Chief is Leaving – Long Live the Chief

2 Feb

By: Sohail Parwaz


Most probably it was 1977, when I came across General Raheel Sharif, for the first time. I exactly don’t remember the station and occasion, however, to the best of my memory it was some TEWT (tactical exercise without troops) or some formation gathering, where I was introduced to this calm and composed second lieutenant Piffer from a FF regiment, as the younger brother of my ideal my hero, Major Shabbir Sharif Shaheed, Nishan e Haider aka ‘Fateha e Saboona’ (the conqueror of Saboona). I was a happy go lucky young jovial captain, years senior to him, who would love to be in the likeminded company but somehow the other developed an enormous respect for the youngster; perhaps he was my hero’s younger brother, that’s why? Ever since then, never heard about him and never met him again. While serving in ISPR, I said farewell to arms in 1994 and that was all about. I even forgot the name until in 2013, after a tumble of almost 36 years I heard this name again, when he was appointed as the fifteenth army chief. The only relation I had with him was of khaki; nevertheless, having knowledge of his lineage, his appointment gave me immense pleasure.

A Ravian, who graduated from Pakistan Military Academy and after commanding the fighting formations at all levels, reached at the helm. In next to no time the General, through his allegiance, professionalism and love for Pakistan, earned great reverence from every nook and corner of the country and soon the ruling political elite was found stressed out and nervous. Mian Nawaz Sharif having an old tendency of locking-on horns with every army chief of his every term, tried to trap him in, too, during PTI’s famous ‘Dharna’ days, however, it was levelheaded Raheel Sharif who, without making it an ego issue, very tactfully thinned-out the Army from the ‘Abetting Dharna’ controversy.

General Raheel Sharif led every combat from the front, may it was Zarb e Azb, Karachi Cleaning Operation or APS Peshawar carnage. At every occasion, the jawans found him amongst them. On joyful occasions like Eid or Independence Day when the political class would spend days with their friends and families, the public read about his spending nights at the forward locations with the troops. At many critical junctures he emerged as a polished diplomat; more of a national leader than an army chief. During his innumerable visits abroad he was given more respect and protocol by the respective states and their heads than given to any Pakistani politician. Lately, his contribution towards toning down the escalated tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran will always be remembered.

Such events were bringing Raheel Sharif more and more into limelight and his popularity graph was on rise by day and night. Certainly it was worrisome for the anti-state elements who were feeling the heat of the army operations against the terrorism of all kinds; militancy as well as economic terrorism. There were a few political sections also who were feeling uneasy, hence planned to draw another campaign against the upright General and entangled him in controversies web. A circuitous gossip was initiated at diverging forums and levels in media, public and at social hangouts, about his intentions to seek the extension in service. The beauty of the campaign was that these “Well Wishers” were holding both the ends; suggesting and supporting the idea of extension in term and then criticising and countering it strongly as well. They ultimately brought the issue to a level where the military quarters had to clarify the matter in unambiguous words. Hence, the DG ISPR Lt General Asim Salim Bajwa had to keep this clarification atop his list; ‘things to do during the week’ and started his Monday with a statement quoting the COAS General Raheel Sharif as saying that the Pakistan Army is a great institution and he did not believe in an extension and would retire on the due date. He in fact also termed this speculation as absolutely baseless.

The most irksome and thought provoking point is that even if the General was not interested or as we know about the impassive and unreadable soldier that he would be the last soul who would show some interest for personal gains then why did he feel the obligation to elucidate this baseless political ‘Lunger-Gup’ (gossip)? I doffed khaki at a rank where the tactical plans are taught and practiced, however, General Raheel excelled beyond that and have studied, planned and practiced the strategic designs and plans. Its beyond any distrust that after graduating from the Command & Staff College Quetta and attending the prestigious Institutions like Bundeswehr University of Munich, Command & Staff College of the Canadian Army and the Royal College of Defense Studies, he would have disregarded the significance of element ‘Surprise’ while approving the statement! There is a famous saying that ‘For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible’. The nation, the armed forces and the diehard patriots knew that what General Raheel’s intentions were hence needed no proof. Only those were agitated who were facing the heat of actions, by any way or mean. In their case the phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know, and what you don’t know can be a disaster” was very valid and pertinent.

Everyone has keenly observed that how much jubilant and excited every single clown of the ‘Political Circus’ is and how childishly they all are behaving. Isn’t it time to ask them that the extension in term or tenure is not applicable to the armed forces only? What about those ‘Leeches’ who are sticking to the nation for tenure after tenure? Is the trait ‘moral courage’ meant for the army chief only? Why former president and co-chairman PPP, Asif Ali Zardari before lauding army chief’s decision about not to take an extension in his tenure, forgot that once he gave one to the current Chief’s predecessor?  Why the others who are dancing and beating the drum have not thought about practicing the same in their own political parties, right away? A soldier knows very well that the change of command in the middle of a campaign means debacle, hence, either the command remains unchanged until the mission is accomplished or time & space are reworked to achieve it within the available period.

I read it somewhere long ago and can’t resist from quoting it: “Surprise, when it happens to a government, is likely to be a complicated, diffused, bureaucratic thing. Surprise and deception are not only integral, enduring elements of diplomacy and warfare. They are also a basic and recurring part of everyday life: we constantly fail to anticipate events; frequently, we spring traps; more often, we fall into them. And always we promise to learn from experience and do better next time”.

I am personally, very strongly in favour of General’s decision about not taking extension. That’s what a soldier is expected to do. Nevertheless, I sturdily differ with his choice of time to pronounce it. He volunteered to sail ‘The Ship’ and can’t leave the sinking titanic merely because it’s time to call it a day. As far as the political gurus are concerned, I dare to remind them an old saying that, “If the situation is crystal clear, and everything you see fits your expectations, hopes and plans, you are probably being deceived”.  It’s time for them to concentrate on completing the national agenda instead of showing jubilance over class teacher’s departing.



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