On a calm weekend, Sunday the 18th of October 2015, media groups reported that Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua of the Pakistan Army had been selected for appointment as Pakistan’s next National Security Adviser (NSA).


News observers in Pakistan have been familiar with Janjua’s name since the Kayani era. He was, until recently, Commander of the Quetta-based 12 Corps; a position which concurrently made him Commander of Pakistan Army’s Southern Command. Prior to his appointment in Quetta, Janjua had served as President of National Defence University (NDU), the apex learning institution for armed forces personnel in Islamabad who go on to hold senior portfolios in the state apparatus. Not everyone is qualified and visionary enough to head such a prestigious learning institution; besides training national and allied country military officers in tactics, strategy planning and how to think, NDU also houses the military’s joint think-tank, called the Institute for Strategic Studies Research and Analysis (ISSRA).

It was only sensible for Janjua to apply his depth of strategic knowledge and past field experience in Pakistan’s largest province Balochistan, where an indigenous rebellion aided by foreign sponsorship, primarily by India, has turned into a violent insurgency. General (retd) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s decision to appoint then Lt Gen Nasser Khan Janjua as Commander 12 Corps was a well-calculated move to strengthen the security architecture there and quell the feelings of discontent among the Baloch populace. His efforts have borne fruit well and Balochistan has witnessed a steep rise in terms of political, economic and social development. Local culture too, has been given considerable exposure thanks to the untiring efforts of 12 Corps and Frontier Corps.

Military Service – Timeline and Brief Summary

2005: Brigadier Nasser Janjua was Commander of the Siachen Brigade. He was later appointed Director Military Operations (DMO) under then DGMO Major General Ahmed Shuja Pasha (who was later promoted to Lt Gen as served as the ISI chief). As DMO, he was instrumental in post-earthquake international disaster relief efforts in Pakistan, particularly with the US government, which provided food and aid to affected people in the northern areas.

2007: Major General Nasser Janjua had been appointed the crucial but short-lived slot of DGMO (GHQ) in September 2007 until he was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 17th Infantry Division in Kharian (Central Command). He oversaw Operation Rah-e-Haq in Swat district between November 2007 and December 2008.

2008: After the 26/11 Mumbai attacks which brought Pakistan and India almost to the verge of another war, Janjua and his division were told to revert to their previous station in Kharian for operational standby.

2011: Major General Janjua was serving as Vice Chief of General Staff (GHQ) and was promoted to Lt Gen rank in October and subsequently appointed President of NDU. In the words of renowned Pakistani defence analyst Maj (retd) Ikram Sehgal, Janjua was instrumental “in changing the curricula and the “Lal Kurti” mindset to reflect modernity in warfare, combining the National Security and War Course into one course instead of two overlapping ones”.

2013: Then Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani appointed Janjua as Commander 12 Corps / Commander Southern Command in August.

Appointment as National Security Adviser

Janjua’s breadth of experience ranges from the peaks of Siachen to the sands of Balochistan, from staff services at GHQ, Rawalpindi to headship of the apex defence university. What is most notable in his military career is the fact that Janjua has served in some of the most critical designations, three of which are particularly worth noting:

As DMO at GHQ: It was reported that then Brigadier Nasser Khan Janjua had accompanied his superior, DGMO Major General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, for the 10th Round of Defence Secretary Level Talks on Siachen between India and Pakistan on 23 May 2006. His presence there was interesting since prior to his posting in the Military Operations Directorate (MO Dte), Janjua was leading Pakistani forces in Siachen. This relevant past field experience made him a vital inclusion in India-Pakistan talks.
As GOC 17th Infantry Division: After Operation Rah-e-Haq, Janjua and his troops were told to immediately revert from Swat back to home ground in Kharian, headquarters of Pakistan Army’s 1 Corps (a Strike Corps). His forces were on alert should India dare to carry out any misadventure post the Mumbai attacks.
As Commander 12 Corps: Then Lt Gen Janjua had supervised firsthand counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations against a variety of militant groups in the restive Balochistan province. From sectarian militias to Indian-sponsored separatist groups, Janjua had been a witness to some of the most vicious interference in Pakistan.

As Pakistan’s new NSA, Lt Gen (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua will be the focal point of reference in all matters of national security and especially improving civil-military coordination against terrorism. In the absence of a dedicated NSA who could look into a multitude of threats simultaneously, Janjua’s appointment will tremendously speed up and make significant additions to the progress made by Sartaj Aziz. It was about time the latter (quite elderly) was told to take a break. If the NSA-level talks with India are resumed anytime soon, as were originally planned, Janjua will be sitting in New Delhi facing Indian counterpart Ajit Doval across the table. Janjua as a visionary military strategist and Doval as India’s infamous intelligence czar make for a very interesting combination.

India already has the edge with Doval overseeing modernization and expansion of the security-intelligence setups through the National Security Council. Under his headship, India’s military was given the green light to wage its first known cross-country raids (on NSCN (K) camps in Myanmar). Doval and his associates are certainly ambitious on giving India the aggressive posture it needs to exert hegemony in the neighborhood through unified and active employment of its modernizing Special Forces.

On the other hand, Janjua might not enjoy that much exposure to the armed forces and especially intelligence agencies’ ongoing developments. This could however, be resolved since Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif has full confidence and trust on his abilities and handpicked Janjua for the coveted slot. That General Raheel reportedly persuaded Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif to appoint Janjua reflects a growing sign of better times to come, insofar as confidence level between GHQ and the Prime Minister’s Office are concerned, not just between India and Pakistan.

Once again, Janjua’s history of service is essential to understand his recent appointment: service in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Swat and later Balochistan. Like Balochistan, the GB areas are a hot topic of discussion in India these days. India’s strategic thinkers, in particular retired military officers, have been openly calling for New Delhi’s support to the independence of “Balawaristan” (traditional name of GB) from Pakistan’s “occupation”. Janjua as NSA will also play a direct role in reconciliation talks with self-exiled Baloch rebel leaders such as the Khan of Kalat and, who knows, Brahamdagh Bugti.

Furthermore, as NSA, Janjua will take off the burden from Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s shoulders who has long been holding counter-terrorism talks with UK authorities. In case regional crises worsen and Pakistan is once again pressured into choosing A or B camps, Janjua will play the lead role in deciding whether or not it will be in Pakistan’s interest to engage in required roles or not. An NSA is, after all, the combination of Interior Minister and Foreign Minister in one.

Janjua is not short of admirers. Former subordinates under his able command and especially young thinkers in the Pakistani strategic community who witnessed his dynamic leadership at NDU are all praises, more so after news that he is the NSA-elect.

Nasser Janjua will be instrumental in safeguarding and, most importantly, properly projecting Pakistan’s national interests at home and abroad. He knows when to be a dove and when to be a hawk.

Image credit: DEFENCE.PK