Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced a three-year extension in the term of army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was earlier scheduled to retire in November this year.

The extension means Gen Bajwa, a powerful army chief under whose tenure the clout of the military has increased tremendously in the country, would lead the army till the end of 2022.

The “decision was taken in view of regional security environment”, a brief statement from the prime minister’s office stated. It was seen as a reference to the escalating tensions with India over the disputed Kashmir region and neighbouring Afghanistan where negotiations are underway between the Taliban and United States and Pakistan is expected to help seal the deal.

The extension was widely expected as speculation had been rife for months that the powerful military chief will stay on. Such speculations often start swirling whenever an army chief nears retirement. Gen Bajwa’s predecessor retired on time but the term of another former army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was extended in 2010.

The army chief is considered to be the country’s most powerful position and military has traditionally overshadowed the civilian governments, which have remained mired in allegations of corruption and incompetence. But Prime minister Imran Khan, who came to power last year, and Gen Bajwa have worked in tandem; their harmony and teamwork over domestic and security policies have been a stark contrast to previous civilian leaders and army chiefs who were often at loggerheads over policy issues.

Analysts said the decision by Mr Khan to give an extension to Gen Bajwa will naturally have far reaching impacts.

General Bajwa is expected to play a pivotal role in delivering on Afghanistan as the Taliban and the United States as they come closer to ending the years of war. He has been very vocal in stressing that armed militant groups have no space inside Pakistan. Such groups are more of a liability than an asset in the changing international environment and would be dealt with a stern hand.

On the Indian front, Gen Bajwa will have to confront an ever-aggressive and expansionist Modi regime that has shown no appetite for dialogue to resolve the outstanding issues between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Under Gen Bajwa’s command, India blinkered after the Pulwama military blows. The nation expects Gen Bajwa to ensure that Indian designs towards Pakistan remain a pipe dream and the country maintains its dignity, territorial integrity and standing.

Some critics viewed the extension given to Gen Bajwa as Mr. Khan trying to ensure that his own political survival. In the past, Mr. Khan had been critical of extensions given to army and intelligence chiefs, stressing that such moves weakened the institution.

Gen Bajwa portrayed himself as a staunch believer in civilian supremacy when he was appointed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 2016. But the relationship soured soon thereafter. Gen Bajwa has also built his image as somebody who is uncompromising against corruption, which gels in with prime minister Khan’s anti corruption campaign.

Mr Khan has pressed hard to go after opposition politicians, accusing them of corrupt practices and amassing enormous wealth while in office. Several top politicians, including former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former president Asif Ali Zardari are currently in jail over corruption allegations. Opposition politicians have accused Mr. Khan of political victimisation.

Gen Bajwa is expected to continue providing support to Mr. Khan’s political government, which faces the enormous challenge to revive the country’s anaemic economy.

Officials of Mr Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, welcomed the news in almost celebratory tones. “I welcome the extension of General Bajwa for another term. His leadership, integrity and patriotism is critical at this crucial juncture when Pakistan is facing a grave crisis in Kashmir,” Naeemul Haq, a close aide to Mr. Khan said in a message on Twitter. “The whole nation can feel comfortable that  leadership of our armed forces is in good hands.” Similar statements were issued by Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Fawad Chaudhry.

Moving forward, Gen Bajwa will grapple with the regional security situation and grumblings by the political opposition. General Bajwa has obviously weighed the pros and cons of such considerations and feels confident that he will override any concerns. The key is to ensure that the ‘Bajwa Doctrine,’ which has delivered so far, keeps delivering and steers the country in a better, stable direction.