“Democracy is based upon the

conviction that there are

extraordinary possibilities in

ordinary people.”

–Harry Emerson

It seems that many Pakistanis have no conviction that democracy has come to stay and that the present day political scene will not allow any more experiments in Pakistan. Speculation remained ripe about the possibilities that existed for Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and as his retirement date came near several speculatory and uncalled for stories emerged in the print media and also became a hot topic for various TV channels. Normally heads of the military are assigned postings which have defined tenures and the process continues without much hassle in most of the countries in the world.

However, in this country long periods of military rule have made the rulers jittery and leave the people confused whenever there is a change in command of the Pakistan Army. The political leadership has not matured enough to treat this change in command as a normal routine event but have instead created an atmosphere that leads to suspense and ultimately suspicion. Today the situation is no different because the unnecessary delay in the announcement of the next chief of the army staff and the joint chief of staff committee has created an atmosphere where rumor mongering and speculation seem to have overtaken the entire country, which otherwise should have been a routine matter. While there is no doubt that military commanders are adjusted according to their capabilities and experience to extract productive work out of these gentlemen once they are out of uniform. However, in this country there seems to be no set pattern and either the talent of retired army men is wasted or they are given positions that are not relevant to the expertise that they have.

In the present case, the government has decided to appoint both joint chief of staff committee and the chief of the army staff on the same day sometime next month. This means that speculation and perhaps lobbying for these two important slots will continue that could have an adverse effect on merit which has created problems in the past. Reports have suggested that already lobbying for these two prestigious posts has started. Besides the political leadership of the ruling PML-N party, men in uniform have also been reported to be hobnobbing with the politicians. This trend should have been discouraged long ago and a system put in place that would allow a nearly automatic selection for these two important posts. While there is no dearth of good soldiers in the Pakistan Army, it is both desirable and proper if merit is applied at all stages which would in the long run strengthen not only the institution of democracy but also provide more faith to the military in the country’s democratic institution.

In this country, there are several examples where one pillar of the state has encroached on the constitutional obligation and duties of another, which ultimately led to military intervention plunging the country into long periods of dictatorial rule. While the present retiring general, who has nearly completed two tenures as chief of the army staff and has at the same time productively contributed in Pakistan’s effort in the war against terrorism it was not entirely proper when some elements tried to create an impression that General Kayani was after another extension. A notion that was snubbed by the General who made a categorical statement that he would retire after the completion of his present tenure. One expects that since Mian Nawaz Sharif will have the support of the opposition on this issue he will make a proper choice and select a general not only for his professionalism and seniority but also for his known commitment to go whole hog after all those elements who were engaged in acts of terrorism, sectarianism and were responsible for acts of subversion and sabotage in this country. It would also be in the fitness of things if a thinking general took over the reins of the military that would make the work of the Pakistan Army easier, effective and more efficient.

In the coming days when the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan there are reasons to believe that the militants would try to create more mischief for this country. Therefore the new leadership of the Pakistan army would be required to create conditions that can allow the jawans and officers of the Pakistan armed forces to inflict crushing blows on those who have evil designs on our motherland. It is therefore expected that the Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif will not be influenced by any type of lobbying or short term advantage and he will be able to create a situation where the Pakistan army and the political leadership of this country remains on the same page for a foreseeable future.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.