This monitor is meant to identify key developments during the month on Civil Military Relations in Pakistan with selected high-profile international developments included occasionally.
In this Issue:
- DG ISPR’s ‘All-Encompassing’ Presser
- National Security Policy
- Senate Special Committee meets PTM Leadership
- 220th Corps Commanders’ Conference
- COAS meets foreign dignitaries
- Army Public Relations and Development Activities
- PM-COAS Interactions
- International Developments
On April 29, 2019, DG ISPR Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor addressed a press conference that lasted more than an hour and twenty minutes. The off-line briefing continued even beyond the on-line presser. During the press conference, he talked about a number of issues, both foreign and domestic. The subjects of the press conference included the matters, which are traditionally not considered within the remit of the ISPR and, therefore, many commentators felt that it would have been more appropriate if the concerned ministers or the Government spokespersons had spoken about the subjects.
Freedom of Media DG ISPR appreciated the role of media during the conflict with India. He went as far to say that if today’s Pakistani media was present during the 1971 Pakistan-India war, it would have “unmasked your [India’s] conspiracies, reported on the excesses committed domestically and therefore East Pakistan would not have separated from [West Pakistan].” 
In the same presser, Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said, the media could play a better role. “Give me one day of the week. You take the rest of the six days. I will suggest topics to discuss. You can call experts on the topic yourself, talk about Education, talk about Judicial reforms,” he said while answering a question.
Internal & External Policy Shifts Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor also indicated a major policy shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy in his press conference. “CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) is not only a north-south link. To establish proper economic activity, it is important that an east-west link is also developed so that Pakistan can gain access to Central Asia,” he announced. 
It is a welcome step to open up the country to East-West trade (Implying that Trade between India on the east with Pakistan’s western neighbours like Afghanistan, Iran and to the north to Central Asia).
DG ISPR also announced Madrassa reforms. He regretted the current state of education where 25 million children are out of school, some of whom go to the 30,000 Madaaris present in the country. He deplored that madrassa graduates do not have the same opportunities as university graduates; hence the government has decided to mainstream them by changing their curriculum and employing state-appointed teachers. He also announced the Government’s decision to place Madaaris within the scope of the Ministry of Education.
While mainstreaming Madaaris is definitely desirable, it is the job of the ministry of education to announce these policy decisions. Since Education is a provincial subject and the provinces may question the role of a Federal ministry in regulating Madaaris, it would have been all the more appropriate, if the potentially controversial subject was discussed by the concerned Minister shielding the Armed Forces from an unnecessary controversy.
Missing Persons Answering a question on missing persons, DG ISPR said, “I would like to ask the PTM (Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement) to provide me another list — besides the one of the missing persons — of all the strength of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that exists in Afghanistan, so that I could tally the two to see if any of the missing persons are actually sitting there [in Afghanistan].”
“Time is up”, DG ISPR to PTM DG ISPR issued yet another warning to the leaders of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), “Those people who are playing with the people whose issues they have brought forward, I would like to tell them that their time is up. Their time is up,” he said. He alleged that the leaders of PTM have been receiving funds from hostile foreign agencies including NDS (Afghan National Directorate of Security) and RAW (India’s Research and Analysis Wing). Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor individually responded to three demands raised by PTM at their rallies, namely clearing out mines in FATA, clearing check-posts and missing persons and said that there has been progress on all of them, then why is PTM speaking against the State and its Armed Forces? 
This stern public warning by Military’s spokesperson came only ten days after Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that the PTM’s demands are genuine but the manner in which they are making these demands is “not good for our country.”  In response to DG ISPR’s warning, Mr. Mohsin Dawar, MNA, rejected the allegations leveled against the PTM and said that “we are ready for our accountability, but the other side should also be made accountable for their deeds.” “Similar allegations were levelled against Bacha Khan and Wali Khan,” he said on the floor of the National Assembly.
This was the first time the military has openly accused the PTM of foreign links, implying that they are de facto enemies of the State. While political governments and Parliament have earlier steered clear of dealing with the issue of the PTM, the Parliament has only recently begun to engage with the PTM. On April 16, a Senate Special Committee met with the leaders of the PTM including Mr. Manzoor Pashteen and Mr. Mohsin Dawar, MNA and other representatives. According to a statement issued by the committee, the meeting “provided an opportunity to understand the issues and learn from each other” and that the Committee proposed to the PTM leadership to appoint a focal person “for effective coordination and to present its demands in black and white so that these may be deliberated by the committee.” Tweeting about the meeting, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, a PML-N member of the Committee, termed the meeting as ‘historic’ and said it saw ‘candid and open dialogue.’ He went on to tweet that “3-hour marathon session saw receptive response to what the PTM leadership stated about redressing grievances, reversing wrongs/taking concrete policy measures to alleviate long-standing problems, with Senate Committee serving as bridge, since dialogue on issues is the way forward.” 
The State, with all its machinery, must prosecute those who are guilty of treason against Pakistan and who work against the interests of Pakistan at the behest of foreign forces; however, if a public charge-sheet was considered necessary, the Minister for Interior should have done the job.
Secretary, National Security Division (NSD), Dr. Iqbal Hussain Durrani informed the National Assembly Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, chaired by Syed Amin ul Haq, MNA, on April 4, 2019, that a National Security Policy is being prepared in consultation with relevant stakeholders including the military. The Secretary NSD said that the National Security Policy would soon be presented to the National Security Committee and upon approval by the Prime Minister would become the policy of the Government of Pakistan. On the contents of the Policy, Mr. Durrani told the committee that the “draft will not only be talking about national security but also institutions, declining standards and those areas which were never touched in security documents before. Initial work on the policy was done by all chiefs of the armed forces. This is a very comprehensive document in which we have focused on core areas.” 
Special Committee “to examine purported grievances amongst some sections of the society to create national cohesion” met PTM leadership at the Parliament House under the Chairmanship of Senator Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif.
The Chairman observed that a thorough consultative process would be adopted to resolve the issues. This Committee, he said, would be instrumental for resolving such issues. During the three hour long meeting, the leadership of the PTM and the members of the Committee discussed and deliberated the ongoing issues at length. The head of PTM apprized the Committee of their demands and grievances. He said that measures must be taken for resolving the issue of the missing persons, de-mining of the landmines and for constitution of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to restore the confidence of the people of the area.
The Committee reiterated that the process of dialogue would continue. The Committee includes representatives of all the political parties represented in the Senate. The Meeting was attended by Senators Dr. Jahan Zaib Jamaldini, Sitara Ayaz, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Sajjad Hussain Turi , Hidayatullah, Dilawar Khan, Fida Muhammad, Naseebullah Bazai, Sardar Shafiq Tareen, Sameena Saeed, Khanzada Khan, Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi, Pir Sabir Shah, Mushahidullah Khan, MNA Mohsin Dawar and PTM leadership.
The 220th Corps Commander’s Conference was held on April 2, 2019 at the GHQ, presided by the COAS Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The ISPR reported that the forum reviewed regional geo-strategic environment and the security situation in the country. It reiterated the resolve to defend Pakistan against any kind of aggression. The forum restated its support for the government in the implementation of National Action Plan.
Following is a list of COAS Gen Bajwa’s interactions with foreign dignitaries during April 2019:
- Air Vice Marshal Matar Bin Ali Bin Matar Al Obaidani, Commander Royal Air Force of Oman, called on COAS Bajwa at the GHQ on April 4, 2019.
- Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad, US Special Represented for Afghan Reconciliation, called on General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) at the GHQ on April 5, 2019.
- US delegation led by General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, Incoming Commander US CENTCOM, called on COAS Gen. Qamar Bajwa at the GHQ on April 7, 2019.
- Major General Pengiran Dato Paduka Seri Aminan bin Pengiran Haji Mahmud, Commander of Royal Brunei Armed Forces, called on COAS Gen Bajwa at the GHQ on April 9, 2019.
- Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, called on COAS Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa at the GHQ on April 9, 2019.
- General Hasan Kucukakayuz, Commander Turkish Air Force, called on COAS Gen Bajwa at the GHQ on April 10, 2019.
- Shaikh Abdul Elah Al Juhani, Imam-e-Kaaba, called on COAS Gen. Qamar Bajwa at the GHQ on April 15, 2019.
- Major General Nassar Al Athamneh, Chief of Staff of Strategic Planning and Defence Resources, Jordan Armed Forces, called on COAS Gen Bajwa at the GHQ on April 15, 2019.
- Mr. Muhammad Bin Abdullah Al-Ayesh, Assistance Minister of Defence, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, called on COAS Gen Bajwa at the GHQ on April 23, 2019.
The following activities were reported by the ISPR during April 2019:
- A group of students from US Cornell University met COAS Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on April 6, 2019 during their visit to Pakistan. The group shared its experience of its visit to Pakistan and seeing Pakistan as a beautiful and peaceful country. The COAS shared his thoughts about Pakistan and its journey to enduring peace. He said that youth has an important role to play in every field, as they are the future leadership.
- Pakistan Army facilitated a group of international media journalists and Ambassadors & Defence Attachés of various countries in Pakistan to visit the impact site of 26 February Indian air violations, near Jabba, Balakot on April 10, 2019. The DG ISPR Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor briefed the group about details of the event negating repeated Indian claims with ground realities. The Visitors were shown bomb craters of denied Indian air strike attempt in barren open spaces with no loss to life or infrastructure. The group also visited a nearby madrassa claimed by India for having been struck and killed scores of terrorists.
- COAS Gen Bajwa inaugurated the National University of Technology (NUTECH) on April 24, 2019. The Rector, Lt. Gen Khalid Asghar (Retired), briefed the COAS about academic activities and strategic education plan of the university. Gen Bajwa assured full support to NUTECH in building its future main campus on the outskirts of Rawalpindi/ Islamabad, which will accommodate 30,000-50,000 students.
PM Imran Khan and COAS Gen Bajwa met on three occasions during April 2019:
- Prime Minister Imran Khan met COAS Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Prime Minister House on April 4, 2019. According to a statement by PM’s Office, Gen Bajwa called on the Prime Minister to discuss “various important security-related matters.”  Federal Minister for Defence, Mr. Pervaiz Khattak, MNA, was not part of the interaction.
- COAS Gen. Bajwa called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Prime Minister’s Office on April 11, 2019.  Federal Minister for Defence Mr. Pervaiz Khattak was not present on the occasion.
- COAS Gen Bajwa called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at the Prime Minister House on April 18, 2019 to discuss the security situation in the country. Federal Minister for Defence Mr. Pervaiz Khattak was not present at the meeting.
Sudanese Protests force Omar al-Bashir out of power
Sudanese protests against economic downfall quickly turned into a demand for the removal of President Omar al-Bashir, who had been ruling Sudan for nearly three decades with an iron fist. Tens of thousands of protesters joined a sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, vowing to remain there until their demands were met. The protestors included students, professionals and unions lead by Sudanese Professional Association (SPA). Dozens of protestors were killed on street where Security forces clashed with troops trying to protect the demonstrations.
The country’s Defense Minister, Mr. Awad Mohammed Ibn Ouf, announced in a televised address on April 11, 2019 that President Omar al-Bashir has been ousted and a military council that will be formed by the army, intelligence and security agencies will rule for a transition period of two years after which power would be transferred to civilian through ‘free and fair’ elections. Ibn Ouf, a key member of al-Bashir’s government was forced to step down as head and member of the military council within 36 hours, amidst public outcry.
Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan was named head of the military council to oversee the transition. The Sudanese people, not happy with the military council responsible for the transition, have continued their sit-in in defiance of curfews imposed by the military council. The protestors demand a Civilian-led council having a membership of 8 civilians and 7 military officials, however, the military council insists on a 10-members military council with 3 civilians.
Venezuela crisis intensifies
The face-off between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Opposition leader Juan Guaido has intensified after Mr. Juan Guaido announced he had begun the ‘final phase’ of his plan to oust Mr. Maduro, by announcing that he had the support of “brave soldiers” in Caracas. During a rally outside Caracas, the men accompanying Guaido exchanged fire with soldiers supporting Maduro. Four protestors were killed and multiple injured when protestors clashed with the National Guard of Venezuela. After the attempt, Mr. Maduro tweeted that he has spoken to military leaders and they have assured him of their complete loyalty. He congratulated the armed forces for having “defeated this small group that intended to spread violence through putschist skirmishes“.
More than 50 nations including the United States recognize Mr. Guaido as the legitimate ruler of Venezuela while Mr. Maduro has the support of Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba.
Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over the situation in the country. US Secretary of State said military action in Venezuela is an option, “”The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do“. Russia has termed US intervention in Venezuela’s internal affairs as a breach of international law. Further “aggressive steps” in Venezuela would be fraught with the gravest consequences, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Mike Pompeo. The United Nations and European Union has called for maximum restraint from both sides.
Amidst the crisis, Mr. Guaido has asked people to remain on the streets till Mr. Maduro is removed.
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- Ibid ↑
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