Friends Or Foes?

What dy­nam­ics will the new Prime Min­is­ter de­velop with the mil­i­tary forces and what chal­lenges will he face?


The clock has turned full cir­cle and four­teen years af­ter hav­ing been un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously de­posed and ex­iled, Mian Nawaz Sharif has as­sumed the man­tle of power. Dur­ing his pre­vi­ous rule as Prime Min­is­ter, Sharif had an un­easy re­la­tion­ship with the mil­i­tary. He sacked three ser­vices chiefs, was forced to play along the Kargil mis­ad­ven­ture, ul­ti­mately swal­low­ing the bit­ter pill of ap­proach­ing the US Pres­i­dent to me­di­ate a cease­fire. Un­for­tu­nately, when he chose to sack his own hand­picked Army Chief in an un­con­sti­tu­tional man­ner on Oc­to­ber 12, 1999, at­tempt­ing to re­place him with Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Zi­aud­din Butt at the whims of his fa­ther, “Abba Jee”, he paid the ul­ti­mate price of be­ing un­seated and suf­fered in­car­cer­a­tion.

Mian Sahib has been bit­ter in ex­press­ing his dis­dain for the Army but he will have to be­have like an el­derly states­man af­ter be­com­ing the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Pak­istan. The cir­cum­stances have changed ex­po­nen­tially since his pre­vi­ous term. The coun­try is em­broiled in a deadly war on ter­ror (WoT), which has taken a heavy toll of hu­man life and there have been doubts as to the own­er­ship of the war. So far the po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion had del­e­gated the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ex­e­cut­ing the WoT to the mil­i­tary. In his his­toric ad­dress on “Youme-Shuhada” (April 30, 2013), Gen­eral Kayani, the cur­rent Army Chief, who is serv­ing an ex­tended sec­ond term, had an­nounced that the WoT is Pak­istan’s war and must be fought to the log­i­cal end. Mian Sahib made ma­jor prom­ises in his elec­tion cam­paign about ex­tri­cat­ing Pak­istan from the WoT, re-as­cer­tain­ing Pak­istan’s sovereignty and bring­ing Pak-U.S. re­la­tions on an even keel. The scar­let thread here is restor­ing the civil-mil­i­tary bal­ance in fa­vor of the civil­ian dis­pen­sa­tion.

Even be­fore he took oath of the premier­ship, Mian Sahib re­ceived a three-hour brief­ing from the Army Chief on the on­go­ing WoT and mil­i­tary mat­ters. Nawaz praised the role of the army in strength­en­ing democ­racy and pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity dur­ing the elec­tions. The PML-N

pres­i­dent also pre­sented the National Char­ter to Gen­eral Kayani, who gave the for­mer as­sur­ance of his full co­op­er­a­tion. This was the first meet­ing be­tween Gen­eral Kayani and Sharif since the PML-N emerged vic­to­ri­ous in the May 11 gen­eral elec­tions.

While pur­su­ing his avowed goal of restor­ing civil-mil­i­tary re­la­tions, Mian Nawaz Sharif will be plagued by a num­ber of pit­falls.

First, he will have to curb the urge of im­me­di­ately clip­ping the wings of the mil­i­tary as Gen­eral Kayani has en­joyed un­prece­dented pow­ers for nearly six years. In 2012, Forbes mag­a­zine named him the 28th most pow­er­ful per­son in the world. For­tu­nately, for Mian Sahib, Gen­eral Kayani’s term of of­fice ex­pires on Novem­ber 28, 2013. There may be pres­sures on him to ex­tend Gen­eral Kayani’s term of of­fice at least till 2014 end, when the U.S. and NATO forces with­draw from Afghanistan, but Sharif should de­sist from this. In his nom­i­na­tion of Kayani’s suc­ces­sor, the PM should avoid re­peat­ing his pre­vi­ous mis­take when he ap­pointed Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf, sac­ri­fic­ing se­nior­ity and merit to a sup­pos­edly be­nign per­son­al­ity and the apo­lit­i­cal back­ground of Mushar­raf.

Dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, Nawaz Sharif claimed that af­ter be­com­ing PM, he will be the army chief’s “boss” while Gen­eral Kayani would be re­placed by the next “se­nior-most” gen­eral when he re­tires in Novem­ber. If we go by Mian Sahib’s words, the cur­rent Army se­nior­ity list re­veal Lieu­tenant Gen­er­als Muhammad Ha­roon As­lam and Rashid Mah­mood as be­ing the se­nior most. In the be­gin­ning of the cur­rent cal­en­dar year Lt Gen. Muhammad Ha­roon As­lam, who had

been serv­ing as Corps Com­man­der Bahawalpur, was given the charge as Chief of Lo­gis­tics at GHQ and Lt Gen. Rashid Mah­mood was ap­pointed as the Chief of Gen­eral Staff (CGS), which is the se­nior most po­si­tion in the army af­ter the COAS. It is among the most im­por­tant and cov­eted po­si­tions within the mil­i­tary, since the CGS is the in­sti­tu­tion’s op­er­a­tions and in­tel­li­gence head. Both are due to re­tire on 9 April 2014.

At present, the Pak­istan Army has 2 full gen­er­als, 23 lieu­tenant gen­er­als and around 160 ma­jor gen­er­als. Seven lieu­tenant gen­er­als, in­clud­ing Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif, In­spec­tor Gen­eral Train­ing and Eval­u­a­tion (IGT&E), GHQ, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Tariq Khan, Com­man­der, I Corps, Mangla, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Muhammad Za­heerul Is­lam, DG In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (DG ISI), Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Salim Nawaz, In­spec­tor Gen­eral Ar­ma­ments (IGA), GHQ, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Khalid Rab­bani, Com­man­der, XI Corps, Pe­shawar, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Muza­m­mil Hus­sain, Com­man­der, XXX Corps, Gu­jran­wala and Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Sa­j­jad Ghani, Quar­ter-Mas­ter Gen­eral (QMG), GHQ, are due to re­tire on 1 Oc­to­ber 2014 while Gen­eral Khalid Shameem Wyne, Chair­man Joint Chiefs of Staff Com­mit­tee (CJCSC) is also due to re­tire on 6 Oc­to­ber 2013 and a suit­able re­place­ment from one of the three Ser­vices is manda­tory.

Once Mian Sahib has nom­i­nated the new Army Chief, he should make sure that the in­cum­bent re­mains sub­servient to the civil­ian lead­er­ship as the con­sti­tu­tion of Pak­istan re­quires.

The sec­ond chal­lenge that Mian Sahib faces is the case of Gen­eral Pervez Mushar­raf. The shoe is now on the other foot. It is the Gen­eral, who is cur­rently in­car­cer­ated and fac­ing tri­als while Mian Sahib is back at the helm of af­fairs. He will have to be mag­nan­i­mous as most of the cases against the Gen­eral are trumped up and flimsy. It would be be­fit­ting to let the ju­di­ciary give Gen­eral Mushar­raf a fair trial and drop the cases if they have no sub­stance.

The third chal­lenge will emerge when Mian Sahib at­tempts to restore bet­ter re­la­tions with In­dia. The Pak­istan Army, whose rai­son d’être is main­tain­ing vigil against an In­dian threat, will be wary and may op­pose peace over­tures. Mian Sahib needs to strike a mean­ing­ful bal­ance be­tween the need to nor­mal­ize re­la­tions and war pre­pared­ness. Af­ter all In­dia’s new war doc­trine “Cold Start” is Pak­istan-spe­cific. In the re­cent past, In­dian forces have upped the ante across the Line of Con­trol, vi­o­lat­ing it on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and de­spite claims to the con­trary, re­main poised in a hos­tile pos­ture to­wards Pak­istan.

Over­all, Mian Nawaz Sharif will have to re­strain his nat­u­ral im­petu­ous­ness to dom­i­nate the mil­i­tary and call the shots in daily af­fairs. He would be best ad­vised to keep the mil­i­tary in its right­ful place, re­spect its pro­fes­sional com­pe­tence and not in­ter­fere in its work­ing. Af­ter all, the mil­i­tary is a pil­lar of the state and should be a source of strength to the elected govern­ment and not be al­lowed to be­come its Achilles’ heel.

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