Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa bats for democracy, says its continuation must for country’s progress

Politics

Islamabad: In an unusual move, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has batted for democracy and the need for strengthening of institutions in the coup-prone country, as he shared the dias with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Addressing the Defence and Martyrs Day ceremony organised by the army at its headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday, Bajwa said that continuation of democracy was must for development and progress of the country.

His significant comments came two days after visiting US secretary of state gave a pep talk to Bajwa on the importance of strong democratic institutions in Pakistan.

File image of Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. AP

File image of Pakistan Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. AP

The army chief said that for the country’s stability and progress, democracy is of utmost importance.

“Democracy cannot blossom without observing the democratic traditions in true spirit and without the strengthening of institutions,” he was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.

“We have set on this path 10 years ago,” he said, apparently referring to the smooth transition of power to civilian leaders in the country after the rule of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf.

“Today we are more united and more resolute. This is a message that Pakistanis are not ones to fear any crisis and will soar to new heights soon.”

Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is said to have the backing of the powerful military, which has ruled the country for almost half its 72-year history.

In his speech, the army chief emphasised that no individual was above any institution and no institution was above the nation, The News reported.

He said Pakistan’s progress depended on the continuation of democracy for which supremacy of the Constitution and institution was required.

Bajwa pointed out that presence of political leadership and guests from all schools of thought at the Defence and Martyrs Day ceremony testified to the fact that they were committed and united for progress of the country.

“We are also facing a war against poverty, hunger and illiteracy, and to fight it national unity was required and everybody will have to think above themselves.”

In his address, Imran Khan termed the often talked-about civil-military divide as a myth.

There was no civil-military tension among the institutions as all have the shared objective of taking the country forward, he said. “We are all one and together we have to take this country to the new heights,” he said.

He said that Pakistan Army is the only intact and functional institution of the country. “The Pakistan army is running at its best because of non-political interference and its priority for merit,” Khan said, adding that “political interference destroys institutions.”

US Secretary of State Pompeo, who visited Islamabad on Wednesday, during a meeting with Bajwa, welcomed the smooth transition of power to a new civilian government, spokesperson Heather Nauert said, referring to the assumption of power of cricketer-turned-politician Khan on 18 August.

Pompeo stressed the “importance of strong democratic institutions” in Pakistan, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a readout of the meeting Pompeo had with Bajwa.