The Bajwa doctrine and the myth of isolation

  • Looking at the picture from Pakistan’s point of view

In Pakistan, there is no dearth of detractors within. Whenever the country faces a foreign policy challenge they endorse our opponents’ position. In recent months, the propaganda against Pakistan roughly runs as follows: (a) Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism; (b) it allows its soil to be used by terrorists staging attacks on other countries; (c) it has weak anti-money laundry (AML) laws and countering financing for terrorism (CFT) regime that helps fund terrorist groups; (d) it is playing a double game, seeking external assistance (including GSP+ status) while nurturing terror groups that the world is fighting.

This hostile narrative gained more currency after President Trump announced the new US policy for Afghanistan and South Asia, followed by his new year’s tweet, in which Pakistan was singled out for scathing comments. This was an affront to national dignity and the whole nation responded with unprecedented unity and harmony to controvert such labels.

Since these statements were essentially directed toward the Pakistan army, it was not surprising when the General Qamar Bajwa used the Defense Day ceremony to send four unequivocal messages to the world. One, despite meager resources, Pakistan has done more to fight terrorism than any other country in the world; it is time for others to do more. Two, we need no assistance, but deserve respect and confidence. Three, Pakistan desires mutually respectful relations with all countries; if other countries cannot help us fight terrorism then at least they should not blame us for their own failings. Finally, there is no terrorist sanctuary in Pakistan nor is our soil used for launching attacks in other countries.

The easing of these pressures should dispel the oft repeated mantra that Pakistan is isolated. In fact, we have succeeded in expanding our support base. Both civil and military leaderships have done their part

This, then, is the counter-narrative of Pakistan, elaborated by none other than the army chief last week in his address to the Munich Security Conference. While underscoring the importance of trust and cooperation, and advising against attempts to scapegoat partners, he made some important observations to expound Pakistan’s position on the subject of terrorism. First, Pakistan army has waged a relentless and bloody fight against terrorism and violent extremism, at a monumental human and material cost (over 35,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives; over 48,000 are critically wounded or disabled; incurred a cost that exceeds $250 billion – only a fraction of which is actually shared by our global partners). Second, today, there are no organised terrorist camps on our side of the border, even though the presence of terrorists of various hues and colours cannot be ruled out, as there are still active and sleeper cells, who are hiding in mountains, border towns and 54 refugee camps, besides some major towns and cities. Finally, of the last 131 terrorist attacks in our border areas last year, 123 were conceived, planned and executed from Afghanistan.

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has termed this as the ‘Bajwa Doctrine’. In Munich, General Bajwa said he had no intellectual pretentions but what he was saying was ruminations of a soldier commanding an army ‘which has achieved great successes, against violent extremism and terrorism, of course at a huge cost and sacrifice’. This is not a doctrine of defiance, as some may interpret, rather it is a matter of fact, straight talk from a nation that has been unfairly treated in a supposedly friendly relationship. ‘Pakistan still wants to work with the US’, the General Bajwa reportedly assured US General Votel, a few days ago, “but it is not helpful to engage in blame game and name-calling”. It was not surprising, then, to see General Votel telling the Washington Post, in his reaction to President Trump’s new year’s tweet, that “we are talking to Pakistan, but we don’t do so on public messaging system’.

But the rocky nature of our relations with the Americans was again on display when in an unprecedented move the State Department held a press conference in Washington announcing that in the forthcoming meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Paris, the US, with the support of Germany and Great Britain, would move a motion to place Pakistan in the FATF watch-list for failing to go after the banned organisations under UNSC Resolution 1267. Many analysts termed the move political, with twin objectives: coerce Pakistan to yield to US pressure and appease India by aiding its efforts to paint Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism. It was not surprising therefore that a frenzy erupted in Indian media celebrating in advance the success of the move. Our own detractors were not far behind, projecting a dooms day scenario in the aftermath of such designation.

Pakistan has made significant progress in implementing an AML/CFT regime (Pakistan Today: 17-2-2018) that is comparable to best international practices. Undoubtedly, there are some implementation issues, particularly when faced with obligations that require the federal government to move against organisations and individuals outside the financial system, in areas within the remit of provincial governments. Pakistan has addressed this problem by amending the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. A final word from the forum’s deliberations is awaited. Even if Pakistan is asked to do some more work, this would not be something that would amount to a calamity falling on the country. We have spent time in this list during 2012-15 and would bounce back even stronger, because Pakistan’s regime is not supporting outlaws to launder money or funnel monies to terrorists. When this situation does emerge, this would not be a statement of any lack of confidence by our friends, as many of our detractors would surely cry out to lament. We have a much broader relations and those ties are deepening on many other fronts.

A similar situation was faced during our biennial review with EU for qualifying for continued access to GSP-Plus status. While the frenzy on the FATF watch-list was played out, the European Parliament expressed satisfaction on Pakistan’s progress on its 27 core conventions. The two initiatives that made the most significant contribution in this assessment were the National Action Plan and the establishment of an independent National Human Rights Commission.

The easing of these pressures should dispel the oft repeated mantra that Pakistan is isolated. In fact, we have succeeded in expanding our support base. Both civil and military leaderships have done their part in mobilising international support for Pakistan’s position.

Still, our detractors would not be impressed. In their view, even if we succeed, these would be temporary life-lines that amount to nothing more than some time given to an errant player. They feel that Pakistan is nurturing terrorists and it does not deserve GSP-Plus concession as it is misrepresenting its economic status as a least developing country. This is a curious observation. To suggest that we are misrepresenting our economic status is presumptuous, because the EU knows its criteria of selection. Pakistan cannot compete with its competitors in the EU without the GSP-Plus status, as India, Turkey, Vietnam and Bangladesh all have preferential access. India is nearing a Free-Trade agreement. Pakistan’s economy has suffered hugely in the aftermath of the war on terror and we have helped International Coalition Forces in Afghanistan by providing a variety of logistical and security related services.

But what is amazing is to see that these detractors are silent on the double standards to which Pakistan is frequently subjected; when they fail to show any indignation on the atrocities committed by Indian security forces in Kashmir. They are also silent on the rising tide of extremism in India with western complicity. Our detractors, acting like headmasters, are only chastising Pakistan for its alleged failures, while turning a blind eye to inaction and unjust criticism of Pakistan by others.


  1. Here are a few myths to clear. EU didn’t give a damn to your army chief’s useless speech. So the myth of France. Germany, UK being satisfied with your progress is outright false. Secondly. More than a lakh Pakistani refugees are in Germany. How about dumping all start vetting your visas even for your students from now on? The matter is already taken up. Expect action in the coming months

    • Who are you ? The head of EU ? Your hate speech makes clear where your origin is and it also makes clear that the name which you have chosen is not real, why hiding behind European names ? come out !

    • @Sourav Ghosh: No, I never said anything about Pakistan included don’t twist the facts. As of now it’s under scrutiny for 3 months,after which it.would be officially added. So,in short, as of now Pakistan is not gray listed.

    • Breaking the myth: Army chief addreses an August gathering in germany attended and covered by the whole world on invitation from the organizers, mostly european yet the EU doesnt give a damn?? hence a question to UK France and Germany s satisfaction as well. Secondly the pakistani “rapefugees” are not paying any taxes in your country, the students are not paying any fees and the immigration or whatever department is not vetting any Pakistanis coming into your country?? You seem to be from DW, you must be well informed then, kindly enlighten the tax subsidies given to pakistani refugees and the Visa process please. Expect action in coming months?? what action?? you re going to put us on the “list”?? The students are going to be turned back!? Wow so thats how a great European nation responds to ill concieved half baked narratives! Best of luck with your racist, stereotyped, trumped future!

  2. Another ‘WE SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL” article. No doubt, all pakistani websites are turning into deeeep state mouth pieces.

      • What is there for India to get hurt or to rejoice. Indians dont care about other country’s internal issues. But the problem starts, when you start dragging us & blaming us in your dirty Good/Bad terrorist games.

        If you want Kashmir, then come and take na. By trying to keep LOC hot & then bringing in foreign military attaches can help gain your kashmir narrative, then god bless

  3. What an article!!!
    1. If there’s no isolation, what happened in FATF?
    2. Aren’t these people the assets of the state?
    3. Is it 35000, or 70000 people (killed)? Is it 120$ billion, or 250$ billion? From what calculations are these figures arrived at?
    4. Wasn’t such positivity displayed in OBL, 1971, Kargil, drone strikes etc, which were either found to be untrue, or the corresponding reports were hidden from the public?
    5. If FATF didn’t matter, why were all the ministers and special representatives touring other countries for support? Nobody should have bothered!
    6. Hopefully, the whole world is untruthful/biased/anti-muslim/jealous/conspirators/failures/weak and only the army and its narrative is true, like in the past!!!

  4. Kargil is war between India & Pakistan, there is no any terrorism, and 1971, it was East Pakistan became Bangladesh as Pakistan was created from India.

  5. The Bajwa or establishment doctrine namely cross-border terrorism which was started by late Gen Zia followed explicitly for the past forty years by respective establishment top brass has now put the country on the brink. FATF verdict in which China the all weather friend and Saudi Arabia the Islamic brother voting against Pakistan has proved that the country stands completely isolated due to its self-destructive foreign policy. When half of the world is fighting terrorism Pakistan can ill-afford to support the same against its neighbours to achieve political objectives. No country buys Pakistan’s claim that it has made supreme sacrifices in fighting war against terrorism. The fact of the matter is that TTP who was fighting the state to impose Sharia in the country killed 35000 innocent civilians and Pakistan army launched a operation to eliminate TTP but spared Haqqanis, LeT, JeM. So the war was waged against an internal enemy and losses suffered is not attributable to war on terror for US. Pakistan provided support to Afghan Taliban on its soil resulted in deaths of thousands innocent Afghans. This double game resulted in US taking a rigid stand against Pakistan and rightly so. Pakistan support to jihadis has spoiled relations with both neighbours, loss of economic and military aid from US, grey listing and total isolation of Pakistan at international arena. If Pakistan still continues this ill-conceived policy it will have to face black listing and imposition of crippling sanctions soon.

  6. Our channels are celebrating pakistan’s failure. Seems like sharifs helped india achieve its goals. get rid of them asap.

  7. I think these facts and the other like plethora of Indian Counslates in Afghanistan should have been put to fore much earlier and in a blatant manner. West should understand that you don’t mess in a region and just airlift yourself leaving your allies on ground. The world now realizes that US continous stay in the region means ulterior interests of US. But going beyond what is being said, I think Russia and China should come in and have a comprehensive talks of the regional powers and think of a local solution where the guarantors are regional super powers.

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