With military trying to break the deadlock between the ruling party and its allies on the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the interference can be seen as a significant one. Army Chief, Qmar Bajwa’s meeting with Moulana Fazl-ur Rehman on the issue can be called a successful one as JUI-F leader indicates to hold more meetings to sort out the problems he thinks crucial before FATA is made part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
Pakistan’s army has its presence in FATA for almost a decade now. Though the primary reason for its presence is to eliminate terror outfits from the region, the institution has also completed many development and infrastructure projects in the region. Like all other experts, political parties, the military also thinks to merge FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the only available option to mainstream the area. It can be inferred from Chief of Army Staff’s, Qamar Bajwa, meeting with Moulana Fazal-ur Rehman, (JUI-F leader), who is one of the two leaders opposing the merger of FATA with KP.
Military’s participation in the debate over the merger of FATA is significant for the reasons stated above and also that the meeting between the army chief and JUI-F leader is an attempt to create a consensus on the approach to bring the region into national ambit. Military leadership can share their experiences with the parliament on issues and problems of FATA. Meaningful participation of military will help the legislative enormously for it maintains a ground presence in the region whereas it is difficult for parliamentarians to visit the area. So military’s take on how to develop the region should not be dismissed without considering it.
It can be said that military can help the civilian government in improving the situation within and without. Bajwa’s comment that the civilian government should take a lead role in formulating the country’s foreign policy is laudable. It will help in refuting the argument that army is the biggest hurdle in Pakistan’s improved relations with her neighbors. Army Chief’s words that military would back civilian government’s attempts to normalise Pakistan’s relations with India should, however, translate into action. For in the past too, many chiefs had vowed their support for better relations with India, democracy, and supremacy of the parliament, but their actions spoke otherwise.
Bajwa’s attempts to aid the civilian government are commendable, and Bajwa’s position shows how much helpful the military can be if it chooses to be. One can see the positive outcome of such attempts on the part of the military in the form of better and strong civil-military relations.