In Pakistan’s history apparently no military chief was as non-controversial as Gen. Raheel Sharif. He successfully carried on the legacy of the family he belongs to; the rare distinction of two Nishan-e-Haidar medals in one proud family. Yet will his legacy be as successfully viewed as it now seems?
No one denies that he did justice to the post during three years’ term of his service between 2013-16. Having recorded his name among the top ranking generals of the world during 2014, he then proved himself as a great strategist when he destroyed the terrorist networks spread across the country.
As the mastermind and executioner of operation ”Zarb-e-Azb”, he led a successful strategy against the homegrown terrorism and terrorist networks who were working in coordination to challenge the writ of the Pakistani state.
General (R) Raheel Sharif at the World Economic Forum in Davos. pic.twitter.com/EQSv7SB9IM
— Pakistan Defence (@defencepk) January 17, 2017
Soon after assuming his charge as Army Chief, he announced a comprehensive plan of action against the terrorist groups inside Pakistan and their masters in Afghanistan. Zarb-e-Azb vowed to eradicate even the smallest of the factions that posed any threat to the peace and stability of Pakistan. Operation consumed billions in financial costs and thousands died across the country; but these costs and sacrifices were considered necessary to rid country of the scourge of endless terrorism.
But, the mind-shattering tragedy of APS attack in late 2014, the heinous targeting of Shia and Hazara communities and continuous episodes of bloodshed in Quetta raise difficult questions regarding the outcomes of an operation that claims to have disrupted the terrorist networks.
One wonders how different groups continued to execute such well-coordinated attacks despite the strict “catch and kill” policy of Zarb-e-Azb?.
Perhaps several aspects of terrorism were ignored in crafting a purely military response. Firstly, the ideology that breeds extremist culture – was not kept in focus; more well thought out plans were needed to eradicate this ideology. It is similar to the case of a factory that produces contagious products harmful to the environment. If only prepared material is disposed and the system that was creating it doesn’t stop, it will only consume time and energy because the actual production point is still there.
the ideology that breeds extremist culture – was not kept in focus; more well thought out plans were needed to eradicate this ideology.
So, unless the cause, which breeds terrorism is not addressed, it will only be a short-term solution to an issue that is deeply penetrated; an issue that has shaken the root of our society.
No doubt, there was an immediate need to lower the intensity of the terrorist activities across the country, and it needed a broad consensus. Gen. Raheel successfully pushed all political parties on a single platform, of an All Party Conference (APC) immediately after the gruesome attacks against innocent school children at Army Public School, Peshawar.
This APC was an extension of the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) of Pakistan. It was a rare opportunity of cutting all sorts of moral and political support that terrorists, may have been getting from political or religious parties. It was encouraging that this grand APC, the most successful of all such assemblies, mentioned “Madrassa reforms” but unfortunately not a single madrassa syllabus has been revised so far. If we credit Gen. Sharif for all the successes, then who should we blame for this glaring failure?
The state of political turmoil throughout the year 2014?
Is it too difficult to understand why Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) staged a long march in the capital city for months? Why were they asking for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef on the allegations regarding Model Town killings and election rigging?
The basic question is why so many people were on the roads? What circumstances forced them to raise these unusual demands? The answer is simple. It was a state of utter lawlessness in which no one actually responsible for the killings in Model Town was brought to justice. Fourteen unarmed workers of a political party were brutally killed and 90 others, were injured, shot by Punjab police in broad daylight. These victims await justice to this day.
Two words that sum up the story in public minds. What was being achieved by openly maligning state security institutions for the failures where lack of political will was responsible? There is apparently a formal inquiry going on for the past several weeks, but no one has been charged? Will some one be brought to trial? Will some one be punished? Is this all that difficult for a state apparatus to expose who was behind all this?
Since Gen. Sharif, as Army Chief, had vowed to serve national cause it is only natural to expect that he should have pursued the issues to their logical end? Many political groups holding honorable offices provide support and verbal approval of the terrorist activities. The termite of terrorism cannot be eradicated unless the roots are cut down.
Since Gen. Sharif, as Army Chief, had vowed to serve national cause it is only natural to expect that he should have pursued the issues to their logical end?
If the model town case, which challenges the image of Pakistan internationally, was dealt by the military courts under Terrorism Act then the public fears of an anarchic state would have been cured. Lastly, if the masterminds of Dawn leaks were exposed it would have provided an answer to all the questions asked today by a wary public.
I fear that, in the days to come, Gen. Sharif, would regret that he did not fully pursue the issues. He may witness a resumption of terrorist networks and a much more autocratic style of “Nawaz-Shahbaz democracy” Despite all the good, Gen. Sharif may have done during his tenure, the unaddressed issues he left will have grave implications. This may affect his legacy in the long run.
Jaweria Waheed is Member of the Editorial Board for a magazine ‘Voice of Students’ and has been a blogger with both media organizations ARY News & Dunya News, Pakistan. Global Village Space (GVS) may not necessarily agree with her opinions or analysis.