Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has given a new term in office to the country’s powerful military chief nearly three months before he was set to retire in November.
“General Qamar Javed Bajwa is appointed Chief of Army Staff for another term of three years from the date of completion of the current term,” read an official document signed by Khan on August 19.
The document, circulated online, argued that “the decision has been taken in view of the current regional security environment.”
The decision will end the debate over whether Bajwa’s stay in office would best serve the interests of the military and Pakistan.
It is likely to bolster Khan’s administration, which is facing protests from a united opposition and rising anger over an economic downturn.
Bajwa’s office is viewed as the most powerful position in Pakistan, and his extended term implies a possible continuation of Islamabad’s policies toward archrival India. The two nuclear archrivals are engaged in renewed tensions over the disputed Himalayan Kashmir region. He is also seen as orchestrating a reset of relations with Washington by helping in its negotiations with the Taliban.
Bajwa was appointed by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in November 2016, and his tenure was due to end in November this year.
The Pakistani army has ruled the country for nearly half its 72-year history.
Opposition politicians have accused the military of manipulating last year’s general elections to help bring Khan to power.
Media freedom watchdogs have also complained about the erosion of press freedoms in the country. The military has denied interfering in politics or muzzling the media.