Playing by the book

General Raheel Sharif will leave as perhaps one of the most popular army chiefs the country has ever had

Editorial January 26, 2016

The announcement that General Raheel Sharif is going to stick to the script and retire as Chief of the Army Staff in November 2016 is welcome. It has laid to rest the rumour that he would either seek or be offered an extension to his tenure — offered he may have been and we will likely never know unless he chooses to tell all, but refuse he has even if he was offered. This breaks the unfortunate precedent set by both his predecessors and makes him the first army chief since 1996 to put aside his uniform at the end of his tenure. He will leave as perhaps one of the most popular army chiefs the country has ever had, seen as a no-nonsense and get-it-done soldier. General Raheel will also be setting a healthy precedent for future army chiefs, which bodes well for the country’s democratic credentials.

This announcement is indeed an important step along the road to democracy. The previous election saw a peaceful transfer of power from one civilian government to another, and a change at the top of the political pile with the PML-N replacing the PPP as the party of national governance. The PML-N has yet to make best use of parliament as the cutting edge of democratic rule, and its circumnavigation of parliamentary process is less than admirable, but the country is set fair for another election in 2018. Even so, it is no secret that Pakistan’s civilian institutions remain fragile as ever. General Raheel’s decision to step down at the end of his tenure, therefore, will hopefully have a salubrious impact on the state of civilian institutions as well as help correct the civil-military imbalance.

The announcement by the Inter-Services Public Relations is also something of a pre-emptive strike, which clears the decks for General Raheel to get on with the business of fighting terrorism and extremism. Inevitably, there will now be speculation as to who his successor may be. General Raheel was handpicked by the prime minister. It is going to need a man of similar calibre to take up the baton from him. We hope the prime minister is as lucky with his pick as he was the last time.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2016.

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Toti calling | 5 years ago | Reply @Rex Minor: In all countries civilian leaders make decisions of war and peace and soldiers must obey. Since an army man who has initiated the task of eliminating terrorists with his own will, he can carry on as a civilian leader. As for going to a doctor, what some need is not a doctor but a psychologist. But I will nor recommend anybody something like a that as it is not polite.
Rex Minor | 5 years ago | Reply @Toti calling: The function of a soldier is to kill and this is what he gets trained for which is no different from a physician or a surgeon to spend his life time with sick people. You want that the politicians should start a killing spree which the soldiers are trained for? What a wish; you need to go to a medical doctor next. Rex Minor
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