C. Raja Mohan
Government has rarely won the battle against the army in Pakistan. Delhi must be prepared to signal its support to civilian rule.
An official announcement from the Pakistan Army on Monday that General Raheel Sharif has begun his farewell calls before his pending retirement next Tuesday has brought an extended drama to a close. Some in Delhi might keep their fingers crossed and wait to see if there are additional twists to this tale. For months now there has been speculation about a possible second term of three years for the army chief. There was visible public pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to extend his tenure.
Pakistan’s prime ministers have the formal right to “appoint” army chiefs, but did not seem to enjoy the power to “terminate” their services. Having risked a lot during his earlier tenure to affirm the right to hire and fire the army chiefs, PM Sharif has refrained from rushing into a decision that could cost him his current office. When he boldly replaced General Pervez Musharraf in October 1999 after the failed Kargil putsch by the army chief in the summer of that year, PM Sharif found himself in a prison and then a near-decade-long exile in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Given that background, it is quite remarkable that PM Sharif avoided giving an extension to General Sharif.