LAHORE - Former top military leaders and those with military backgrounds have hailed the three-year extension given to COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as a step in the greater national interest in view of the geopolitical situation. However, some political parties, especially sitting on opposition benches, are not much enthusiastic.

“This extension was the need of the country; the Constitution empowers the prime minister to extend the service of the army chief”, said Gen (r) Mirza Aslam Beg, who had succeeded Gen Ziaul Haq after he was killed in a plane crash near Bahawalpur on Aug 17, 1988.

Talking to The Nation, he said midway change of command would not have been a right decision in a crisis-like situation Pakistan has been facing because of the developments in Afghanistan and what is happening on the eastern border.

Gen Beg said Generals Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Musharraf had given themselves extensions after assuming power. It was only Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani whose service had been extended by the PPP government led by then prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani.

He said with the extension granted to Gen Bajwja, some senior military leaders expecting promotions to higher positions would be affected.

Gen (r) Ziauddin Butt, whose promotion as COAS by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif had led to the overthrow of the PML-N government on October 12, 1999, was appreciative of what he called the timely decision to extend the service of Gen Bajwa for another three years.

“It augurs well for the country”.

He said the PTI government took this decision at a time when India was openly threatening to use all possible means to break up Pakistan and liberate the part of Kashmir governed by Islamabad.

Also, he pointed out, India was trying to create unrest in Gilgit-Baltistan to advance its ulterior motives.

Gen Butt said Indian defence minister’s threat to review the no first use (NFU) policy about nuclear weapons had created a situation in which the continuity of military command had become unavoidable.

Praising the career of Gen Bajwa as shining, Gen Butt said the incumbent COAS always took decisions after taking into consideration all aspects of an issue.

Ijazul Haq, son of the late COAS-president Gen Ziaul Haq, was of the view that continuity of military command was indispensable because of the prevailing situation in Occupied Kashmir and US plans to pull out its troops from Afghanistan.

“This is a very good decision for the country”, said Ijaz, who has been a former federal minister and is also heading a small political party.

The leader from Rawalpindi said extension given to Gen Bajwja had sent a very clear message to the enemy across the border.

Some PML-N leaders approached by The Nation for comments did not take calls.

However, PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said extension given to Gen Bajwa was no news as it was being anticipated since long.

He said such a decision would affect the promotion chances of many aspirants.

Kaira said he had opposed the extension given by his party government to Gen Kayani on the same ground.

Jamaat-i-Islami Secretary General Amirul Azeem reminded Prime Minister Imran Khan his assertions before coming to power that institutions should be strengthened and army leaders should not be given extension even in war-like situations.

“We don’t know why he has changed his thinking on the subject”.