After serving as the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan for six years, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will leave office in November. Now Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has to select a new COAS. Moreover, General Khalid Shameem Wyne, the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC) is also retiring in October, and the Prime Minister would need to appoint a CJCSC as well.

During General Kayani’s tenure, the military did respect the country’s democratic values, which is the reason why it didn’t intervene much during former government.

Unlike some of the military rulers of the past, who did eventually serve as the head-of-state, General Kayani did endorse democracy and allowed the civilian government to handle matters on its own. Perhaps this is the reason why, despite economic downturns, political insecurity, and a plethora of internal crisis, former President Asif Zardari’s government managed to complete five years in office, the first such moment in Pakistan’s history. The Pakistani government, however, should work in its limits and provide breathing space to the new COAS and the CJCSC, for they too need to adopt in Pakistan’s changing political dynamics akin to the Prime Minister. Although the PML-N Chief is serving in his third term as the Prime Minister, he might find it a different Pakistan when comparing it with his last two terms.

If Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is facing challenges that range from solving the country’s power crisis to defending its borders from extremism, the incoming COAS and the CJCSC would also face a tough job ahead. Moreover, the COAS and the CJCSC would need to tackle the west in the best possible manner and would need to join hands with Pakistan’s civilian government to ensure Pakistan’s economic, security, and social well-being. The US forces are transferring its military equipment from the port of Karachi and the military would need to monitor the activities to prevent any hiccups that might lead to grave consequences.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, apart from deciding upon the COAS and the CJCSC, should also quickly appoint someone to head the Ministry of Defense, considering Pakistan’s delicate situation in South Asia and its relations with the U.S.

The Prime Minister would need to select the two army heads on merit and seniority. Moreover, factors playing a role in deciding a COAS also include professional aptitude, reputation, loyalty, judgment, and the ability to command under pressure. The coming weeks will test Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s nerves and decision-making abilities. Appointing the COAS and the CJCSC would determine the course of Pakistan’s future as the military has played a part in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s past two tenures.

MUHAMMAD OMAR IFTIKHAR,

Lahore, September 24.