It’s over. General Kayani is on his way out. All the rumours, reports, and accounts of a new job – in uniform, out of uniform, in-between uniforms – all of them stand discredited. Announcing that he will stand retired at the end of his term on the 29th of November, General Kayani has cast himself in the role of a COAS who has resisted the temptation to stretch himself further than the bounds of reason would allow. Credit where credit is due, we have had many previous Chiefs who have not been content with ending their careers as ‘just’ a decorated General.
PM Sharif will also breathe a sigh of relief after this proclamation for two reasons. Firstly, because he has already incurred the wrath of one misguided COAS and been ousted by the army from his last tenure as Prime Minister. Secondly, his lack of comment on the issue when rumors were rife regarding another extension, meant that he was still unsure of whether or not to grant the speculated request. His answer it seems is redundant, now that the General has decided of his own volition and Mr Sharif has been spared from the difficult decision of having to extend the tenure to appease anyone, or to deny the appeal, which might have caused affront.
From the bureaucracy to the military, this country is full of officials who would jump at the chance to negate the functions of the state structure if it served their interests. General Kayani is to be commended for recognizing the fact that no one is irreplaceable and that the structure needs to be upheld at all costs. Added to that, the hierarchical system works on the basis of promotions and chain of command. Simply put, there are many waiting in line to take General Kayani’s place, and it would have been unfair to them had he been asked to stay.
One only wishes the announcement had come from the civilian government in the shape of the Prime Minister’s announcement, thanking Gen. Kayani for his service to the nation, naming his successor and laying to rest rumours of an extension, or a new job designation. While General Kayani’s statement is entirely welcome and he has earned respect for himself for what he has done, the fact that it seems to have been taken by the government as a pleasant surprise is of note.  Ultimately, the COAS’s statement said what the Prime Minister should have: General Kayani will stand retired on November 29. However, we can all thank our stars that this is one of the rare instances in Pakistan’s history, when an army chief is retiring having stayed within the bounds of his constitutional role, without making a speech on PTV prefaced by “Meray aziz hamwatano…”