Last week, the “Bajwa doctrine” was made public through the media, reportedly encapsulating views periodically emanating from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and attributed to Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. As phrased in the press, the doctrine can be summarized as follows: it envisions “better relations with neighboring countries and balance in dealing with world powers; mainstreaming the tamed jihadists; and rejection of the 18th Amendment of the Constitution because it has turned the country into a confederation.”
As far as “better relations with neighbors” are concerned, the executive after the 2013 elections ran afoul of the Army after trying to get cozy with India. Indeed, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) had put this “normalization” in its election manifesto and won the election. Retired generals who dominate the talkshows on TV have lashed out, repeatedly opposing ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s diplomacy with India and indirectly firmed up the “nationalist” rhetoric about India as “enemy.” It is quite clear that the doctrine doesn’t mean what it says about “better relations.”
The mainstreaming of armed civilians used as jihadists or nonstate actors against Pakistan’s neighboring states in the past, thus far, appears to be aimed at inducting the jihadis into politics. This has already happened in some by-elections and is scary. First, they have to be disempowered, their leaders incarcerated as per international sanctions against them, and their organizations dismantled to end their domination of certain regions of the country. Mainstreaming them in their current state risks undermining the current system where “normal” leaders can lose their rights under the “sadiq” and “ameen” labels while no one can dare to question the credentials of the jihadist elements.
The rejection of the 18th Amendment cuts the ground from under an evolving state badly needing devolution to avoid alienation of the federal units. The funds available at the center under devolution are scarce and therefore less is available for the Army in emergencies. This is a situation created by perennial political instability and resultant malfunction of the economy. The Army budget is already far above the tolerable 3 percent of the GDP. Delaying devolution under any circumstances would be a mistake that Islamabad might not be able to recover from.