“A smooth change of guard in Pakistan’s leadership is a rarity, particularly in its military circles.
Nonetheless, last month, prime minister Nawaz Sharif appointed general Qamar Javed Bajwa Pakistan’s new chief of army staff (COAS). There is optimism in some quarters that the country is on the path to eventual civilian supremacy given that his predecessor, general Raheel Sharif, quietly retired on time. The outgoing general also seemed unable to influence the prime minister’s choice.
On the other hand, the army’s control over defence, foreign, and internal security policy actually deepened and broadened under the command of Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s most popular COAS in decades. So how do we square these two contradictory facts, and what does it mean for the region?
The short answer is that there is no contradiction. The Pakistan Army’s greatest source of power is its popularity, which it has continued to cultivate through a number of means. The first has been avoiding public clashes with institutions that have popular support such as the judiciary or, for that matter, some extremist groups. The other has come from boosting its image and attacking that of its rivals with the help of an increasingly powerful Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).”