At the time when the country was descending deep into the hells of terrorism and everyone was losing hope, the decision was taken to put the command of the Pakistan army in the hands of someone who belongs to a family whose profession is to serve the country and sacrifice everything, even life, for the dignity, honour and protection of it.
On November 28 2013, Raheel Sharif came in and continued to deliver in one of the most difficult times in the history of our country. In three years of his service as chief of the army staff, he played on 180 degrees and put in his best to get the country out of the curse of terrorism. As time passed, his supporters rose in numbers, encouraged by his successes and dedication. His promises were consistently backed up with action. Zarb-e-Azb was launched on June 15, 2014; the ban on capital punishments lifted; military courts formed; and hanging of terrorists sped up. He started from within his own institution and fired those who were held accountable for having a link with corruption. The Karachi operation was started up and the ray of fear started fading fast in the City of Lights. Besides answering firmly in response to what barbaric Indian leadership said, he also performed the task of satisfying the Chinese over security issues in Balochistan for the CPEC. The Institute for Economics and Peace published a report under the Global Terrorism Index in 2016 and according to them, 45 per cent of terrorism decreased in 2015 and is at its lowest since 2006. Ego and allure did not come on his way. His consistency, selflessness and undying devotion to his cause and country made him an exceptional leader. We are truly blessed to have had him serve and further our great nation.
So, as every beginning has an end, here comes to a close the tenure of the great general. The command was handed over to General Qamar Javed Bajwa on November 29, 2016. The challenge of following in his predecessor’s impressive footsteps now falls to him to see all of this through. Coming to a prime position like that of COAS is a challenge. Exterminating terrorism, extremism and sectarianism in this country would now be top priority for the newly elected chief of the army staff. Combating extremism would also ensure the severance of any ties to the IS with Pakistan. To keep an eye on the extreme social media activities of the people would have to come into play. Border control and management would be a big challenge to ensure no illegal, lethal or ruinous activity is infiltrating our country. The armed forces in coalition with civil government would have to start with banning extreme religious education imparted in schools and madrassas and then working on the forward thinking and relevant curriculum to ensure the mental up-gradation of children and the youth. The Kalashnikov culture would have to be dismantled in the country and an operation of deweaponising the common public should be put into effect. All the successes in Fata, Waziristan and Karachi should continue improving and making progress.
Another thing that is of utmost importance is that a consensus needs to be developed between civil and military relations. They should sit together and decide what are the issues that the army should take care of and what are the things that the civil government should look after. It is time that political parties should correct their direction. It is high time that the civil government should improve the police department and it is also time that we bring specialists into parliament — who could take up ministries and deal effectively with the issues that arise.
General Sharif has set a strong precedent to the world that they should not look at Pakistan with an evil eye, and that the Pakistan army is capable of effectively tackling any kind of terrorism or external pressures as needed. General Raheel Sharif, you will be missed for leading from the front. I’m sure everyone shares in my sentiment to wish you all the best for your future endeavours, and to express the deepest gratitude for your humble service to this country. For General Bajwa, now is the time to prove himself, his capability and his own legacy. We have faith in our armed forces to serve and protect, as they have always done and will always do.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 22nd, 2016.