KARACHI - Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) President Lt-Gen (r) Ali Kuli Khan yesterday opined General Raheel Sharif should not take extension in his term as under his leadership several officers like him were in a position to replace him and follow his path.

Addressing a discussion titled ‘Transformation of Pakistan Army post-2008, accelerating post 2013,’ organised by Pathfinder Group and Nutshell Forum at a local hotel, Ali Kuli Khan, while sharing an event of 1996, said then prime minister Benazir Bhutto, several delegates and leaders of other political parties asked General Waheed Kakar to take extension in his tenure, but he refused to do so.

“Kakar’s reply was that there are many like him in the ranks who can replace him,” he said, adding it was due to that he lived an honorable life after his retirement.

He opposed extension in the term of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and said there were many others like him in the pipeline to replace him and run the affairs today. “General Raheel Sharif has set such a trend in the armed forces that no pussy cats are left in the ranks now,” he said, adding he had gone out against all those who had done wrong things.

He said there was a major transformation in the army and now from soldiers to officers, all were far better than the past due to their experience in battlefield.

“I am proud to say that they are 10 times better than our days and we are fortunate to have General Raheel Sharif as the army chief,” he said. Kakar said the army chief had said the direction to which he was going had neither breaks nor reverse gear.

“His statement was a positive sign and it will take some time to end decades of bad governance and sectarianism in the country,” he said. He observed: “Pakistan Army did well, but not splendidly well in 1965 war as it faced an enemy which was many times bigger than ours in all respects.”

He also threw light on the events in 1971 and said that at that time everyone was criticising the army, but it was more of a political defeat than the military one.

“We failed in 1971 for political reasons and lost the war even before it started,” he asserted. He said people in uniform were now chasing those who had robbed the country and the whole process would take time as it was the garbage of three decades.

He also applauded a recent change in Pakistan’s foreign policy under which the country refused to take part in the Yemen conflict. “We have both Shia and Sunni population in our country and we should avoid indulging in it,” he said.

Responding to a query regarding women’s participation in the armed forces, he said it had increased to a great extent as today women cadets were working alongside men in contrast to the past when no woman could be seen within the perimeters of the army camps.

Pathfinder Group Chairman Ikram Sehgal said as militants attacked the Army Public School, the first fighter plane that pounded militant hideouts in North Waziristan was flown by a woman pilot.

Speaking on the occasion, former World Bank and Atlantic Council USA official Shuja Nawaz said that transformation in army was natural due to change in the country dynamics.

“Even the composition in army has changed as previously some districts of Punjab formed the force, but now recruitment from urban centres, especially Karachi, had risen to a great extent,” Shuja Nawaz said.

Nawaz criticised military dictator Ziaul Haq and said he used religion for his power and started protecting the country on ideological grounds. “Pakistan Army, however, shifted its focus with General Raheel Sharif who introduced mechanism to fight the internal threat.

He introduced ‘Quick Reaction Force,’ and imported indoor firing ranges from Germany to equip cadets against insurgency,” he said.

He further said that collaboration among the army, civil society and civilian agencies was a missing element in the operations, and the issue must be addressed to improve the situation.

Shuja Nawaz said though professionalism of the military could not be questioned, penetration of elements like Tableegi Jamaat had created radicalised elements in the force.

“The army needs to take care of these activities and ban them in order to maintain discipline in the force,” he added.

He said though the army had changed. now it should also work on transformation in police force which requires trainings and provision of better equipment to counter insurgency.