A visible tilt can be observed in the statement of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa when he says that Russian invasion of Ukraine must be stopped immediately. The statement contradicts the earlier stance of the government whereby it was repeated time and again that Pakistan would act as a neutral state in the Ukraine-Russia conflict. A line can be published in the media in which the military chief has expressed Pakistan’s serious concern over the conflict and he stated that “despite legitimate security concerns of Russia, its aggression against a smaller country cannot be condoned.” Arguably, it was completely opposite to the stance of Prime Minister Imran Khan-led coalition government that had refused to condemn Russian invasion despite immense pressure from the west in the form of a letter jointly written by the European Union. It shows that both civil and military establishments are not on the same page regarding the country’s foreign policy.
A question appears that whether a top army official can express his opinion about an international issue at a public platform or this is the domain of Ministry of Foreign Affairs only. In fact, in a democratic state, it is not a prerogative of an institution to speak about such issues which are ‘irrelevant’ to its original tasks. The sole responsibility of the institution is to focus on the defence of the country and nothing else. Deliberation on national and international politics is the sole domain of the government and elected leadership of the country is responsible for making any foreign policy statement.
How many statements the institution had made during 20 years’ invasion of US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan or Israeli oppression of a smaller state like Palestine? Did anyone asked the US to immediately suspend bloodshed in Iraq? If political acumen of the establishment necessitates issuance of such statements, a separate wing should be created within the institution that can share its viewpoint and policy statements in liaison with the relevant ministries on national and international politics and it should be made a part of the constitution.
Earlier, the prime minister had maintained that Pakistan had committed a mistake by joining the West during the ‘cold war.’ He focused on neutrality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict to have good ties with both the countries.
However, the speech by the army chief apparently seems an attempt to ease diplomatic tensions with Washington.
The statements from both ends have opened a new Pandora’s box. It has created a suspicion about the authority that who is actually the in-charge of the foreign policy. The confusion must come to an end now and it should be clearly defined who is responsible for drafting the foreign policy and making it public at the international level. The military chief should not have gone so far as to call it Russian aggression in contradiction of the country’s Foreign Ministry’s stance of being remaining neutral in the conflict.