Just weeks before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif got elected, an Indian television anchor Karan Thapar asked him if he would give General Parvez Kayani another extension. Nawaz Sharif’s response was categorical, “Whoever is the senior-most will have to occupy the seat.” However when it came to appointing the new chief the Prime Minister has done it a little differently. The senior-most was ignored. So now we have general Sharif as Pakistan’s new chief, replacing General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan’s longest serving army chief of a civilian era.

Meanwhile with the Prime Minister having given his approval for Justice Tassaduq Jillani as the new Chief Justice of Pakistan to succeed the present CJP who retires on December 12, it’s a moment of celebration for us Pakistanis. Having weathered endless political storms including several military coups, finally in 2013 at age 66 Pakistan completes its 1st ever democratic transition involving changeover in all key posts according to the Constitution.

Nawaz’s experience with several army chiefs has not been less than action-packed. He fired one, vicious propaganda floated against then Prime Minister Sharif in a section of the media when the serving chief died of heart attack and the two chiefs he appointed sent him packing. General Musharraf, his 1998 choice first heaped the disastrous Kargil adventure on Pakistan. Subsequently he sent Nawaz Sharif to jail, when Sharif dismissed the airborne chief. It all reads like a story of intrigue and adolescent blunders. That’s what it has been like. Unfortunately at very high cost to Pakistani State, society and to much else. With Pakistan’s control having alternated from military dictators to erring elected leaders and back, the business of State has been a bit of an alien fact for us.

Chief Sharif comes with experience in command, instruction and training, but perhaps with none reportedly in counter-insurgency, currently Pakistan’s core security requirement. The last post he held was Inspector-General Training and Evaluation in the GHQ, important but not a post from which traditionally generals have become chiefs. But then in 1999 too Sharif has picked a general from the Engineering Corps to become Army chief-although for only a couple of hours.

The new army chief general Sharif, the PM’s namesake is not related to him but is known to the Sharif family and has served under PML parliamentarian and minister, the former general Qadir Baloch.

Meanwhile coup-making is now likely a business of the past. Predictions on power-matters maybe fool’s play but all developments inevitably flow from a context-bound dynamic. In Pakistan, with growing fault-lines, deepening insecurity, men in uniform will be forced by circumstances to stay the Constitutional path. Hence the chances of the army chief, as the future man on the horseback, are now greatly reduced.  Also no less the national consensus against military coups is getting stronger requiring men in khaki to stay within the barracks.

However in the security realm, the army leadership still remains a relevant player. The questions therefore around the eligibility of the new army chief, beyond of course being professionally competent, are also be about how willing is he to align the orientation of the institution he leads, with the elected government’s policies on key security areas.

For decades they have called the shots, taken key foreign policy and security decisions on Afghanistan, India and the US. Hence to implement its own policies in any of these areas, an elected government needs the army as willing players. And the Prime Minister remains conscious of this fact.

In the days ahead there will be three key security and foreign policy areas on which the new army chief will be tested for his Constitutionally-required backing and assistance to elected authority. One, the fight against terrorism and linked to that, the army’s distancing from the militant groups. Both are work-in-progress with the previous chief having tried to deal with these issues in a gradualist mode. Beyond vague dialogue talk and heightened anti-American rhetoric, decisions need to be taken on confronting militants in a consequential way, including hitting at their bases. How the new chief uses the experienced counter-insurgency men like general Tariq Khan in his team will likely determine how effectively can the Pakistan army incapacitate the terrorist outfits.

Also on the related and key issue of US’s unilateral drone attacks in which 1500 plus innocents Pakistani civilians and 35plus well known terrorists were killed, it’s time to clear the web of huge contradictions that official Pakistan itself has woven over the years. A huge segment of public opinion has being mobilized against them by Imran Khan, the PTI Leader. On November 26th PTI has named CIA’s Pakistan station chief in an FIR registered for the Hangu drone attacks which left 8 people dead. Pakistan army that had earlier, itself sought US drone support to target militants, is now being forced to review its militant position. It looks to the civilian for direction.

Two, how to inter-face with India, an area where troubles do not seem to end with the LOC on the boil and yet the elected Prime Minister remaining committed to enhancing ties with India. Very recently the Prime Minister called for visa-free travel.

Three, how does Pakistan proceed in Afghanistan both on the political reconciliation and the transition beyond 2014. Again Prime Minister Sharif is clear that trust building with Kabul, irrespective of who sits there, is in Pakistan’s interest.

During the last weeks the PM himself has led the Pakistan effort to improve trust level with Kabul. He has effectively moved away from Pakistan’s earlier policy of Afghanistan Taliban as Pakistan’s assets. In the last few weeks the PM had long sessions with the military leadership to bring them on board. The PM leaves later this week for Kabul. Clearly he will take Pakistan’s new military chief along.

Nawaz has a plan for course correction of Pakistan’s security policies. He is reportedly confident that his new chief, who he picked from number 3, in seniority, will embrace the policy that the country’s elected Chief Executive proposes.

Having set up the institutional framework for comprehensive consultations and policy making the Cabinet Committee on National Security  and Foreign policy, the Prime Minister believes he will oversee the policy-making and policy execution process and avoid any independent moves by the military leadership.

Finally with constitutional changeovers in all the powerful positions, we can look forward to more stable times. Yet of course what will determine stability - specifically relative accord within Pakistani society and the responsible performance of the government and State, is how wisely constitutional authority is exercised to effectively address people’s basic needs including physical security and tackle the issue.