General Raheel Sharif’s tenure is due to run till November 2016 – more than a year away – yet the talk of his extension is already in the air. The conversation is not official, the military hasn’t requested it, the government hasn’t discussed it and it does not feature on any bureaucratic, legislative or judicial agendas. Yet slowly and surely a narrative is being built; columns unabashedly partially praising the heroics of the general appear in newspapers, fringe politicians and former servicemen let slip their thoughts on extension – and perhaps most tellingly, senior politicians uncomfortably deflect the question whenever it is put to them. A lot can happen in a year, however, in the present scenario, the general is here to stay.

The media campaign is expansive and effective, as the billboard bearing the generals portrait in different parts of the country testify – ostensibly put up by grateful citizens. However all the adoration of the chief in all media falls just short of out rightly demanding extension, it praises his actions, stresses continuity, and leaves the question of the extension in the air as if cognizant of the fact that an extension is not supported by convention – or democratic logic.

An extension in the term of the Chief of Army Staff, or the Chief Justice for that matter is not without precedent. The constant jostling for power in Pakistan and the final compromised solution always has trade-offs; both General Pervaiz Kyani and Justice Iftikhar Chaudary got extensions in their normal tenure. Yet the existence of precedent does not mean the precedent should be followed, or even if it is a good precedent to have. General Raheel Sharif has done exemplary work, there is no doubt about that fact, but giving extensions to popular – or simply to powerful – generals is not a practice that should be common. It especially shouldn’t be as institutionalised as it is on the road of becoming.

The leader of the armed forces must only have duty in mind, and that can only be done trough a fixed, un-extendable term. If popular generals, or even efferent and able ones, were given extensions on a regular basis, than popularity with the people, not the complete and honest performance of duty would be the priority of general; good military policies are not always popular.

This campaign to start a conversation where none exists must stop, in no modern democratic country will you find billboards extolling a member of the military. As important and commendable General Raheel Sharif’s pro-activism is all over Pakistan, it is hard to shake the impression that a potion of it might be for the camera – which, it must be said, does a heroic job.