It was really interesting how it was announced that COAS Gen Raheel Sharif would not seek an extension when his term expired at the end of the year. The announcement came from the ISPR, not the PM’s Office or the Defence Ministry, the two places which are concerned with appointing a new COAS. It was as if General Raheel would choose whether or not to take an extension, not the appointing authority, or the notifying authority. Yet the alacrity with which the entire country greeted the news showed how important the military is to the country’s politics.

Well, the main reason for this is probably the fact that the COAS’s previous two predecessors did determine to give themselves extensions. Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani didn’t give himself an extension so much as a second term. And that was not so much a government decisions as one by the USA. And before him was Pervez Musharraf, who was appointed back in 1999, just after the resignation of Gen Jehangir Karamat. General Musharraf just remained COAS as long as he wanted.

Of course, General Sharif’s departure has caused a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Note: I didn’t say it caused a lot of sorrow…) I wonder if that is because those who are such loud supporters now, are not so happy at the prospect of having to proclaim loudly the virtues of whoever will be the new chief. That loud chorus of protests might explain why the DG ISPR was promoted lieutenant-general.

Of course, schoolchildren don’t care. After all, military rule is a game that grown-ups play. Like the War on Terror, even though that has caused some interference in the lives of the small fry. I mean, the excuse given for the closure of the schools was supposed to be the cold weather, but everyone knows it was because the provincial government panicked at the idea of another attack, this time in the Punjab, on an educational institution, like either that on the Army Public School Peshawar, or the Bacha Khan University Charsadda. No wonder the order was announced so suddenly, and that too just after they had opened after the winter break. And Bahria and Army schools in Karachi were also shut, at the time General Raheel was visiting. And vocational institutions have had their closure extended. In Punjab, the schools do not know what is happening, what with the government schools and some private schools opening, and other schools, all private, staying resolutely closed.

I don’t really object either way. Look, with three kids at school, I don’t want to send them off to freeze, and I want them to come back unharmed as devoutly if I do send them. As it is, I sent them with fear in my heart, and their mother is also afraid, probably even more than me. But we do, not out of defiance of the terrorists, but because our kids must get a good education.

Another person who faced off death and terror before was Sahibzada Yaqub, the Zia-era Foreign Minister who passed away at the great age of 90. He opted for Pakistan in 1947, leaving a brother behind in India, who was killed in 1948 in Kashmir. The Sahibzada rose to lieutenant-general, and was the GOC-in-C in East Pakistan in 1971, but before the war, when he was sacked for refusing to kill Bengali intellectuals, an order his replacement, Lt Gen Tikka Khan, was willing to carry out. So the title of ‘Butcher of Dacca’ went to him, not the Sahibzada. He became Bhutto’s Ambassador to Washington, where he became involved in resolving the 1977 Hanafi siege in Washington, DC. He went to the USSR in 1979, and came back in 1982 to become Foreign Minister under Zia. And that was a post he held not only under Zia, but Muhammad Khan Junejo, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Benazir Bhutto, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Mian Nawaz Sharif, and Moin Qureshi. Indeed, at one time, it seemed that he was the only constant in shifting sands. PMs changed, but the Sahibzada remained Foreign Minister.

Well, we’ve had the winter rains that make us colder than ever, bring relief to those of us who have colds, and heralds the coming back of the sun. It makes us share in the experience of the USA, which underwent Winter Storm Jonas, and though we didn’t experience any deaths (the USA did, 48 at last count), we also had it pretty bad.

Another thing that should bother us is how the winter has made us undergo gas loadshedding. That has meant geysers refusing to provide warm water. That means people taking the easy way out, and choosing to join the Great Unwashed rather than do the decent thing and catching a cold. However, while that is noticeable to anyone with a normal sense of smell, there is another threat to our unborn, unlike militancy, which might come if we try too hard to ape the USA. The Americas are seeing the spread of the Zika virus, whose survivors have children with microencephaly, what we call Daulay Shah dey chuhey. The reason we should fear the Zika virus is that it is carried by the same aedes aegypti virus that carries the dengue virus. And after an outbreak of dengue, and then chikungunya, comes the Zika virus. It has much the same symptoms. And survivors then risk having children with microcephaly. Well, we’ve had dengue, and will await chikungaya.

Is that a portent from the Almighty? Well, before the Zika virus, we’re having earthquakes. It seems that this whole year, of which only a month has passed, will see a lot of earthquakes. As big as the one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the BKU attack made the Government Issue teachers gun licences. Hmmm, so the teachers’ ideal is not supposed to be Piaget but Rambo? And what is Rambo supposed to teach? Elocution? Or deportment?