The military’s media wing on Thursday confirmed that Army Chief Gen. Qamar Bajwa has commenced his farewell tour, putting to rest rampant speculation that his tenure may be extended once more in light of ongoing attempts by some group to politicize the appointment of the next Chief of Army Staff.
“General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), visited Sialkot and Mangla garrisons as part of his farewell visits to various formations,” read a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). It said he had met officers and men at both locations and addressed the troops, adding he had appreciated formations for their excellent performance during various operations, training and natural calamities.
“COAS advised troops to keep serving the nation with same zeal and commitment no matter what the circumstances,” it said, noting he had been received by Lt. Gen. Muhammad Aamer and Lt. Gen. Ayman Bilal Safdar upon his arrival at the Mangla garrison.
There have been multiple reports of the COAS commencing his farewell tours in recent weeks, but the ISPR had not yet explicitly stated them as such previously. On Wednesday, he visited the Peshawar Corps Headquarters in what was also an apparent farewell visit. In a statement, the ISPR said he had laid a floral wreath at the shuhada (martyrs’) monument and had also appreciated the “monumental efforts of the nation’s martyrs” for achieving “peace and stability” in the country.
“We owe it to the sacrifices of our martyrs for providing us with safety and enabling a fertile environment for socio-economic development in newly merged districts in particular, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in general,” he said and urged the officers to “always stay focused on your professional duties in the service of nation.”
Gen. Bajwa is set to retire on Nov. 29 upon the conclusion of a three-year extension to his tenure. Over the past year, he has repeatedly asserted that he plans to retire at the end of this tenure and would not be seeking or accepting any additional extension. In multiple press conferences, the ISPR has also said that he would retire. Despite this, some segments among the media and the country’s political circles—most notably the PTI and PMLQ—have consistently proposed extending Gen. Bajwa’s tenure, with PTI chief Imran Khan arguing that the incumbent government lacks the mandate to appoint the next Army chief.
Last month, in an interview, Khan confirmed that he had offered an “indefinite” extension to Gen. Bajwa in a bid to avoid the vote of no-confidence that eventually led to his ouster. This was also validated by a joint press conference of the ISI chief and the DG ISPR, who stressed that the incumbent Army chief would step down per schedule.