Even if it was for just three years, we must thank God for blessing Pakistan with General Raheel. During his tenure as the COAS, he shone bright like a super-full moon, rising high above the soulless smog that hangs drearily over our power corridors like a curse. Ensconced in their cushy armchairs, some media pundits are blowing dark mantras over his heroic legacy, trying to obscure his brilliance in round-about ways. They will fail for sure. How can anyone obscure the brilliance of a super-full moon?

Outside the politically correct bubble of donor-driven commentators, reality looms much larger than the smog they spin and blow from their cushy armchairs. Cribbing about what General Raheel should not have done and all that he should have, cannot diminish the significance of what he managed to do. Outside the bubble, most Pakistanis credit General Raheel for giving our country a new and strong lease of life. They remember what it was like before he started setting the house in order. They know who changed the rotten game.

Let there be no doubt about it: It was General Raheel’s sincere leadership that pulled Pakistan back from the edge of the precipice and put it on track. He revived the effectiveness, morale and dignity of his institution, without which we could not have fought the war for our survival being thrust upon us. He propelled our geopolitical realignment away from the US cabal and towards China. He is the one who saved us from the doom that our two-faced friend and ally had designed for us. If it were up to the ‘supreme’ civilian leaders, we would still be following the pied piper.

Who else deserves credit for our successful counter-terrorism operations? The Nawaz government was happy dithering and dialoguing with the terrorists, ceding territory and legitimacy to militants on the platter of appeasement, even as they continued to attack our citizens and soldiers, even as they refused to repent and reform. I’m glad General Raheel refused to be hemmed in by notions of ‘civilian supremacy’ and went for the kill.

The infrastructure of terrorism has been largely dismantled and the dime-a-dozen apologists mouthing narratives to justify it are nowhere to be seen. Did General Raheel get the support he needed in this crucial national task from our political leadership? Did they make the required room in the budget for resettling the TDPs? Did they operationalize NACTA? Did they move meaningfully on NAP? Did they articulate a counter-narrative to reclaim Islam from the clutches of violent extremism? The answer is a big no.

On the contrary, the Nawaz government tried its best to push our troops to fight the Saudi war of aggression against poor Yemen. How would that have affected our war against terrorists at home? Similarly, the government has hampered the potential of CPEC by playing corrupt partisan games over the project and making it controversial. Let there be no doubt about it: General Raheel’s categorical support has been central and crucial for the development of this game-changing economic corridor.

Those seeking to share credit for his achievements were actually hurdles in his way, and anyone who has been following the news these past three years knows that pretty well. Whether it was the resistance by Sindh and Punjab governments to military operations against terrorists in their provinces, or the refusal of the Nawaz government to create an apex body for overseeing the CPEC, the champions of democracy put their self-serving petty interests above the national interest.

Given the context of a thoroughly corrupted power structure within which he was constrained to operate, the deeply entrenched criminal networks of patronage and privilege that surrounded him, General Raheel managed to do more than what could be expected from a single individual, even someone as powerful as the COAS. With the requisite support from our so-called elected leaders and their governments, he could have achieved much more.

The politically-correct pundits, out to pick knits in General Raheel’s tenure and blaming him for riding roughshod over the ‘supreme’ civilians, are clearly out-of-order. They are too busy saving ‘democracy’ to notice its feet of clay, the hollow rhetoric on which it stands. They’d rather not notice the stench of greed, intrigue and hypocrisy rising from the corridors of civilian power. They’d rather not notice how democracy is a smokescreen behind which petty and partisan power-players play their self-serving games. Inside the bubble, the ‘civilian leadership’ exercises constitutional power in a perfect citadel of democracy.

Inside the bubble, facts are made subservient to politically correct theory and actions of leaders are measured in terms of a non-existent constitutional propriety. The crimes and corruption of elected leaders and their compromised relationship with foreign players is permissible. The thousand times a day that they ride roughshod over the constitution is something to be taken in our stride as we must give the system time to evolve. Inside the bubble, the military leadership must behave like a pawn in the hands of our oh-so-democratic leaders.

The prophets of doom and gloom infesting our media would like to revise history even as it unfolds, even before it is written down. They wish to deny a national hero his honor even as he says good bye. Why do they consider it their job to snatch away from us our hopes and heroes who restore our sense of independence and dignity? Why must they convince us that nothing changes and everything and everyone is just another shade of gray?

No man is perfect and no man is God Almighty. Even national heroes have human and historical limitations. At the end of the day, it is not their shortcomings and mistakes but their accomplishments for which they are respected and loved. Though I hoped that somehow General Raheel would stay in office for at least a little bit longer; that was not to be. He has retired and it is time to pay a tribute to his tenure. This column should be considered only a prelude to it.


The writer is a freelance columnist.