Saturday, October 1st, 2016

Border conflict now a test for retiring Pakistan army chief Raheel Sharif

Narada Desk | October 1, 2016 8:52 pm Print
Many believe that General Raheel Sharif is unlikely to leave his office quietly after India made all these direct allegations

As the tension between India and Pakistan escalated to its highest point in the last decade, many expect that more conflicts are in stock on both ends. The latest surgical attack by Indian Army indicates that the Delhi has lost patience and is all set to defend any further provocations from Pakistan side. On the other side, though Pakistan denied responsibility of Uri attack and denied reports on counter-attack, the country’s top diplomats have held meetings to review the situation, signalling the seriousness of the on-going issue.

Meanwhile, the retirement of Pakistan army Chief General Raheel Sharif has been one of the most talked about affairs amidst the chaos. Many now believe that the current political situation adds pressure on the Chief as he is waiting for his scheduled retirement in November. According to media reports, the Indian security officials feel, Gen Sharif is unlikely to leave his office quietly after India made all these direct allegations. After taking charge in 2003 following Ashfaq Parvez Kayani,  General Sharif has now emerged as a power figure in Nawaz Sharif’s government, often with a capacity to overrule PM on several issues. Having an unpleasant personal history with India, Raheel Sharif is believed to maintain a strong anti-India agenda.

Sharif’s elder brother, Shabbir Sharif, was killed during the 1971 war with India and was awarded the Nishan-i-Haider posthumously, the highest military award in Pakistan. Another brother of Raheel, Captain Mumtaz Sharif, also served in Pakistan army and was awarded Sitara-e- Basalat. General Sharif is also a nephew of Major Raja Aziz Bhatti, who was awarded Nishan-i-Haider and was killed in Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. Apart from his prominent military background, General Raheel Sharif is also known to have close relationships with political leaders in Pakistan including tribal affairs minister Lieutenant-General Abdul Qadir Baloch.

There are speculations that these incidents might also result in another military coup in Pakistan. The uneasy history of civil-military relations and military coups in the country, obviously gives possibilities of extreme political situations. As supporters of Raheel Sharif want an extension of his term, Sharif has announced not to seek extension, though providing different connotations.

According to former ambassador to Pakistan G Parthasarathy, both Gen Sharif and Nawaz Sharif hate each other. The aura of invincibility and greatness that Gen Sharif built for himself received a setback with this attack, The Times of India reported. “Given Gen Sharif’s unpredictability and hatred to India (his uncle was killed in the 1965 war and brother in 1971), the threat is he might do something silly. India should be prepared,” adds Parthasarathy.

As days go further, Pakistan’s decision to deal with the present crisis will be definitely backed by General Raheel Sharif’s wish to mark his retirement with a successful military move. If he decides to redeem his legacy, India will soon have to prepare its army to block a counter-move from Pakistan.