ISLAMABAD: Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif has been firm, right from the beginning of his tenure as the army chief, on not getting an extension in service on the grounds that it compromises good governance.
A federal minister confided to this correspondent that in a private gathering during the first year of his tenure, General Raheel said that even otherwise, being a member of a family which is the recipient of two the most prestigious military awards of Nishan-e-Haider, he would never want to be an army chief on an extension.
This was the spontaneous response of General Raheel to a question hurled in a private meeting of his well-wishers held within eight months of his assuming charge as Chief of of Army Staff.
In the said meeting, discussion was focused on the issue of governance and deteriorating standards of different institutions which have eclipsed the overall performance. According to the minister, come what may, General Raheel will never be in the mood of getting any extension in his tenure as he is very sensitive about his career as true soldier. Pakistan’s all institutions are facing a collapse like situation mainly because of the culture of giving extensions to top notches.
With his retirement date approaching on November 29, 2016, a strong campaign has been kicked off asking the Army Chief to move on, and commit questionable and unwanted act.
General Raheel earlier on January 25, 2016 put on hold the growing speculation about an extension in his tenure through a brief statement that paved the way for the government to start considering his successor. In that particular statement of 43 words, General Raheel stated, “I don’t believe in extension and will retire on the due date.” The said statement had virtually quashed the debate on whether or not the government should give him an extension and if he would accept it.
General Raheel became Army Chief on Nov 29, 2013, and is now scheduled to retire on November 30 this year after completing three years in office.
According to one of the General’s close aides, as per the minister, General Raheel never had any intention of getting an extension so he thought of immediately ending all rumours in this regard. He would be the first Army Chief to retire on time in two decades. His predecessors General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and General Pervez Musharraf got extensions, while General Jehangir Karamat was sent home prematurely.
General Sharif used his brief statement to reassure the country that the Army was a strong institution and his departure would not affect the fight against extremism and terrorism.
“Efforts to root out terrorism will continue with full vigour and resolve. Pakistan’s national interest is supreme and will be safeguarded at all costs,” the Army Chief was quoted as having said.
The high point in his tenure was the start of operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in June 2014, something from which his predecessor shied away fearing blowback. The operation is now in its last stages. He is also credited for action against militancy in Karachi and partially restoring calm in the city.
Defence observers believe that General Raheel’s decision would boost the morale of his ranks. They also do not agree that he would be a lame duck chief during the remaining part of his tenure.
– Originally appeared in The News