LAHORE: Gen Raheel Sharif’s categorical announcement made through the ISPR director general yesterday that he doesn’t believe in extension and will retire on due date (Nov 28, 2016) is in the interest of the army chief, the institution he is heading, and the government of Mian Nawaz Sharif.

What would the prime minister have done in case Gen Raheel had not made public his position? Was there any possibility of the premier extending his term?

If the track record of the three-time prime minister is anything to go by, there was no such chance. But someone who claims to have been consulted on the subject says that the prime minister was thinking of offering the COAS extension in term. An important member of the ruling family was planning to call on the general to make the offer. However, behaving like a true soldier, Gen Raheel said no before the offer could be made.

Nawaz Sharif’s relations with almost all army chiefs had been tense.

To understand the businessman-turned-politician’s mindset, let’s review the way he dealt with various army chiefs he worked with during his tenures.

Mr Sharif’s first tenure as prime minister was from Nov 6, 1990 to April 4, 1993. Gen Aslam Beg was the army chief who was holding the post before he assumed power after the elections held following the dismissal of the Benazir government. (Gen Beg’s term started on August 17, 1988, the day Gen Ziaul Haq was killed in an air crash, and continued till Aug 16, 1991).

The two worked together for about 10 months. Mr Sharif faced a threat from Gen Beg (although the PPP government had bestowed on him Tamgha-i-Jamhooriat for not imposing martial law after the death of Gen Zia). Mr Sharif designated Gen Asif Janjua as the new COAS a few months before the retirement of Gen Beg, as a result of which the latter was reduced to a lame duck.

Gen Janjua held the office from August 16, 1991 to January 8, 1993. The post fell vacant because of Gen Janjua’s death.

The Sharif-Janjua relations remained very tense. It is alleged that to make him a good ally of the government the prime minister had offered him a luxurious car, which Gen Janjua rejected with due contempt. Most people believe that Gen Janjua would have done something against the Sharif government if he had not died.

After Gen Janjua came Gen Waheed Kakar. He led the army from January 11, 1993 to January 12, 1996.

This was the period when Benazir Bhutto and other opposition leaders tried to oust the PML-N government through protests. Then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the government on multiple charges, a step that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. However, the differences between the president and the prime minister were so serious that the reinstated government and assemblies could not function smoothly.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, Gen Kakar mediated between the president and the prime minister, persuaded both of them to step down so that fresh elections could be held.

Benazir was the prime minister when Gen Kakar completed his term. She planned to give him extension, ostensibly because of his role in paving the way for fresh election, but Mian Nawaz Sharif issued a statement against the move.

This way, the PML-N chief showed his resentment against another COAS.

In 1998, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif forced COAS Gen Karamat to resign when he floated the idea of the establishment of a National Security Council and criticised the one-sided accountability of the government opponents.

The army felt humiliated on the maltreatment of its chief.

Gen Musharraf’s relations with the PML-N leadership are too well known. After being sacked as army chief, he not only toppled the Sharif government but also banished the entire family to Saudi Arabia, where they stayed for seven years under an agreement.

Gen Kayani worked with Mian Nawaz Sharif only for a few months. The PML-N president took over as prime minister for a third time on June 5, 2013, while Gen Kayani served out his two terms on November 28, 2013.

Gen Raheel was selected by Mr Sharif on November 29, 2013.

There were conflicting reports about the nature of relations between the two. At times it was claimed that both the civil and military leaderships were on the same page. But reports coming from military sources many months ago did not endorse the claim. “You say one page, they are not even on the same book”, said a serving two-star general in the presence of the writer.

Gen Raheel’s no to extension would not only bring an end to speculations, which would have continued to his last day in office.

By rising above his personal interest, the army chief has added to the prestige of his institution. This decision is also in the government’s interest as it will be able to bring in a new man of its choice.

But there may also be a subtle message for the political leadership: that nobody should stick to power beyond a limit. Similarly, the trend of appointing retirees on important government posts should be shunned. Nobody is indispensable and new people should be given a chance to run the country.