Gen Sharif’s exit may be good for democracy – but bad for stability: WP

ISLAMABAD – Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif announced on Monday that he will step down as the army chief when his term expires in November, a positive step for democracy but bad for battle against militants, American daily newspaper The Washington Post reported in a report.

the report said the most powerful and popular man in Pakistan – Gen Raheel Sharif – announcement about retirement is a positive step for Pakistan’s historically unstable democracy but one that creates new uncertainty about the battle against militants.

Gen Raheel – who pushed Pakistan onto a war footing against the Taliban and is credited for a steep decline in terrorist attacks – made his announcement on Twitter. “I don’t believe in extensions and will retire on due date,” he said through his chief spokesman, Lt Gen Asim Bajwa. He added that the fight against “terrorism will continue with full vigor and resolve.”

Sharif’s announcement could have major implications for Pakistan’s posture toward extremist groups as well as efforts to encourage peace talks between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban insurgency. Raheel Shairf is widely considered to be a dominant voice in Pakistan’s efforts to nudge the Afghan Taliban into formal talks with Kabul.

Under Pakistan’s constitution, army chiefs hold the post for three years but are eligible for extensions. Sharif’s predecessor – Gen (r) Ashfaq Kayani  -served for six years. But Kayani’s extension was controversial in a country that has been under military rule for about half of its 68-year history.

“Thank you Raheel Sharif,” one of most prominent and progressive columnists, Cyril Almeida, tweeted after Sharif announced his plans to retire.

After Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif passed over more-senior military leaders to promote Gen Sharif in 2013 — the two are not related — the new army chief pressured the government into supporting a major military operation against the Taliban.

The army chief also coordinated an operation against militants and criminal gangs in unruly Karachi. “General Sharif rightly conceived that the war on terror needed to be fought from the front,” said Nazir Mohmand – a retired army brigadier.

Over the past year – those operations are credited with a major decline in violence. A death from terrorist attacks dropped by nearly 50 per cent and 2015 was the safest year in Pakistan since 2006, according to data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

With Pakistan’s economy also improving as security concerns have eased, Gen Sharif’s popularity soared. He had an 83 per cent approval rating in a poll issued in October by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency. But there have been moments of tension and controversy during his tenure.

In his first year as prime minister, Nawaz Sharif called for rapprochement with Pakistan’s archenemy, India. Many analysts suspect that call unsettled the Pakistani military, causing it to fan anti-government demonstrations in Islamabad in 2014.

Amid speculation that a coup was imminent, Gen Sharif visited the prime minister. According to an account of that meeting by the Reuters news agency, he told the prime minister there would be no coup so long as the military kept full control over Pakistan’s foreign policy. Since then, both Sharifs have worked to play down any tension between the military and the civilian government.


NEO Monitoring Report

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