Question of Gen Raheel’s extension crops up again

Tension with India

LAHORE - At a time when tension between Pakistan and India is at its peak, should a new Army Chief be inducted in place of General Raheel Sharif? Or, should he be allowed to stay on for some time as mid-stream change of top military commanders is not advisable by some war strategists.

Major political parties are not willing to express their opinions on the subject. However, ex-military commanders think that General Raheel should be allowed to hold the command and a special arrangement should be worked out to save the interests of the senior generals who could be affected by the extension in his service.

Senior PML-N leader Raja Zafarul Haq, when reached for comment, said, “It is the prerogative of the prime minister to take a decision about it.” He said the PM has two major things before him: one is the prevailing extraordinary situation and the other is army chief’s public commitment about not seeking extension.

“The prime minister will make an announcement on the matter at an appropriate time,” he added.

PPP spokesman Farhat Ullah Babar giving his party’s take on the issue said, “I don’t want to comment on this issue even under unusual circumstances.”

The response of another PPP leader, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira, to this particular question was even briefer, “No comments!”

When reminded that his party’s government had given extension to General Ashfaq Kiyani for continuity in counter-terror operations, he said, the decision didn’t prove good for the ex-army chief as General Kiyani’s image was tarnished.

“The sitting COAS (has) earned a reputation for him and the institution because of his actions on various fronts and I think he would not accept an offer of extension even under extraordinary situation,” he added.

PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi talking to the paper on the issue said, “Though it is the sole authority of the prime minister to select a new army chief or grant extension to an incumbent, he can consult the opposition if he deems it fit.”

“The prime minister however is not bound by any law and Constitution to take the input of the Opposition on the matter,” he added.

Ex-commander I Strike Corps Mangla, Lieutenant General (r) Ghulam Mustafa giving his expert opinion on the matter said, “It is not advisable to make any change in top military leadership when India is looking for an opportunity to go on an adventure against Pakistan in the name of Uri attack.”

“The prime minister and his government, if they act wisely, should give service extension to the COAS. To minimise its affect on the next two senior lieutenant generals, who have to become army chief and chief of joint staff committee, one of them can be appointed as vice chief of army staff and the other as joint staff committee chief,” he proposed.

But going by the things on ground, General Mustafa said, he does not think the PM would extend General Raheel’s service considering the prevailing situation.

Giving a befitting reply to any Indian adventure would be a national effort in which the armed forces, the political leadership and the entire nation must be on one page, he said.

Regretfully the actions of the ruling elite give a clear impression that they are not on the same page with the military leadership, though the entire nation is behind the armed forces to counter the enemy, General Mustafa observed.

Another military commander, Brigadier (r) Ghanzanfar, who headed ISI and MI in Punjab, said, “In the current situation the top military command should be allowed to continue. Extraordinary situation demands extraordinary measures.” COAS General Raheel Sharif and his team has made classic mobilisation that has stricken fear in the heart of the enemies supported by India and India herself whose forces are sitting on LoC and elsewhere on border with Pakistan, he said.

The Indians military strategists conceive General Raheel as the master commander while devising war plans against Pakistan. Even an announcement regarding a new COAS would give a propaganda opportunity to the enemy.

No harm would come to the system if the top military commander is given one year extension in service in these difficult times, he proposed.

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