This is an updated version of a piece written earlier in 2016, after Gen. Raheel Sharif announced that he will be retiring in November 2016.
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 thayyaar 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 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).
First the tenure of the Army Chief.
It has been long debated that this should be increased to 4 or 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 this leaves the Chief just one effective year to do his thing.
By increasing the tenure to 4 or 5 years the incumbent now has a longer term perspective and at least two or three solid years to do his thing.
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 “Daak 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! Except of course the legions of staff officers who comprise this glorified, most expensive post office in Pakistan.
In today’s extreme warfare conditions and even under normal circumstances, a nation’s military machine, army, airforce, navy, are all expected to perform in complete harmony and in full alignment. Hence the need for an effective operational and strategic command role which oversees all three services.
Hence all major countries such as the USA and UK, have empowered this role with an operational command responsibility, and with all service chiefs reporting into it and not the country’s chief executive.
In Pakistan, the three service chiefs, while technically reporting to the Minister of Defence, in fact report directly to the PM.
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 4 or 5 years.
2. The Chairman JCSC role be made into an effective operational and strategic “Command” role with all three service chiefs reporting to it and with a 4 or 5 year tenure as well.
3. As Ikram Sehgal, one of Pakistan’s leading defence and geopolitical experts, recommends, The Strategic Plans Division to be converted into a Strategic Command Authority, under a four star serving general, reporting to the empowered Chairman Joint Chief. The SPD, as it stands today, has more personnel than our Airforce and Navy. So a four star command is fully justified.
In the above scenario, one can realistically see Gen. Raheel Sharif being appointed in the new operational command role of the beefed up powerful Chairman JCSC. Another of the current 3 star generals as the COAS and a third to the newly created 4 star, Strategic Command Authority.
All positions with 4 or 5 year tenures.
This is good for our country and especially for the battle worthiness and effective deployment of our armed forces.
And to set any conspiracy theorists at rest. Here’s a full disclosure.
I don’t write anything at anyone’s bidding, including ISPR.
This is not a trial balloon to test the waters for such an eventuality.
Those who know me, know.
Those who don’t, will just have to accept this disclaimer and my word!