Editorial: Appointment of army chief

WEB DESK: One thing is settled now: General Raheel Sharif will retire on due date that is November 29 and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will appoint the new army chief.

He will also appoint new Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in place of General Rashad Mahmood who too would be retiring the same day. Under the Constitution, it is the sole prerogative of the prime minister to select the new chief from a list of four or five eligible Lieutenants-General prepared by the Ministry of Defence, possibly in consultation with the outgoing army chief.

But given the fact that army is the country’s most independent and powerful institution and the person expected to command the world’s fifth largest army should perfectly fit the bill of due merit and seniority the exercise is not as simple as it seems to be – even for a prime minister of Nawaz Sharif’s experience.

And more so, from the point of view of the legacy of quality leadership that is being handed down by General Raheel Sharif, the tenacity of unfinished agenda of war against terrorism and the threats of aggression looming on national borders. Perhaps, the nomination of succeeding Chief of Staff should have been announced a few weeks earlier as has been the norm but that is not Nawaz Sharif’s way of doing things.

Undoubtedly, General Raheel has been the most popular army chief, whom many wanted ‘not to go’, who ignored many a call and antic to displace an elected government and who hermitically shunned politicking, that is the outgoing army chief and his sense of professionalism. No question it was General Raheel Sharif’s apolitical outlook towards an otherwise not very stellar performance of his civilian partners, which has helped democracy strike deeper roots in Pakistan.

Any soldier who rises to the rank of Corps Commander is fit to lead the Army, but only one of the eligibles can be appointed as Chief of Army Staff. As to what would distinguish him from the rest is going to be quality of his leadership and nature of response to the challenges he would run into in his new position. Unlike the past many years when an army chief would not take long to begin nurturing perceptions and perspectives that did not sit well with the civilian administration General Raheel Sharif didn’t let that happen. It was his very cogent, persuasive argumentation that always won him the support of the government.

Such a harmonious equation between the khaki and the civvies should remain in place, one is optimistic. Undeniably, given the enormity of challenges confronting Pakistan today, there is no option but to keep intact the existing seemingly harmonious friction-free equation. How alarming these challenges are a lot of work is already cut out for the new army chief.

First and foremost, there is this tension-ridden situation on the borders, with India showing its growing belligerence. May be, as many believe, it is shadow play to divert world attention from the uprising in Held Kashmir, but even then Pakistan cannot afford to be complacent and lower its guard. The second challenge is terrorism, which has of course lost much of its bite but one never knows, given reports of baton being passed on to the so-called Islamic State in this region.

The question on whether Karachi, the country’s economic hub and a city of over 20 million people, will retain its relative calm and tranquillity acquired during General Raheel’s tenure: requires the most plausible answer from General Raheel’s successor. Keeping the China Pakistan Economic Corridor safe and secure is yet another responsibility. All of them are indeed daunting challenges, but we are confident the new chief would confront them determinedly and resolutely.

Source: Business Recorder