We live in deeds, not years;

in thoughts, not breaths;

In feelings, not in figures on a dial.

–Philip James Bailey

General Raheel Sharif, the 15th Chief of Army Staff, is scheduled to relinquish command of Pakistan Army by the end of this month after completing his 3-year fixed term in office. Unlike his predecessor, he has already declined an offer for an extension in his tenure. Though he served as COAS for a relatively shorter period, has earned a reputation as a courageous, pragmatic and professional military commander. In fact, in a short period of 3-years, he proactively played his role in evolving a comprehensive strategy to counter terrorism which had been the most critical challenge for Pakistan for the last one-and-half decade. Thus he has just proved that the courage, resolution and commitment matter the most when it comes to curbing the menace of terrorism.

There have been a number of so-called military intervention models in Pakistan, evolved and practiced by various commanders of the most powerful institution of the country- The Army. These ‘models’ generally vary according to the nature and intensity of invention made by the Khakis in the civilian domain. They have also been the primary determinants of Civ-Mil relations in Pakistan. They can conveniently be categorised into two broader categories: an aggressive model, and a passive model. The former involves a full-fledged military intervention, which usually resulted in toppling a civilian regime e.g. the ‘Zia model’, the ‘Musharraf model’. And the latter relates to an informal intervention which also leans towards the general tendency of the military commanders to impose their decisions on the political leadership while staying within their institutional domain. In this respect, the so-called Kakar and Kayani models are the two major instances.

The policies and practices of General Raheel Sharif as a COAS have given rise to another unique military model in Pakistan. It is relatively extensive, multi-faceted and a multi-component model. This model is different from all the previous ones. Unlike others, it is necessarily a military non-intervention model. Under this model, the military establishment has exercised maximum restraint in absolutely toppling a civilian regime, or otherwise unnecessarily interfering in the civilian affairs. The military establishment did not intervene despite the fact things had once reached the threshold where the past military commanders had been considering themselves justified in intervening is some way, either aggressively or passively. We have seen that General Raheel Sharif played a positive and constructive role in ending the political impasse in the country following the PTI-PAT sit-in in Islamabad in 2014. He constantly maintained his neutrality and impartiality in this prolonged political crisis.

However, despite strictly maintaining political neutrality, the military establishment didn’t remain thoroughly indifferent to the affairs of the state. It has constantly been showing its institutional concerns over certain undesirable developments in the country. At times, it also conveyed it strong displeasure over certain things like the ineffective or non-implementation of National Action Plan, poor civilian response to foreign-funded terrorism, the state of corruption, the Panamagate scandal, the news-leak issue etc. Thus it constructively engaged the civilian leadership. Moreover, the military establishment has also been taking the daring initiatives and making the crucial decisions relating to the national security. It by no means let the political expediency and civilian inertia eclipse the vital national security matters in the country.

Apart from its typical Civ-Mil aspect, the so-called Raheel Sharif model has another important military component that relates to the professional role of a military commander. General Raheel Sharif has emerged as a composed but resolute and pro-active military commander. He just came forward with strong professional commitment, unwavering resolve and a pragmatic and goal-oriented approach. Therefore, now he is being not only greatly admired and respected domestically, but his professional excellence is also being globally acknowledged.

General Raheel Sharif took command of one of the largest armies in the world at the most critical juncture of its history. The security situation in Pakistan was volatile and rather chaotic. A sophisticated Fourth Generation War was posing a severe existential threat to Pakistan. But regrettably, despite being in a state of war, there hardly existed the required degree of resolution and commitment on the part of both military and civilian leadership in the country to fight this war. Instead, they was considerable confusion over the nature and handling of this war. Pakistan army did not conduct any significant military operation since the conclusion of Operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan agency in December 2009. Resultantly, various militant groups got the opportunity to reorganize and reunited in the tribal areas.

In this particularly uncertain and confusing situation, Pakistan Army, under the command of General Raheel Sharif, courageously and sagaciously decided to inflict a decisive onslaught on the miscreants by launching Operation Zarb-e-Azab in North Waziristan in mid-2014. This military operation somehow broken the backbone of militancy in the country after destroying the hideouts of militants and dismantling their command and control structure. Now the entire tribal area has been successfully retrieved from these militants. Besides this, the Pak Army is also conducting the Intelligence Based Operations (IBO’s) as well as combing military operation across the country. Obviously, after the unfortunate APS Peshawar incident, these operations have intensified.

As a matter of fact, General Raheel Sharif has played a pivotal role in evolving the current counter-terror and COIN strategies in Pakistan which essentially comprise a number of kinetic military actions coupled with some preventive measures in the form of NAP. These strategies have gone a long way in absolutely cubing the menace of terrorism and extremism in the country. The Operation Zarb-e-Azab is being considered to be an effective and the greatest counter-terror maneuvering in the world in the recent times. Now other terror-hit countries are also trying to replicate these counter terror strategies.

Trying a terrorist in the court of law is purely a responsibility of the civilian government but Pakistan Army has also readily assumed this task by setting up various military trial courts. Moreover, Pak Army’s role regarding the relief and rehabilitation of IDP’s of North Waziristan is also commendable. Presently, the military establishment is also actively supporting the para-military and law-enforcing agencies in Karachi to rid the city of undesirable criminal elements. All these daring actions of the army necessarily reflect the strong determination and commitment of its outgoing commander.

For the first time in country’s history, we have observed an army chief openly speaking against the alleged foul play of the Indian intelligence agencies, the RAW, in Pakistan. The higher military and civilian authorities in Pakistan have conveyed a strong message to India to call off its disruptive activities in Pakistan through its hostile intelligence apparatus. Moreover, the military establishment has also taken keen interest in the successful and early completion of the CPEC. It has already raised a Special Security Division (SSD) to provide security to the Chinese in Pakistan.

Through his professionalism and unwavering resolve, General Raheel Sharif has just proved that a single individual can substantially strengthen an institution. At the same time, by refusing to accept extension in tenure, he again has tried to show that there are not individuals but institutions which are the permanent entities. Thus institutions always matter and make all the difference. This move also contain a serious message for the politicos who are running their political parties in an authoritarian and arbitrary fashion. The cults of personality have overshadowed the political ideologies of these parties. Political parties have somehow become the ‘family limited companies’ controlled by different political dynasties.

The so-called General Raheel Sharif model has not only helped improve the security situation in Pakistan but has also earned a good name for the army as an institution. It has substantially improved the institutional capacity of Pakistan Army to effectively cope with both the internal and external challenges. It has also strengthened the democratic institutions in Pakistan. Therefore, this model should be idealised and followed by the succeeding military commanders in the lager interest of the country as well as their own institution.