Tuesday May 28, 2024

Extension in service on table for COAS

By Ansar Abbasi
January 06, 2016

Gen Raheel has not yet accepted it

News Analysis

ISLAMABAD: A section of the media claimed that the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to offer extension to Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.

It is said that the Army Chief has not yet accepted the offer but he may do so. “The extension offer is on the table,” it was claimed, adding that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was also playing his role in this regard.

If true, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could do no more dis-service to the institution of Pakistan Army. A retired General, in a TV show, insisted that General Raheel would not accept the offer, and added that extensions badly hurt the institution and do no good.

It was also claimed that perhaps General Raheel may be convinced to accept the extension. If so, General Raheel would also do neither any good to himself nor to the institution he presently leads with great respect and honour.

In 2010 when the then Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was offered three year extension as Army Chief, this scribe had the opportunity to talk to Nawaz Sharif on the issue of extension. Then Nawaz had shown his abhorrence against extensions in the military and had told this correspondent that despite his liking for General Kayani, he thought that neither the government should have offered extension nor Kayani should have accepted the same.

Today, after the lapse of over five years, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is reportedly doing the same thing which he had disliked in the past besides seeing extension not in the interest of the institution of Army. Why the principles are being compromised now? Why the prime minister is doing what is neither in the interest of the Army nor in favour of General Raheel.

Generally it is expected from a professional soldier like General Raheel Sharif that he would never accept extension in the service. His present repute would also make it hard for many to believe that he would continue beyond his constitutional tenure risking the legacy that he can otherwise leave for others after tremendous performance as Army Chief.

Two of his predecessors- General Pervez Musharraf and General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani- got extensions and shared the office of Chief of Army Staff between them for almost 16 years. Musharraf remained Army Chief for almost ten years whereas General Kayani was given three years extension beyond the three years tenure by the last PPP government.

Though there is no comparison between Musharraf and Kayani because of the former being martial law administrator who had abrogated the Constitution twice, extensions in both the cases have not only made the office of the Army Chief controversial but also seriously compromised the Army as an institution.

In case, General Raheel accepts the government offer it would make him the third consecutive army chief getting extension. It will also lead to further establish an unhealthy and dangerous practice of giving extensions to Army Chiefs. In such a scenario it will be impossible for the future governments not to give extensions to every future Army Chief whereas the top military Generals will also be made to look for extensions from prime ministers.

In the professional armies like ours, such extensions are welcomed. For any soldier it is nothing less than a dream to become Army Chief for a three-year statutory term. Extending this term would mean denying others their right of promotion. The government might have its own reasons to do this but such decisions tend to politicise the military establishment.

Extensions and post-retirement re-employments in services, whether civilian or military, do no good to the institutions unless they are really inevitable because of the unique expertise of the retiring official. The statutory provision of extensions even in the civil bureaucracy are supposed to be used exceptionally and only in situations where the person considered for extension is indispensable. However, it has not been done which resulted in civil bureaucracy’s downfall.

Doing the same with military will politicise the Army besides seriously compromising its professionalism. Pakistan Army needs to be saved from turning into civil service of Pakistan. General Raheel undoubtedly did well and produced extraordinary results. The fact remains that whatever he achieved, it was the consequence of collective work of the Pakistan Army. Giving extensions to any individual means giving him preference over the institution.

The Nawaz Sharif government should applaud the Army Chief for the good job he has done. However, tempting him to get extension while giving him the feeling that he is “indispensable” is dangerous and will be a no-trust in the institution. We need to strengthen the institutions, not weaken them.