Pakistan’s most powerful man, army chief Raheel Sharif, who is credited with being the architect of the country’s counterterrorism drive, has said that he would step down at the end of his three-year term in November, the military’s public relations wing said.
If he retires, he would be the first army chief since 1998 who is not extending his tenure.
Gen. Raheel Sharif. nation
“I don’t believe in extension and will retire on the due date,” he said as quoted by a military spokesman in a tweet.
Gen. Sharif became the Pakistani army chief on November 29, 2013, and will retire on November 30, 2016, after completing three years in office.
His statement will now pave the way for the Pakistani government to look for his successor who will take up the job from him in November.
President of Pakistan appoints the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) based on the recommendation of the Prime Minister for a period of three years.
His confirmation of leaving the office on retirement, will quash the debate on the government giving him an extension and whether he should accept it. Surprisingly, it would be unusual for an army chief to confirm so early about his retirement.
The position of army chief in Pakistan is closely watched by its neighbours and other countries, as the country is dominated by its military, which has periodically staged coups and exercised decisive influence over policy.
According to politicians and analysts, his retirement on time would raise questions about the future of the country’s battle with terrorism. Gen. Sharif is credited with turning the tide against the Pakistani Taliban and has often overshadowed the country’s elected leader, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, for improving the country’s security situation and some foreign-policy initiatives.
Gen Raheel Sharif with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.thewire.in
Imran Khan’s party, the Tehreek-e-Insaf Pakistan (PTI) has said that it would support an extension being granted to Raheel Sharif. Influential writers too have made efforts to build public sentiment in favor of an extension.
He had an 83 percent approval rating in a poll issued in October by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency. Gen. Sharif also appeared to have good relations with the Obama administration as well as U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan.
Security experts say the announcement of his retirement is significant since the army chief enjoys vast powers and more or less dictates foreign, defence and security policy. The overall environment in Pakistan is dominated by an endless tussle for supremacy between the civilian and military rulers. And civil-military relations are precarious even in the best of times in Pakistan.
The general comes from an illustrious military family that has produced many war heroes. His brother, Shabbir Sharif, received two of the country’s highest military awards after he was killed during the 1971 India-Pakistan war.
Clearly, the departure of the popular army chief could usher in a new period of unease in Pakistan, as the country looks to the army for stability and security.