ISLAMABAD: The army on Thursday once again tried to put to rest any speculation that Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa had plans to stay on, by stating that he was already on his farewell tour.

“General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), visited Sialkot and Mangla garrisons as part of his farewell visits to various formations,” ISPR said in a statement.

On Thursday, the army chief met officers and men at both locations and addressed the troops. He appreciated formations for their excellent performance during various operations, training and natural calamities. The COAS advised troops to keep serving the nation with same zeal and commitment no matter what the circumstances.

Earlier, upon his arrival at Sialkot, the COAS was received by Lieutenant General Muhammad Aamer, while Lieutenant General Ayman Bilal Safdar greeted him at the Mangla garrison.

Read more: Who will be the next army chief?

Gen Bajwa is retiring on Nov 29 at the end of his extended tenure. He had several months ago indicated that he planned to retire this year.

His retirement plan was later confirmed by ISPR on at least a couple of occasions and the general had himself in last few months twice made it clear that he had no intentions to carry on — once during his visit to the United States and then again, while speaking at the National Security Workshop at National Defense University.

But no one was ready to believe it, mostly because of the prevailing uncertainty in the political domain. Doubts have been so strong that even former prime minister Imran Khan, when faced with vote of no confidence, suspected that the political move against him was linked to Gen Bajwa’s impending retirement. He had, therefore, offered indefinite extension to Gen Bajwa in a bid to pre-empt the then opposition’s vote against him, as per a recent presser by senior military officials.

Also read: Army chief visits Peshawar Corps headquarters

Gen Bajwa finally started his farewell visits to formations on Nov 1 with a visit to the Army Air Defence Command and followed up the next day with a visit to Armed Forces Strategic Forces Command. Since then, he has quietly toured a number of formations.

His visit to Peshawar Corps on Wednesday came close on the heels of the last corps commanders conference (on Tuesday), which was being closely watched by political observers.

The Peshawar trip, many believe, was strategically timed to signal that the succession process was about to start after the meeting of the top brass, which in all likelihood would be the last one with formal agenda to have been chaired by Gen Bajwa.

Besides the public skepticism that Gen Bajwa will leave at the end of his tenure, the other issue was former prime minister Imran Khan’s reservations about the current government picking the new top commander.

Published in Dawn, November 11th, 2022

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