Islamabad: The Pakistani army has denied that its chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa asked his officers to emulate the values of Indian democracy.
In a tweet, Major General Asif Ghafoor, spokesman of the Pakistan armed forces, said the “news/comments quoting COAS’ (chief of army staff’s) address to officers at Rawalpindi regarding book ‘Army and Nation’ is a disinformation.”
General Bajwa’s photograph is tagged with the tweet alongwith an incomplete caption that reads ‘Army officers should learn from Indian democracy, says Pakistan army chief Qamar J…’ – essentially a poor damage control act after Gen Bajwa’s vision for the Pakistani army was widely reported in the Indian media.
On February 13, Pakistani newspaper The Nation published a piece on the new army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s vision for the Pakistan’s army based on quotes from his first official address to his colleagues in December 2016.
Titled ‘Coordination, not competition, with civilians: The Army Chief’s Glasnost’, the article, among many other things, quoted the army chief saying something that was so unlike the Pakistani army’s position that it caught immediate international attention.
The Nation piece said Gen Bajwa, in no unequivocal terms, conveyed to his colleagues that the Pakistan army must remain within the constitutional role defined for it and must not meddle in the civilian government.
Saying a civilian vs military dichotomy is always ‘counter-productive for a country and the army should have no business in running the government’, Bajwa reportedly advised his colleagues to read “Army and Nation”, a book written by Yale University professor Steven I Wilkinson, a well-received book that details how India has emerged as a successful democracy with civilian supremacy over the military establishments.
Gen Asif Ghafoor’s tweet, the first official denial from the Pakistani establishment, looks like a shabby, reluctant attempt at damage control. The country’s army has always been in control in Pakistan and such views from its army chief could be seen as undermining the military’s supremacy in the Pakistani society.
Coming five days after The Nation piece, the tweet clarification conveys a half-hearted attempt at best that sounds too little, too late.