Pak Army chief: Will there be a change of narrative?

A new chapter was heralded in Pakistan’s history on November 29 when, for the first time in two decades, the incumbent Chief of Army Staff relinquished office on the appointed date. Despite best efforts by ousted dictator Pervez Musharraf and an appeal by the Pakistan Supreme Court, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif refused to succumb to pressure and exercised his constitutional power to appoint a new Chief of Army Staff.

It would have been a very difficult decision to make for Sharif because he has not been very lucky in his earlier choices for the same post. While Musharraf overthrew him in a military coup and exiled him, the civil-military balance remained tilted in favour of the latter during the tenure of outgoing COAS, Gen Raheel Sharif. 

Raheel almost made Nawaz a lame duck PM as far as foreign relations and matters military were concerned. Nawaz Sharif’s authority was confined to routine domestic affairs and social development projects. While Nawaz must be heaving a temporary sigh of relief and keeping his fingers crossed, the exit of Raheel Sharif and appointment of Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as his successor has aroused keen interest in India at a time when relations between the two countries are in their worst phase. 

Though in Pakistan the constitutional executive head is the Prime Minister, de-facto control of the nation’s defence and security policies, domestic security, strategic assets and the all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) rests with the army — meaning the COAS. 

Raheel Sharif not only exercised all these powers but also remained in a state of constant conflict with the Nawaz Sharif government leading some to believe that he harboured post-retirement political ambitions. This only time will tell. 

Despite Nawaz Sharif’s attempts to improve relations with India, Raheel Sharif maintained a strong anti-India posture and scuttled all his efforts. After the Panama Gate leaks, Nawaz was forced to toe the army line and give up any hopes he had of improved subcontinental relations. While Raheel Sharif launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb for eliminating terrorism within Pakistan, he continued to support “terrorism” as a low-cost war-fighting doctrine against India. 

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