‘Generally’, the people
It was rather graceful of General Raheel Sharif, the chief of staff of the Pakistan Army to have said that he will retire at the end of his regular term and will not seek an extension. The general is supposed to complete his 3 year stint in November 2016 but perhaps what prompted him to issue a statement as early as in January this year was perhaps to silence those voices that were clamouring that he extend his tenure for another 3 years or till at least the time when the major thrust of the Operation Zarb E Azb had been completed and the last of the terrorists had been tackled. Operation Zarb E Azb has proved to be highly successful under General Raheel Sharif. He has led it from the front, making sure that he was physically present at all those locations where the operation was underway, raising the morale of the troops engaged in flushing out the terrorists and seeing to it that the required actions were duly carried out. When the prime minister of the country was away on the occasion of Eid, General Sharif was right there with the troops. Similar examples have also been set by other top army commanders posted at various fronts, such as Maj. Gen. Bilal Akbar, the Director General of the Rangers in Sindh.
This is the sort of approach at the top army level that had not been in evidence earlier. Before this, the terrorists had been slowly expanding into various parts of the country and there was no resistance. General Raheel Sharif has struck quite singularly and decisively at the militants and has led his troops to uproot them from various parts of the country. What is even more encouraging is the fact that while the Pakistan Army has employed its resources to stamp out the terrorists, it has also come down with full vehemence on those elements that had been looting the country through corruption of all kinds. The main focus of the anti-corruption operations so far has been in the province of Sindh but it is expected that such operations will also be launched in other parts of the country and all those elements that are engaged in corruption funding and in milking the country dry at all levels will be exposed and receive due punishment. It must be said that the Pakistan Army is today fighting the kind of war it was never up against before and that is quite a challenge.
General Raheel Sharif has come to symbolize a force that works selflessly for the good of the country and is not restricted by any political leanings. In the Pakistani scenario, this could only have been achieved by the armed forces, more particularly the Pakistan Army, because the political players could not have been expected to be driven forward due to their own compulsions. The politicians could never have had an even-handed approach. Pakistan is fortunate that in the person of General Raheel Sharif, it has an honest, upright and single-minded soldier who understands everything that the nation has been through and is still experiencing and who, instead of simply waxing eloquent on what needs to be done, has set proud and pragmatic examples on two key fronts – terrorism and corruption. Before him, even General Pervez Kiyani had declared war against the terrorists – but he had not gone the whole hog. He had launched operations in South Waziristan but had dithered on going into North Waziristan. In fact, in Gen. Kiyani’s days, there was a ‘good Taliban’ and a ‘bad Taliban’ and the army acted on those lines. The former DG Inter-Services Public Relations, Maj Gen (retd) Athar Abbas has said that the military leadership of the country was in favour of launching a military offensive against the Taliban militants in North Waziristan in 2010, but could not do so due to the indecision of Gen Kayani.
Gen. Raheel Sharif came and changed all that, with the result that terrorists were flushed out from North Waziristan as well. It was then that the anti-Taliban or anti-terrorist operation took on a more holistic approach and the results were much better and much more focused. It is a fact that the Pakistan Army has been led by selfless men who have risen to the top through the ranks and who have proved their professional leadership skills by personal example. What makes Gen. Raheel Sharif an outstanding example is that he is a ‘hands-on’ general who is always to be found where the crisis is. One reason for the public demand for his continuing as army chief is perhaps rooted in the need of the Pakistanis for a leader who is among them at their hour of need. It also seems that the confidence level of the nation is greater when they are led by an army general rather than a civilian. They may have voted civilian politicians into power but when terrorists are to be combated and driven out and when corruption and misappropriation is to be identified and the perpetrators punished, it is the army that delivers. If the leader holds the good of the people and the country close to his heart, then they would prefer to be led by a ‘non-elected’ soldier rather than an ‘elected’ civilian.
Syed Jawaid Iqbal