‘Gen­er­ally’, the peo­ple

Southasia - - COMMENT -

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

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