Dear Chief...

Congratulations on assuming office of the COAS under such challenging circumstances

Inam Ul Haque December 01, 2022
The writer is a retired major general and has an interest in International Relations and Political Sociology. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @20_Inam

Sir! Congratulations on assuming office of the COAS under such challenging circumstances. Congratulations for the system reposing confidence in you, for steering the Military out of man-made crisis. Congratulations for being an icon for the starry-eyed civil and military personnel who invest their optimism and expectations in you. And congratulations on your appointment after over three decades of hard work in the service of Pakistan and its Armed Forces, greatly sacrificing your personal comfort and wants.

Your situational awareness is decidedly better than most. You have seen it all close quarters. You were part of the process. So, you are not a new comer to the scene. But so was General Kiyani after the infamous crisis-ridden last days of General Musharraf, and the consequent deep-seated unpopularity of the Armed Forces... especially the Army. And how it was restored and maintained by him. So, guiding and advising you is shining light on a star. But sometimes the perspectives differ and that is where feedback and critique become valuable.

General! Never before was Army so vilified and taken to task by its own people, for actions that the Army never fully explained; and cannot and will not fully explain. Unlike politicians, the Military does not have the benefit of container and political cadre. With that given, it is also understood that this hybrid attack was engineered and financed by forces inimical to Pakistan, with many of us in gullible cahoots. But the fact of the matter is that this deniability will do us no good. Your plate is full from Hour Zero, Day One and the clock has already started ticking. Your challenges are multifarious and complex and nothing but laser-focused attention, compassion and drive is expected of you to protect institutional, and by extension, Pakistan’s national interest(s) under the changed realties. The ‘why’ and ‘how’ has been overtaken by events, and the ‘what’ stares us in the face.

Dear General! As seen during four decades of proud service in our revered Army, the Chief, as perceived by us, was the custodian of our ideological, professional and organisational frontiers, and he was a bulwark to protect our ‘selfish national interest’ and internal stability. However, somewhere down the line these interests got mixed up with personal interests cloaked as institutional interests. And we hear stories of financial sleaze that pain us... the veteran cadre. Sir you know what needs to be done and we leave it there.

Just like the serving personnel, the veteran cadre is your constituency. This lot has been protecting Military’ image, prestige and reputation against heavy odds, and needs to be harnessed. Healing the rifts within is the emergent need of the hour. And this should be one of your top priorities as the retired cadre is a flat hierarchy, vocal, critical but Military-loving. Stifling cases of odd dissent through pension blockades, stoppage of Medicare and gagging some over the media, are undignified, below the belt and counterproductive. Yes, veterans, members of a political party, should neither claim nor extended Military’s patronage, as is the longstanding ‘custom of service’. Other than that, differences of opinions and heated debates are tolerable military ethos.

Sir! Veterans are suggested to host a dinner for you and the CJCSC (and by PAF/PN veterans for their Chiefs) as a new tradition. Likewise, it is suggested to formalise the Four-Star Club in ways the seniors feel appropriate. Reciprocating, the Chief needs to go around stations to interact with veterans, once things cool down. Veteran interaction through Army Institute of Military History needs to be a regular feature of feedback. A stitch in time saves nine.

General! That brings me to the misnomer of ‘political neutrality’ and being ‘apolitical’. No serious-minded person believes or should believe in such faulty notions. In the grand scheme of things, Pakistan’s politics is addicted to patronage. And this shall remain so. In this milieu, you are expected to be, and you should, however, be an ‘honest’ arbiter, politically aligned only with protecting the core interests of Pakistan. You have seen the tamasha, when the ‘umpire’ was compromised, and you must have learnt valuable lessons.

Like always, the Military does its spade work. In step with the most professional militaries like the US, Pakistan’s Military does and should provide its brutally honest assessment of threat perception and internal/external ‘pulse’ to the government of the day, and leave it there, keeping one eye open. At the end of the day, one feels all political forces are equally patriotic, their carless bickering and their ‘garam-masala-induced’ sloganeering aside. And notwithstanding their emotive squabbling to rub the Military, when it doesn’t do their bidding.

Dear General! This conceptual memo would not be complete without discussing the ‘obscenity of extension’. Extension is haq-talfi and, therefore, cursed. A tenure started with ill-intent can never be blissful. There are two precedents. The Chief in this dirty game of maneuver and manipulation looks over the shoulder to politicians, and vice versa to gain personal and political benefits, at great cost to the Military, people and politics of Pakistan.

The door of extension needs to be shut forever, if not by politicians (who wouldn’t do it) the Military itself. The Army can always prevail upon the government to do so. Till the time, extension is forbidden for all four-star constitutionally, you need to announce that your extension is ‘out for good’ timeless tradition of proud Frontier Force (PIFFERS). One knows the advices, suggestions and inferences, sometimes by the ‘system’, to ‘continue’ in the larger‘national’ interest. But since very young days, we are taught that graveyards are full of indispensable people. This vanity of indispensability needs to be understood and shunned. Look at the grace of Gens Kakar and Zubair Hayat.

Sir! You are your own man and you owe your elevation only to Allah, Army and your hard work. This ‘painful’ reality needs to be understood by the politicians also. Meanwhile the Military — serving and retired — the people and the system need your healing touch sooner than later, quietly without creating ripples, across the board, without fear and favour, following the true professionalism of your predecessors, who did so under similar circumstances.

Sir! You should be guided by principles and principles alone.

We will be more hands-on next week.


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