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Soldier’s royal trip

"Hopefully, Gen Bajwa's message will reach the most desired venue: Delhi. If the generals all over the world listen to Gen Bajwa's philosophy of retaining armies only as peacekeepers and peacemakers, the world will wear a new look"

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa does not love to live in the media limelight. That’s a pure professional instinct. Still, the local media tries to drag him into unnecessary controversies. I have been keenly following him since the day Gen Bajwa submitted himself to Parliament, and stood in the House for hours to answer the questions raised by the public representatives. Since that day, I have started calling him an “Awami General”.

Recently, he made the trip for Haj, and the Internet was breaking with his pictures surrounded by pilgrims taking selfies with him. He loves to be among the public, but away from the media galore. A friend of mine’s niece happened to be at the ISPR as an internee at GHQ in Rawalpindi a couple of years ago. She says Gen Bajwa attended one of the sessions, and asked the participants to ask him tough questions. Getting encouraged, the students asked him the toughest questions one can imagine. The session, originally scheduled for one hour, lasted three hours.

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On Friday, Gen Bajwa was the chief guest at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. In fact, he is the first-ever Pakistani general to grace the pass out ceremony at the academy as a guest where apart from the UK, 41 international cadets from 26 countries, including two from Pakistan were among those who graduated the course. At the ceremony, Gen Bajwa spoke and every word he uttered made sense. He said: “In the interest of world peace, we must strive to preserve the vitality, relevance and internal sense of impartiality in multilateral institutions, maintain consensus on the collective defense of global commons and uphold the prestige of international law.”

In my last column on athlete Arshad Nadeem, I wrote that Pakistan hardly hits the headline internationally for good reasons. Gen Bajwa’s appearance at Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst is one such pleasant rarity for us. It brings honour for the armed forces and the nation.

In his address, what attracted my attention were Gen Bajwa’s arguments that armed forces should be for deterrence, not to make wars, but their primary objective should be to foil wars.  “Mankind’s destiny, more than ever before, hinges on our collective capacity to come together and take the route of peace and cooperation instead of conflict, communication instead of clash and multilateralism instead of self-preservation,” he said.

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Hopefully, Gen Bajwa’s message will reach the most desired venue: Delhi. If the generals all over the world listen to Gen Bajwa’s philosophy of retaining armies only as peacekeepers and peacemakers, the world will wear a new look. I often wonder why the Russia-Ukraine conflict happened in the modern world, and why the generals of both sides let it happen.

Quite away from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, here in Islamabad, we saw the revoking of the operating license of ARY News by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) when the Interior Ministry withdrew the security clearance of the channel. The measure means the closure of the channel for good. Shocking! Even before revoking the license, the channel had been off-aired much to the disapproval of stakeholders and the general public. This is simply political victimization. The closure of the channel means financial troubles for 4,000 families directly and another several thousand indirectly. The action has attracted widespread condemnation. The Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors calls it an “excessive measure”, while PPP leader Farhatullah Babar says “Effects of [the] law of diminishing return are already becoming apparent.” Before the extreme step, the government took another infamous step: it implicated ARY journalists in cases. Hopefully, sanity will prevail in the government quarters.

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