Pakistan’s relationship with its Army generals has a long and interesting history; we hate some, we love some. But no general, in 68 years of the country’s existence, has managed to garner as much attention and adoration from the people as General Raheel Sharif has in a span of just two years.

And why won’t he? He comes from a family of war heroes whose stance against India is pretty clear and firm; warning the neighbor of ‘unbearable costs’ if they so much as even think about any mischief. He has even refused to put the Kashmir issue on the back burner anymore, a stance that managed to get him on the good side of the Kashmiris as well.

But what catapulted him to stardom was the launch of Operation Zarb-e-Azb; that was initiated in June 2014, in response to a deadly terrorist attack on Jinnah International Airport.

The operation, aimed at eradicating militants from every corner of North Waziristan, grabbed international attention as it signaled a strategic shift in Pakistan’s internal policy towards terrorists. Where previously the perception was that Pakistan was providing safe haven to certain miscreants, the launch of Zarb-e-Azbwas set to prove otherwise.

The operation, at its beginning, gave new hope to a demoralized nation roiled by political turmoil and financial instability.It promised to finally rid us of the elements that made our identities suspicious everywhere. It was our chance to prove to the world that we do not discriminate when it comes to terrorists. Suddenly, there were no ‘good’militants.

The stage was set with the audience on the edge of their seats as they waited for the blissful day when it would be announced that Pakistan was finally militant-free. But even after a year of relentless operations, that day does not appear to be any closer than it was at the outset.

But General Sharif does need to be credited with a certain level of success in putting a lid on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – something his predecessors had failed to do. However, considering that both groups are antistate makes the operation lose its credibility in the international arena,where demands have only grown louder for the Haqqani Network, India-focused Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the likes to also be uprooted and cleaned up.

Even the Karachi operation, another celebratory hallmark for the good general that has managed to shake the very foundation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and jolted the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), has failed to tackle militants present in the city who – in the words of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar – are ‘state friendly’.

These instances are providing grounds for critics to claim that Pakistan’s efforts towards the eradication of militancy are somewhat oddly prioritized. The government as well as the army seems to be focused solely on targeting militants who are a threat to Pakistan rather than to the US, or to India and the wider region.

This accusation gains momentum in light of the claim made by President Mamnoon Hussain in his recent visit to Beijing. According to Mr Hussain, the operation has managed to completely eliminate the militant group East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an anti-China separatist group. This moment of celebration gets marred by a shadow of doubt that questions if the recent China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its sizeable economic prospects have had anything to do with the swiftness with which the operation went ahead.

Another by-product of the APS massacre was the lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty, which has seen 180 alleged terrorists being hanged. The purpose behind it, much like the Zarb-e-Azb operation itself,was ostensibly deterring the militants.

A praiseworthy step, if only those being hanged are actually militants or terrorists. Doubt stems from the fact that those behind bars came to be there through arguably the country’s two most corrupt institutions –the judiciary and law enforcement. Lack of transparency in these two institutions has led to a stage where bribery and nepotism runs rampant and whoever has the means to win or escape can do so very easily without any sort of accountability or fear thereof.

Who is to say that those behind bars, labeled as militants, are no more than innocent people being used as scapegoats? Who, apart from these institutions, has the power and means to prove the prisoners’ guilt or innocence? I do not think anyone can, in fact.

As per an analysis carried out by Reuters, less than one in six of those hanged were associated with militancy. From kidnapping to murder, those executed fell under a wide range of categories and several cases even had severe legal shortcomings.

In most cases, the police, rather than gathering data and clues, relied heavily on witnesses who were prone to intimidation or bribery. Also, most of the accused were too poor to afford a good lawyer, which effectively halved their chances of having a fair trial.

The most talked about case is of Shafqat Hussain, who was sentenced to death in 2004 for the supposed kidnapping and murder of a seven-year-old boy. Executed on August 4, 2015, Hussain’s case was filled with ambiguities and lose ends. Apart from his claim that the forced confession came after nine days of severe torture; evidence such as Shafqat’s birth certificate indicates that he was a minor when he supposedly committed the crime.

Shafqat’s story is one of many which rings with the injustice and corruption that prevails in our system. Yet, here we are celebrating countless deaths without confirming or even questioning the methods that resulted in their being labeled guilty.

There is no doubt that under the tutelage of General Sharif, the security situation along with the conditions of various public sectors have improved considerably. The country’s credit ratings are up, as well as a 7.6% increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) front was recorded. Also, Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have crossed US $ 20 billion mark, a new record for the country.

With these achievements in place, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan have both praised the army chief on numerous occasions – a surprise since their relationships with the army have been anything but rosy in the past.

However, the praise is perfectly in sync with the latest narrative making rounds in the media and among the people,which builds up the General as a man of stronger resolve than his predecessors, with national interest being at the core of his ideology and mission. He has become the poster child for anti-terror activities, with people vying for him to be promoted to Field Marshal. The public support for him is overwhelming, which can be gauged from the fact that a nationwide stampede just to thank the General resulted in 12 deaths. He is the nation’s savior, the nation’s hero.

And yet, I refuse to celebrate because as much progress as we have made since last year, it all appears shallow under the light of these questions that remain unanswered. Are our efforts towards flushing out terrorist elements divided into the category of state friendly and antistate? Have we been successful in giving the executed, and those in line, a fair chance? Is the Karachi operation just a stop gap measure, much like that of 1992? Were all the 340 odd people killed so far in the Karachi operation really terrorists?

Unless and until these questions are answered, I refuse to acknowledge the efforts made so far. I refuse to acknowledge that the people and the government of Pakistan have decided not to let the country be a breeding ground for radicalization. And with much sorrow, I refuse to accept that, like the whole nation, I have a hero.