An Institutional and sustainable answer to the Gen. Raheel Sharif extension issue.
As the country went into a frenzy of “Will he..Won’t he” the good general in his typical no nonsense soldier style (remember his …cold start ho Ya hot start ho..hum Thayyar haen… speech) gave his view. “No I’m not”.
So while most would agree it is in our national interest that he stays on there is significant divergence on “The Extension”. Clearly institutional strength far outweighs stop gap arrangements tailored to individuals. Our history is replete with such follies. So an extension to him would have added to these long line of follies and its very negative consequences.
Hence is there a solution? I believe there is. For many years there have been discussions about two things related to the Army Chief’s role.
1. The tenure of the Army Chief and the other two Service chiefs. Air Force and Navy.
2. The nature of the role of the 4 star Chairman JCSC Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.
1. First the tenure of the Army Chief. It has been long debated that this should be increased to 5 years. This becomes even more critical and important now given the nature of our internal and external threats and the on going deployment of the army in its active combat roles. From an administrative and governance perspective as is true for all senior leadership roles, especially one as complex as the Army, year 1 is about understanding and year 3 is “lame duck”. Essentially leave the Chief, one effective year to do his thing. By increasing to 5 years he now has a longer term perspective and three solid years to do his thing. Even from a leadership research perspective the minimum a leader needs to be effective and implement effective strategies is 5 years.
2. Now the Chairman JCSC’S role. As it stands today the incumbent though theoretically senior to the three service chiefs is no more than a “Dak Khana” or the “proverbial post office” or a “Coordinating office” between the three services. Army, Airforce and Navy. If this role was taken away tomorrow no one would miss it. In today’s extreme warfare conditions and even under normal circumstances a nation’s military machine is expected to perform in step and in complete harmony. Hence all major countries such as the USA and UK for example have empowered this role with an operational command responsibility with all service chiefs reporting to him and not the Country’s chief Executive. In Pakistan the three service chiefs, while technically reporting report to the Minister of Defence, in fact report to the PM. This role needs to be upgraded with operational and command authority over the three services and re-designated as the Chief of Defence Services, similar to UK and Canada and many other countries.
So what does this all mean in the current context of Gen. Raheel Sharif.
1. The Army Chief’s tenure and those of the Air Force and Navy to be increased to 5 years.
2. The Chairman JCSC role be made into an operational “Command” role and re-designated as the Chief of Defence Services (CDS) with all three service chiefs reporting to him and also with a 5 year tenure.
Gen. Raheel Sharif to be appointed in the new operational command role of the beefed up powerful Chief of Defence Services.
The new Army Chief who will take over will henceforth have a 5 year tenure.
This is good for the military institutions and most importantly, good for the country.
And to set any conspiracy theorists at rest. I dont write anything at anyone’s bidding. Those who know me, know. Those who don’t will have to accept this disclaimer!