Source: The Citizen
Will Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif retire as scheduled in November, or seek a second term in office? This is a major question in both India and Pakistan, as while General Sharif has announced that he will not seek a second term, his soaring popularity amongst all sections of Pakistanis could well encourage Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to insist that he stay on in office. More so at a time when Afghanistan is increasingly troubled, and Balochistan has been added to the Indian agenda against Pakistan by the current dispensation.
By all accounts General Sharif should have been more unpopular than former Army Chief and President General Pervez Musharraf whose military operation on Lal Masjid in Islamabad actually dug what can euphemistically be called his grave. Sharif has conducted Operation Zarb-i-Azb, a ruthless military offensive against militants and extremists in Pakistan. He has also cracked down on criminal gangs in Karachi, bringing some relief to the violence torn city. These two military operations, conducted without political statements or eyeballs, has added to the General’s popularity in his country with a well known Pakistani academic telling this reporter earlier, “he is seen as having restored the professionalism of the Army.”
The social media has often been flooded with demands that General Sharif continue in office. Earlier this year, following the adulatory messages, the Army Chief’s spokeperson General Asim Bajwa tweeted, “speculations about extension in service of COAS are baseless. COAS said, “Pakistan Army is a great institution. I don’t believe in extension and will retire on the due date. Efforts to route out terrorism will continue with full vigor and resolve.”