With the retirement date of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif approaching, ambiguity and uncertainty is growing. So far there has been no announcement from the government regarding the situation, however earlier this year in January Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Lieutenant-General Asim Bajwa had rubbished rumours regarding an extension in General Raheel Sharif’s tenure as Chief of Army Staff, quoting the Army chief as saying he will “retire on the due date” in November this year.
The situation has changed considerably from that in January and there has been growing demand and talk in many circles that the Army Chief could be offered an extension considering his vital role in the war against terrorism. The demand is significantly vociferous among the general public; General Raheel Sharif is seen by the majority of Pakistanis as someone who can purge the country from the menace of terrorism once and for all. There’s also the curious case of ‘mysterious banners’ appearing in various parts of the country in favor of General Raheel with some pleading him to extend his stand as the Army Chief and some with other ‘requests’. The latest case of these banners/posters happened the other day as banners emerged in Rawalpindi asking the government and parliamentarians to amend the law allowing the General to contest the general elections 2018 and become the prime minister. In July this year, the Move on Pakistan party displayed banners in 13 cities across the country urging Gen Raheel to impose martial law in the country and form a government of technocrats. The government had removed all the banners and registered a case against office-bearers of the party at that time.
General Raheel Sharif has also been instrumental in pushing the government to act against the militant groups operating on the mainland, though he is yet to be fully successful in his efforts. It may also be mentioned here that even though there is no denying General Raheel Sharif’s role as a leader, but it is the military as an institution that has made possible the success in the fight against terrorism. His predecessors who led operations in Swat, South Waziristan and other tribal areas also played a key role in the fight against terrorism.
Some media outlets have recently reported that a one-year extension for the Army Chief is under consideration, but there has been no confirmation or denial from the government in this regard. Considering the current situation the Prime Minister should move quickly to quash speculation and clear the air, whether it plans on offering an extension to General Raheel or wants to appoint a new Army Chief from among Lt-Gen Zubair Hayat, Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed, Lt-Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday and Lt-Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa (the four senior most General’s who fulfill the prerequisites of becoming the Army Chief). The announcement regarding the military’s top command will quell the increasing rumours of what might happen; uncertainty is the last thing the country needs at this moment.
With complete silence from the government; the rumour mills are in overdrive regarding the situation.