How will COAS respond to Gen Ghafoor’s possible violation of Article 243?

DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor Tweeted something incredible earlier today.

The General’s Tweet has received a lot of praise on social media from opponents of PMLN and Nawaz Sharif, but there is a serious problem here. Gen Ghafoor did not Tweet as a private citizen, but as “Official DG ISPR.” By doing so, he may have violated the Constitution.

Article 243 of the Constitution is quite clear:

243. Command of Armed Forces.-
(1) The Federal Government shall have control and command of the Armed Forces.

What would be the response of COAS Gen Bajwa if he found out that one of his subordinates Tweeted that he ‘rejected’ his notification? What would be the response of Gen Bajwa if his subordinates were openly operating outside the chain of command, making decisions and carrying out operations without approval?

In the worst cases, acts of insubordination would even be considered Mutiny under Section 31 of Pakistan Army Act 1952:

31. Mutiny and insubordination: Any person subject to this Act who commits any of the following offences, that is to say, –

(a) begins, incites, causes, or conspires with any other person to cause, or joins in, any mutiny in the military, naval or air forces of Pakistan or any forces co-operating therewith; or
(b) being present at any such mutiny, does not use his utmost endeavours to suppress the same; or
(c) knowing or having reason to believe in the existence of any such mutiny or any intention to commit such mutiny, or of any such conspiracy, does not without reasonable delay give information thereof to his commanding or other superior officer; or
(d) attempts to seduce any person in the military, naval or air forces of Pakistan from his duty or his allegiance to the Government of Pakistan; shall, on conviction by court-martial, be punished with death or with such less punishment as in this Act mentioned.

Gen Ghafoor’s mistake has now become Gen Bajwa’s problem since he is responsible for discipline inside the ranks. Gen Raheel famously dismissed officers for failing to live up to the high expectations of honour and behaviour expected in the Armed Forces. Now his DG ISPR is acting in open insubordination in possible violation of the Constitution.

How will COAS respond? Will he make an example of the ISPR chief to send a clear message about the importance of respecting rule of law and chain of command? Will he launch a commission to investigate problems of insubordination in the ranks? However the Army Chief chooses to respond will tell much about the internal order of the Armed Forces, and the state.

The greatest challenge for the new Army Chief

General Qamar Javed BajwaThe wait is over, and Pakistan has a new Chief of Army Staff as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has appointed Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as the new COAS. The incoming Army chief faces a number of challenges, as were enumerated by Abbas Nasir in his excellent column for Dawn. These challenges include dealing with a belligerent Modi-Doval regime in India and continuing Army’s successful operations against domestic terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. There is another challenge that the Gen Bajwa will face, though.

Taking over as head of Army from Gen Raheel, Gen Bajwa inherits many successes. One of these successes, though, will actually be a challenge for him. It is the successful PR operation that has elevated Gen Raheel into almost super human status.

By attributing all of Army’s successes to the genius of Gen Raheel, they have built a reputation that will be nearly impossible to live up to. More than ever before, the new COAS will always live under the shadow of his predecessor and will find himself compared to the one who has been made larger than life. If there is an uptick in violence, will it be blamed on the new COAS? Will the people say he is not as good as the previous Army chief? If relations with India continue to deteriorate, will Gen Bajwa be questioned about why tensions have grown worse under him than under Gen Raheel?

During previous transitions, incoming Army chiefs were seen as restoring hope and the possibility of improved relations. This can’t happen for Gen Bajwa without tearing down the impossibly high expectations that were built around Gen Raheel. For Gen Bajwa, the greatest challenge will not be to overcome sectarian militant groups, Indian belligerence, and international pressures, but to overcome the reputation of his predecessor.