Three men, three ques­tions

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Cyril Almeida

YOU gotta hand it to Ra­heel. He re­ally does do things his way. A gen­eral quit­ting twothirds of the way in, a full 10 months be­fore re­tire­ment? Now that's Naya Pak­istan. And yet, it makes a cer­tain kind of sense. He may not like it and it may not be de­lib­er­ate, but the ed­i­fice of Ra­heel's term has been built on be­ing the an­tiKayani. And ev­ery­thing Kayani did was de­fined by the ex­ten­sion.

The ex­ten­sion washed away Kayani's first three years, the first two of which are com­pa­ra­ble to Ra­heel's, and it made ev­ery­thing he did or didn't do af­ter ir­rel­e­vant. It's easy to for­get now, but be­fore Zarb-i-Azb there was Rah-i-Rast. And Swat was quickly fol­lowed by Rah-iNi­jaat, up in South Waziris­tan.

It's easy to for­get now, but be­fore the dharna there was the Kayani mo­ment. When the PML-N was con­verg­ing on Is­lam­abad and Iftikhar Chaudhry was still a house­hold name. Like Ra­heel at the height of the dharna, Kayani chose not to take over dur­ing the long march.

It's easy to for­get now, but Kayani fol­lowed semi-de­politi­ci­sa­tion with a re­turn to core in­ter­ests - the army it­self, na­tional se­cu­rity and key for­eign poli­cies. But the ex­ten­sion -that's what de­fined him. And it also con­strained him.

Ra­heel has to know that. Right now, he's got nowhere to go but down. He could win some more vic­to­ries against ter­ror, but what's more against the same? Un­less he did some­thing big on In­dia, there's not much new he could bring to the game. And there is the in­ter­nal di­men­sion. It's easy to be­lieve that Kayani was sunk by pub­lic opin­ion over the ex­ten­sion. But it re­ally was his own who did him in. The rank and file didn't like the ex­ten­sion and the gen­er­als re­sented it.

Had Ra­heel stayed on, it would have been a step worse than Kayani. Back then, a short three years ago, the boys were just be­gin­ning to di­gest their counter-in­sur­gency prow­ess and start­ing to think about coun­tert­er­ror­ism.

Now, it's 11 years since they've be­ing do­ing this. A half gen­er­a­tion of bat­tle­hard­ened GOCs and ma­jor gen­er­als and corps com­man­ders. To snub them now, no mat­ter who you are, would be to tempt the gods. But what's done is done. Parse it as much as you want and you're still left with a feel­ing that he's done it be­cause Ra­heel is Ra­heel. You've gotta hand it to him. On­wards then. Three ques­tions we're left with. For Ra­heel, for Nawaz and for the suc­ces­sor.

Ten months is a long time. With his fate de­ter­mined, Ra­heel is now a Pak­istani uni­corn - the all-pow­er­ful leader who can spend his fi­nal stretch in of­fice on his terms. No more sec­ondguess­ing, no ru­mour mills, no more won­der­ing what it re­ally means - just plain busi­ness. Where he de­cides to spend the political cap­i­tal he's earned will mat­ter. If it's new front­line stuff, he'll likely get nowhere. On Karachi, all that has to be done is to wait him out. On the political front, any­way. In Pun­jab - a pic­ture has said ev­ery­thing. Nawaz and his boys will de­cide what gets done in their prov­ince. In Fata, there's nowhere left to go. On In­dia, he doesn't have the time. On Afghanistan, he's al­ready played his cards. Which leaves his pet pro­ject - NAP. The months ahead are nicely set up for a few mean­ing­ful in­ter­ven­tions.

The clues are al­ready there - ter­ror fi­nanc­ing, Fata re­forms, re­turn of IDPs and mil­i­tary-court pros­e­cu­tions. Ex­pect some more ac­tiv­ity there. And, if he re­ally wants to pull a sur­prise - Balochis­tan. Se­cond ques­tion. What will Nawaz do? Last time, he dithered. Kayani an­nounced early Oc­to­ber that he was go­ing home, but Nawaz didn't pick his suc­ces­sor un­til late Novem­ber. This time, Nawaz has two ad­van­tages. One, he's got two picks to make - be­cause of his dither­ing last time both the COAS and CJCSC re­tire the same day this time. That means the op­tion to kick one guy up­stairs. Two, he can re­peat the Ra­heel ex­per­i­ment - wait­ing un­til the end and pick­ing the chap who did noth­ing at all; no lob­by­ing, no preen­ing, no leak­ing, noth­ing.

If Nawaz gets the se­lec­tion right, the next bit should be easy enough - the rules of co­hab­i­ta­tion have largely been fig­ured out. But there will be a dif­fer­ence - a year and change into his new job, at the height of his power, the new chief will watch a gen­eral elec­tion un­fold. An elec­tion in which Nawaz would be go­ing for a fourth term, and the PML-N for a his­toric 10 years at the cen­tre and 15 in Pun­jab. Nawaz may be tempted to fid­dle.

Third ques­tion. The suc­ces­sor. He can't go back on the fight against mil­i­tancy. The boys are all-in. Nor would it make sense to. But there is one area where Ra­heel may have stretched out ahead of the rest - Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a mess, a dan­ger­ous mess - and Ra­heel has, from the con­trar­ian view, tried too much, too fast. For very lit­tle in re­turn. The sanc­tu­ar­ies in east­ern Afghanistan are more men­ac­ing than ever. The Afghan govern­ment hasn't been able to get its act to­gether. The Amer­i­cans are as desul­tory as ever. What's the al­ter­na­tive? Pull back, dou­ble down on the old ap­proach. Or at least, if Afghanistan does go to hell, don't do any­thing to leave us out of favour with the Tal­iban. Three men, three ques­tions - but an old caveat. Events. They have a funny habit of in­ter­ven­ing.

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