General Raheel Sharif & The Future Of Pakistan

Since Pakistan’s independence from Britain, one of the more authoritative posts in the state has been the General of the Armed Forces. The country, which boasts the sixth largest army in the world, that has historically staged frequent coups d’état against their democratically elected governments. The military, “unassailable authority” over the nation has waned in recent years, but is still “revered” by most of the nations citizens.

Ashfaq Kayani, General of the Pakistani army since November 2007, ceded power to moderate General Raheel Sharif. Kayani resigned following a “tumultuous six-year stint.” Sharif has been characterized by the media as a “blue-blooded and down-to-earth soldier.”

Sharif gained supremacy over the military, but also the internal security crisis that’s currently facing the politically unstable Islamic of 180 million people.

4,000 people attended the commencement ceremony to praise the occasion. The ceremony was praised for the seemingly “democratic” exchange of power.

Escalating tension with neighboring India over the contested Kashmir region marred the event. The projected 2014 United States military withdrawal from Pakistan’s war-torn and volatile neighbor Afghanistan is also a critical issue facing the new general.

Kayani began implementing new militaristic protocols that attempted to reposition some of the military’s focus away from the supposed danger from neighboring India. His directives were made in an attempt to address internal threat of Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan’s faction of the Taliban.

Officials have stated Gen. Sharif plans to continue this policy. He has been seen as the one of the primary voices that helped convince Pakistani officials to concentrate their efforts to address the Taliban security threat. The policy was enacted to suppress Taliban power in the Federal Administered Tribal Regions, and help curb hostility with their regional rival India.

A stable government has been a principal concern for the inhabitants of Pakistan. Kayani was praised for breaking a cycle of political upheavals by not overthrowing the government. Other’s have argued that following years of coup d’états, the leading members of the armed forces believed a allowing the development of democracy was in their best interest for the time being.

Numerous onlookers have questioned whether “country” was “safer” after his administration.  These concerns are justifiable. BBC reported in March that the Taliban’s strength had substantially grown in recent years, broadening outside their typical strongholds of impoverished north-west Pakistan. Taliban has slowly gained a slight power in the “commercial capital” of Karachi. They typically established supremacy in impoverished regions that had “little or no infrastructure for health, education” or “civic amenities.”

Democratically leaders in Pakistan characteristically try to appease to the military. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s decision was strenuous, taking into consideration his last term as Prime Minister in the 1990’s. His term ended with General Pervez Musharraf overthrowing his government.

Sharif, who assumed office June 5, chose to keep in line with “tradition” when choosing Kayani’s replacement. He took into consideration Sharif’s family military history and “experience.”

Sharif ignored Kayani’s recommendation of General Rashad Mahmood, placing him as head of the joints chiefs, a position “subordinate to the army chief.” It was an audacious move for a nation whose government heavily influenced by its military.

Countess challenges face Sharif. Many are optimistic that Pakistan can address its security and stability concerns. Pakistan has shown improvements, but a united partnership between the military and elected officials is the only way they can truly affect change. Perhaps the dismal reality of the situation will convince them to make an effort to cooperate.

– Joseph Abay
Sources: BBC 1, 2, 3, The News International, NY Times, Geo TV, India Today
Photo: Jasarat