‘India, Afghanistan priority for new Pakistan Army chief’

Islamabad, Dec 14 (IANS) Tackling India and Afghanistan and their new-found bonhomie will be a priority for Pakistan Army’s new chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, according to an influential daily here.

The News International in its editorial on Wednesday said Gen Bajwa has stamped his authority on the world’s sixth largest army by carrying out a major reshuffle. The most significant change was the replacement of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief.

The spy agency heads usually serve for three years. But Lt. Gen. Rizwan Akhtar was replaced only two years into his tenure.

The appointment of Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar, who previously headed the counter-terrorism wing of the spy agency, as new ISI chief signals that “India and Afghanistan will be a priority of the new army chief”, the daily said.

The newspaper cited a research paper written by Lt. Gen. Mukhtar when he was studying at the US Army War College five years ago. The officer had written on Pakistan’s policy in Afghanistan and recommended reconciliation with “moderate” Taliban.

The newspaper said Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US were committed to peace talks with the Taliban. However, it blamed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for trying to find a “scapegoat” in Pakistan whenever there was a militant attack.

Mukhtar’s warning that Pakistan would need to “guard against India using Afghanistan as a proxy also seems to be coming to pass”, it said.

Most recently, at the Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar, India, it was clear that Afghanistan has “joined India in trying to blame Pakistan for all its problems and to isolate it internationally”, the daily said.