There have been much fervor and speculation about the ongoing four-day long US visit of General Raheel Sharif. COAS Sharif’s visit comes weeks after PM Nawaz Sharif’s three-day US visit where the tactical-nuclear-weapons talk was mostly avoided and downplayed. ‘Nuclear’ was restricted only to references to the Nuclear Security Summit in the US in March-April next year and strategic stability between the nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India.

For a moment, let’s go back a few years. If we remember, there was a time when Pakistan was begging for a nuclear deal with the US on India-like terms with an eye towards an entry into the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group. Today, however, the dynamics have been changed, ten years after the US’ nuclear deal with India. Although Pakistan still heavily relies on international financial markets and foreign companies, it has diversified its foreign policy, reducing its dependence solely on Washington and has struck a better chord with Beijing and Moscow. Hence, Islamabad’s confidence and unflinching determination not to compromise its nuclear security. That was that. Now what would General Raheel’s visit entail?

Post Iran-nuclear-deal it is feared in some circles that Obama administration have nuclear-armed Pakistan next in the line. Before Hilary Clinton climbs up the ladder, Mr. Obama knows that he does not have much time left in the office now. So in order to leave a rich legacy behind, Mr. Obama is keen to put a tab on Pakistan’s nuclear program to have another feather in its cap.

About the nuclear restraint on Pakistan or any other nuclear deal with the US, which New York Times clamored about, no matter which Sharif goes to the US, Pakistan shall never compromise on its nuclear assets. The proliferation concerns are utterly baseless. And Taliban taking over the “loose nukes” is nothing but shameless propaganda.

Anyhow in the ongoing US visit of General Sharif, the agenda will largely be dominated by the security situation in Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan in Afghan peace process. US wants Pakistan to ‘do more’ again. It wants Pakistan to ensure that its soil not be used as ‘safe haven’ for terrorists. Also that Pakistan eliminates its own proxies and uses its influence over Afghan Taliban to convince them to come to the negotiating table again especially after Mullah Mansoor Akhter at the helm. The peace dialogue was previously stalled after the death of Mullah Omar and infighting among Taliban factions.

US realizes that for peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan can play a key role and no Sharif other than General Raheel Sharif can play the requisite role. There is also a realization that he is the man calling shots in Pakistan, who can broker an Afghan peace deal and can deliver on the promises. 

On the domestic side of the things, General Sharif is said to “clearly highlight Pakistan’s perspective” in this trip. It’s as if post prime minister’s trip, military immediately realized there was something important left out and now General Raheel “invited himself” to the US to finish up the remaining job or do the same but more ‘clearly’.

Prime Minister Sharif who had initially held the portfolios of foreign affairs and security almost for himself and was quite enthusiastic about good relations with India has now virtually made peace with General Sharif being in the driving seat. So much for the civilians reclaiming their space! Recently civil-military equation has been further skewed dangerously in favor of military wherein it asked the civilians to do their part of governance. On top of that, some leaders of MQM, PPP and ANP as well as media had an axe of their own to grind. Current government had to bear public bashing (which could have been private) over the poor implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) as we near the anniversary of Peshawar school massacre on December 16.

However, at the end of it all, sanity prevailed when the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issued a statement of its own saying that the implementation of NAP was a “shared responsibility” and that everyone should remain in the ambit of the Constitution (especially Article 243-245).

We see that General Raheel Sharif has acquired a center stage in domestic and international circles. We see that the saga of civil-military tensions, which had been put to rest after General Raheel Sharif clearly said a no to ‘intervention’ after Imran Khan’s dharna had made it so comfortable for him, still eclipses our domestic as well as international affairs. What is the most saddening is the role of naysayers on both civilian and military sides. There is no truth in democracy being at a “tipping point”.

Let’s categorically put rest to whatever the naysayers say and bring home the point by revisiting the statement issued by the PMO. For, if fingers are being pointed at the “need for complimentary governance initiatives” equally forceful voice can be raised from the civilian side as well. Just imagine the day when the need for a rigorous accountability and transparency becomes household talk.