Security analysts have noted that this speech came within days of his visit to the United States, where he conferred with the top officials of the Biden administration dealing with foreign policy and security issues. It is most likely that Gen. Bajwa apprised the Americans of the actual situation while seeking funds and facilities for his security forces, doubled with the claims of how Pakistan was fighting terrorism fomenting in, and ‘exported’ from, the neighbouring Afghanistan, now confirmed as the new home of the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), besides Al Qaida.
His PMA address can at the best be an effort at motivating the young incoming officers, but it can also be misleading for them about the ground situation. The most glaring is his contention that the Pakistan Army has ‘defeated’ terrorism “over the last two decades”, when this is precisely the worst period, with Pakistan’s own claims of being a ‘victim’ of terrorism, having lost thousands of soldiers and civilians. It is not out of place here, Pakistan observers say, to refer to Al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden being located and eliminated within Pakistan in 2011. Osama’s successor, Ayman Al Jawahari, was similarly eliminated through a drone-driven missile by the US in downtown Kabul earlier this year which Pakistan is widely assessed to have facilitated.
The US could not but be taking a larger view of the security situation in the wider Afghanistan-Pakistan region in which, besides the ISKP and Al Qaida, the role of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) must have figured. Bajwa may have blamed the Taliban regime in Kabul for not playing the ball on the TTP, but the US security establishment could not have accepted Bajwa’s claims at face value.
The Biden administration, or anyone cannot be convinced by Gen. Bajwa’s claims, made either in Washington or at PMA, when contradicted by the Interior Ministry, another key part of the Pakistan Government. It issued a serious security alert, on the same day as Bajwa’s PMA speech. Moreover, the actual situation also found concerned echoes in the debate in Pakistan’s Senate last week.
This makes Bajwa’s claim seriously misleading, even if viewed as a case of the proverbial left hand (of Bajwa) not knowing what the right hand (of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah) is doing. On October 6th – the same day as Bajwa’s PMA speech, the Interior Ministry issued a nationwide alert asking for ‘extreme vigilance’, in wake of negotiations between the government and the TTP that have so far failed.
In a letter circulated last month, the Ministry of Interior warned that more than year-long peace negotiations between the TTP and the government of Pakistan “had come to a standstill”, which has led to unease within the TTP’s ranks, Dawn newspaper reported.
The ministry warned that the group or its splinter factions might also seek to escalate terrorist activities in the coming days to avenge the killing of their commanders and to show strength in case there is no further progress in peace negotiations. The notice said the TTP top brass, fearing a complete breakdown of the talks, decided to move their families to secure places as they feared Pakistani security forces would launch a kinetic operation in case of failure of talks. Some of the militants’ families may be moved to Karachi and its adjoining areas, the notice warned, according to the Dawn report (October 8, 2022).
Responding to the Senate debate, the federal State Minister for Law Shahadat Hussain conceded that terror activities had witnessed a sharp increase, but members of security forces were geared up to curb the menace and they were laying down their lives for the purpose.” Gen. Bajwa’s claims run counter to the ground reality that is worsening by the day as the TTP continues to defy the government, whatever Kabul’s role, analysts say.