Pakistan’s ex-army chief Gen (retd.) Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that his predecessor tried to exploit a political row triggered by a news report against then-premier Nawaz Sharif to seek another three-year extension for himself, a media report said on Thursday. According to the report, General (retd.) Raheel Sharif as Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff from 2013 to 2016 was keen to get an extension like his predecessor Ashfaq Parvaiz Kayani and successor Bajwa. Towards the end of his career, a story was published in the Dawn newspaper, claiming that the government, in a meeting with the army top brass, asked them to act against militants or the country would have to face international isolation. The story created a furore in the media and anger in the armed forces as it alleged that there was a link between the militant groups and the military.
Then opposition leader Imran Khan demanded action against the government. According to an Urdu article based on the interview of Bajwa with journalist Shahid Maitla and published on Wednesday by the news website Pakistan24.tv, Bajwa rejected the impression that the ‘Dawn leaks’ posed any threat to national security. “In fact, there was nothing in the Dawn leaks,” Maitla quoted the former army chief as saying in response to a question, the report said. “But wherever I would meet them, junior officers would ask me about [the issue]. I then talked to Chaudary Nisar [then-interior minister] and Ishaq Dar [then-finance minister] and suggested that they refer the cases of journalists [allegedly involved in the Dawn leaks affair] to CPNE (Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors) because I didn’t want to stir that hornet’s nest. And then administrative action was decided against others,” Bajwa reportedly said.
Bajwa, 62, also referred to his conversation with Nawaz Sharif, when the former prime minister told him about his predecessor Gen Raheel, who he said was insisting on a three-year extension, along with former chief of ISI Rizwan Akhtar. “When I talked to Nawaz Sharif about the Dawn leaks, he told me that whenever Gen Raheel Sharif and Gen Rizwan Akhtar came to see him, they insisted on a three-year extension of Gen. Raheel,” Bajwa was quoted as saying in the interview. He also talked about the difference between Raheel and Bajwa over the extension period. “In front of Gen Raheel, Gen Rizwan always insisted on a three-year extension for the army chief. But in private, he only asked for a one-year extension because he saw himself as the next army chief after Gen. Raheel,” he said.
The report also noted that ex-general Bajwa claimed that he had convinced Nawaz Sharif to resign in the wake of the Panama Paper saga and the PML-N supremo had agreed, but his daughter Maryam Nawaz prevailed on him to drop the idea. Bajwa claimed that Sharif should have avoided ouster from politics due to disqualification in the same case. He distanced himself from the disqualification of Sharif, saying it was the judgment of the court. Sharif, 73, was disqualified by the apex court in the Panama Papers case in 2017 for failing to declare a receivable salary as an asset. General Bajwa retired in November last year after getting a three-year extension in 2019 by then-Prime Minister Imran Khan, who turned out to be the biggest critic of the Pakistan Army.
Bajwa has been lately meeting journalists after facing a barrage of criticism from Khan. Khan, 70, has been at loggerheads with Bajwa ever since his ouster from power in April by a no-confidence motion. He has previously alleged that the former army chief wanted to have him murdered and impose a state of emergency in the country. In January, Khan accused Bajwa of playing a "double game" against his government and said that he committed a "big mistake" by extending the tenure of then military chief in 2019.