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Ushering in a new era in Pakistan?

The kind of extensive coverage Pakistani media gave to the change of army command was akin to media madness

Mansoor Jafar

Published: Updated:

These days, Pakistan is undergoing changes in key offices of the country namely the offices of chief of the armed forces and the chief justice of country. These offices have always played a powerful and decisive role in the country’s affairs, in its history and decision making, with far reaching consequences that changed the course of national affairs. These two offices have also confronted political governments, creating constitutional imbroglio on many occasions.

The new Army Chief, General Raheel Shareef has already taken charge of his office in place of outgoing General [retired] Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani. New Chief of Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jilani has also been appointed but he will take charge from the incumbent Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry upon his retirement on Dec. 12 this year.

By the way, General Raheel Sharif is not a relative of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and his sir name “Sharif” is a mere name sake, contrary to media reports and opinions. Though, it is a fact that he has been promoted to the slot by two superseding senior generals. He was chosen, besides several other factors, with the recommendation of former president of Pakistan and a close aide of Nawaz Sharif, Justice (retired) Rafiq Tarar. General Raheel served as military secretary to President Tarar during Nawaz Sharif’s previous regime which was toppled by former Army Chief General [retired] Pervez Musharraf in 1999.

The man himself

Details of General Raheel’s military career have been highlighted by the media, but his personality traits will be found out later. He appears to be a completely apolitical, professional soldier having both a father and mother from families of military officers with top war honors. His maternal uncle, Major Raja Aziz Bhatti and his elder brother Major Shabbir Sharif were awarded with country’s highest military honor “Nishan-e-Haider” for their valiant role and martyrdom in the wars of 1965 and 1971 respectively. His father also served in the army up to the rank of Major and received a high military honor.

The kind of extensive coverage Pakistani media gave to the change of army command was akin to media madness. To me, the driving force behind that unusual coverage was nothing but commercial competition

Mansoor Jafar

Coming of these two apolitical looking gentlemen on two key offices suggests country’s ushering into a new era where the traditional anti-democratic nexus of those offices would come to an end. Both are known as having an aversion to undue interference in politics and media appearance. With such people leading army and judiciary, now the democratic government will have no excuses for failures in future. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s national agenda is quite clear at the moment, as he has time and again desired to put the country back on the track of good governance and progress.

On the internal scene, he wants to end extremism and improve the economy. On the regional scene, he wants to improve relations with India and Afghanistan but without compromising national interests. On the international scene, he wants to end country’s isolation by dispelling the impression of a failed state. And he needs complete support from army chief and the chief justice for achieving those goals.

General Raheel Sharif is yet to face the media and his priorities and approach towards national affairs are unknown. He does not belong to the Special Services Group, commonly known as commandoes, of the armed forces or the sleuth services about whom former Prime Minister Yousuf used the term “state within state.” When General Shareef was the head of Army’s Training and Evaluation wing, he used the term “internal enemies of the state” for terrorists. In the past, the Pakistani army had focused its attention only towards external enemy, India. To counter this threat, past defense policy makers devised the strategy of strategic depth in Afghanistan but present situation calls for new strategies.

Expectations

The new justice chief is expected to continue the pro-democracy role of the outgoing chief justice, but refraining from certain practices of his predecessor that gave the impression of confrontation between Judiciary and the Executive. He is expected to refrain from police-like role in checking corruption and maladministration, or reviewing financial affairs like matters of privatization etc. One of his recent judgments that showed he is against judiciary’s undue interference in the affairs of executive is being seen with much optimism.

The entire tenure of previous regime of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, led by President Asif Zardari, was rocked by continuous activism from the powerful security institutions and the judiciary. But the situation is quite changed now as both these state institutions are willing to support the prime minister for pulling the country out of the present crises. It is expected that General Raheel Sharif will prove to be an iron fist for Tehrik Taliban Pakistan and peace-loving commander for the regional powers and neighbors. Similarly, the new chief justice is also expected to avoid creating a constitutional logjam, the kind his predecessor is known for.

The kind of extensive coverage Pakistani media gave to the change of army command was akin to media madness. To me, the driving force behind that unusual coverage was nothing but commercial competition. Nowhere in the world is the appointment of new army chief played up with thread bare opinions. True, the country has a long history of military coups by army chiefs. But has a new army chief anything to do with political future of the country?

When former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto appointed Ziaul Haq as army chief by superseding six senior generals, he had no plans to topple Bhutto’s government. Similarly, General [retired] Musharraf was not ambitious to become military dictator the day he was chosen to become army chief. It has always been a long list of charges the military dictators declared before dismissing elected governments, and most of them were always true.

Much water has flown below the democracy bridge and military chiefs’ aspirations for political power have also faded away. I want to conclude this column with the famous MBC tag-line “we see hope everywhere.” The Pakistani nation also sees hope everywhere and is waiting to see prosperity take over the reins from poverty.

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Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.