Friday, September 13, 2013

Choosing Pakistan's next army chief - not a routine affair
Posted:Sep 12, 2013
By Shahzad Chaudhry
Air Vice Marshal (retired), Pakistan Air Force
It is time yet again to select the next army chief in Pakistan. Usually, this should be a pretty routine affair, since a government will choose from among the top four or five generals the most suitable. But in Pakistan, and for Pakistan, it is no ordinary affair. Four of the 14 army chiefs thus far in Pakistan’s history as an independent state have carried out coups against sitting civilian governments and taken over power. That is roughly one third of the deviant generals who have charted this extraordinary aspect of the Pakistani history. But the good work of the remaining two-thirds unfortunately remains eclipsed by such anomalous record. Even more worryingly, when once in power most have found it difficult to shed it, which has accounted for 33 years in all - half of Pakistan’s history.
But then this is too generic in formulation. Yahya Khan, the second army chief to run the state, was bequeathed the government by the first army ruler, Ayub Khan, when he relinquished power. Yahya led the country to perhaps the most credible elections in 1970, a year after he assumed control. The real second military dictator was Zia Ul Haq, who displaced Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, an elected prime minister. And in time proceeded to hang him to death after the courts found him guilty of ordering a murder of a political competitor. His tenure elapsed in 1988. Thereon, civilian governments made some stuttering starts amid an uncertain performance record, especially when a clause within the constitution empowered a president, always a civilian, to cause the overthrow by dissolving the parliament.
Pervez Musharraf’s coup was most anomalous; and an aberration. There simply existed no reason for the army to take over, in terms of a deteriorating political climate or any other compelling consideration. Hence, it also is the most difficult to explain, and perhaps along with Zia’s coup hurt Pakistan the most. Musharraf’s rise to the rank of army chief was also not without the necessary twists and turns. Having been once passed over, he was chosen from down the list of possible candidates for his rather weak social and political antecedents. Rather than choose a chief for his professional competence, the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif chose him for reasons other than professional suitability. Musharraf, to prove his credibility as the right choice chose to undertake adventures such as Kargil and a linked consequence, the overthrow of the Nawaz government.
Has Nawaz learnt? Possibly yes. He has also declared that he will choose his army chief from among the most senior choices, which really means that he should be looking at the first three probable names. These are: Lt Gens Haroon Aslam, Rashad Mahmood and Raheel Sharif. Next in line are Lt Gens Tariq Khan and Zaheerul Islam, the current DG ISI. If the choices for the two senior most appointments are made (Chairman Joint Chiefs too is due for a change before Kayani’s term runs out) from within the first three, little change will be needed in the positions held by various incumbents especially in ISI. That will provide continuity on this important assignment. At other places too the changes will be minimal.
On whether army’s views will change on Nawaz government’s current policies because of a change in the army chief; that is a rather insidious supposition. The army remains a subordinate institution of the government and is sworn to follow the dictates of the constitution and the constitutional directives. To view the work of four deviant generals from among 14 as a pervasive institutional proclivity is frivolous as it is indeed mischievous to quote and assume. The military, especially the army is committed to finding solutions to terror and terror related manifestations that are now the bane of the state and the society. It supports government’s endeavours towards peaceful resolution of problems with India, and it is equally committed to working towards its responsibility to help achieve peace for Afghanistan and within Pakistan. Army, under any chief will stay the course. It will also support and protect all initiatives that protect and enhance Pakistan’s national interests. The government and the military find each other on the same page in every manner on all national issues.
(Shahzad Chaudhry is former Air Vice Marshal, Pakistan Air Force. He can be contacted at           

No comments:

Post a Comment