The Prime Minister’s speech at Kakul for the graduation ceremony of PMA students was widely watched for hints on whether the relationship between the government and the army is really as fractured as it is being made out to be. Given Nawaz Sharif’s history with the military this is only to be expected, and the entire country sits up straighter every time one is talking about the other. At the same time, looking too much into what is being said is not going to shed light on where the two Sharifs stand in reference to each other, and what lies in store for the country in the future.

The speculation of a rift is based on several reasons. The trial of Musharraf and the discontent caused as a result among the rank and file soldiers is bound to irk the top brass. The ongoing talks with the terrorists even after their refusal to extend the ceasefire can also be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the government, and the army accepting the orders to stand down make them accomplices, to share the blame if it is all for naught. The biggest reason however, are the recent comments of Khawaja Asif and Khawaja Saad Rafique regarding the Musharraf trial and the armed forces that acted as a catalyst for the COAS to make a statement about preserving the integrity of the army at all costs.

Nawaz Sharif’s appreciation for General Raheel Sharif was certainly injected skilfully. Purely relying on what was said is not really going to reveal any tensions or the attempts to bridge them, and the more subtle details of the visit need to be looked at to glean the truth from the matter. Nawaz Sharif’s selection of Khawaja Asif and Pervaiz Rasheed alongside Irfan Siddiqui to accompany him on his trip to Kakul speaks volumes. Pervaiz Rasheed has recently played the role of mediator between the army and the government, and has acted as a counter to the strong words of the Defence and the Railway Ministers. The Defence Minister’s presence at Kakul however, signifies that the rumors of his dismissal as Defence Minister are baseless, and the PM intends to make things work with what he has. Khawaja Asif’s decision to retract his words on the eve of the visit shows that the government is eager to get things back to normal, and is willing to make concessions to keep things with the army as pleasant as possible.