most nations can neither be condemned nor criticised.

His unrelenting backing of Supreme Court decisions establishes it. It is unlikely that the ruling PML(N) would return to power in the forthcoming elections.

The rest of the doctrine is a myth, with Bajwa only exploiting US vulnerabilities and not heralding a change in Pakistan’s approach. The first aspect of the doctrine is his reluctance to bow down to US pressure on closure of support to terrorist outfits operating against Afghanistan and India.

The second is of his unwillingness to accept US demands that Pakistan do more against terror groups. The third is unless the US acts against anti-Pakistan terror groups operating from Afghan soil, expecting Pakistan to act is unacceptable. There is no change against India, other than hardening of his stand.

The US pressure was maximum post 9/11, when it was planning the invasion of Afghanistan. Relentless public pressure compelled the US government to go to any lengths solely because of casualties suffered. But no longer.

Further, at that time the US was still to enter Afghanistan, had friendly relations with Russia and could base troops along Afghanistan’s northern borders. Presently, the US has little choice.

It needs the port of Karachi and Pakistani airspace if it must operate successfully. Thus, Bajwa is simply exploiting the vulnerabilities of the US and nothing more.

Over the years, Pakistan had become accustomed to playing the game. It promises but never acts. Even the elimination of Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Mansoor on its soil had no impact.

Pakistan is taking advantage of a fact known all along that the US will not resort to hot pursuit into Pakistan, while it may continue employment of drones.

The Pakistan army chief had openly stated in Munich that it would be some time before Pakistan commences to act against terror groups on its soil, thus admitting it would continue to support them.

Between Musharraf and now there has also been a sea change in the internal security environment within Pakistan, compelling Bajwa to act with care, more to save his army from further losses, rather than display bravado.

The TTP (Pakistani Taliban) did not exist in 2001, hence the country was relatively secure. They rose after the siege and attack on Lal Masjid in July 2007.

Their attacks on the state and its institutions has sucked in the army and caused losses which Pakistan claims is its sacrifice in its battle against terrorist groups.

Bajwa is aware that if he acts against the Taliban and Haqqani network, they could also turn inwards and add to Pakistan’s internal instability. Thus, he only makes promises to act. US pressures would never be a repeat of levels post 9/11, hence he can ignore them.

The other factor which has changed the dynamics for Pakistan is the growing distance between the US, China and Russia. The US continues to impose sanctions on Russia. Trump’s speaking to Putin, after his re-election, would in no way change the current atmosphere.

Chinese belligerence in the South China Sea has placed the two nations facing each other. Pakistan is thus banking on their support to prevent the US from resorting to any military adventures. Thus, this so-called doctrine is a myth. It is Pakistan taking advantage of US vulnerabilities.

Bajwa’s policy on Kashmir remains unchanged or is possibly more hardened than of his predecessors. His open support to militant leaders whom India opposes and even applying Supreme Court pressure to enable them to form a political party would only enhance distance between the two nations.

To add to tensions, the ISI continues to harass Indian diplomats in Islamabad, resulting in a tit-for-tat in India. This ensures that peace talks with India are ruled out for a protracted period.

His interference in Pakistan’s internal politics, comments on the economy and taking direct policy decisions including moving troops to Saudi Arabia without approval of the polity, has indicated his scant regard for political authority.

Therefore, a perpetual fear exists within Pakistan of the army taking control at a time of its choosing or tightening its grip from behind the throne. This adds to the myth of Bajwa.

Simplistically put, there is no ‘Bajwa doctrine’. The supposed doctrine is that Pakistan has benefitted from a changed international environment, which has placed it in the driver’s seat on Afghanistan.

He is only taking advantage of US vulnerabilities while avoiding enhancing internal strife by taking on the Taliban and Haqqani network.

For India, his policy remains unchanged, possibly even pushing any thoughts of talks into the sunset, despite his announcement in the National Assembly of supporting peace talks.

Increase in troop deployment along the LoC reinforces this. Thus, the Indian government needs to continue with its aggressive approach.

The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army and author of the book, Harsha Kakar writes.