Change of Command in pakistan

Change of Command
Hamid Hussain
“If the general stifles advice, the valiant will depart.  If plans are not followed, the strategists will rebel.  If the general relies solely on himself, his subordinates will shirk all responsibilities.  If he brags, his assistants will have few attainments.”    Three Strategies of Huang Shih-Kung quoted in Ralph Sawyer’s The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China.  
Today Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the change of command of Pakistan army appointing General Rashad Mahmud as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and General Raheel Sharif as Chief of Army Staff (COAS).  Appointment of army chief is essentially a political decision and among the equally qualified contenders civilian leaders look for someone with whom they expect to work smoothly.  Appointment of Raheel came as a surprise to many as he was considered to be the least likely candidate for COAS position among the five senior most Lieutenant Generals.  
Every officer has strengths and some weaknesses.  Professional capabilities and personality traits of senior officers determine how much respect they command from their subordinates.  There are two types of senior officers; one earns the respect and sometimes also love of their comrades by sheer professional excellence in the art of war as well as a caring attitude towards his men.  The other earns the respect by his sheer intellectual weight and integrity.  My own personal view is that while a gentleman, on professional grounds, Raheel is not rated very high by many in the armed forces.  In peacetime army, this makes not much difference and two previous army Chiefs; General Muhammad Musa (1958-66) and General Muhammad Zia ul Haq (1976-1988) were also not considered very high on professional grounds.  
Army is a large bureaucratic organization and once selected, army usually line up behind its chief.  A new COAS is appointed and now the next step is how he is expected to discharge his duties.  Personality does not change overnight by elevation on promotion ladder one step further.  An overview of Raheel’s career path and his personality suggests that we will not see any significant change and can expect continuation of status quo.  In rare cases, when confronted by challenges, the best comes out of an average man or he is intelligent enough to gather a good professional team around him to help him face the challenges. I don’t have high expectations but would love to be proven wrong or surprised.  
In short term, Raheel’s challenges will be control of his own institution, continuation of working relations with civilian government and interaction with United States.   Raheel’s first task is to take control of his own institution and first round of promotions and postings will be done immediately in the next few days.  Three staff positions; one very important Chief of General Staff (CGS) and two third tier; Inspector General Training & Evaluation (IGT&E) and Chief of Logistics Staff (CLS) will be filled by newly promoted officers although for CGS position, he may want to bring a senior officer.  This will depend on how comfortable he feels.  If he feels confident, he will bring a senior officer but if not sure, he will bring a newly promoted junior officer to decrease pressure from inner core of advisors.  He may also change at least one or two Corp Commanders in the immediate phase and wait for 6-12 months to bring his own new team of officers at key Corps Commanders positions as well as Director General of Inter Services Intelligence (DGISI).
My own preferences for the next one year for new COAS include;
–          He should feel comfortable enough to keep working relations with some of his senior colleagues despite differences.
–          He should encourage some internal debate and continue the consensus building measures among inner core of Principle Staff Officers (PSOs) and Corps Commanders as well as actively participate in discussion.  This will help him to develop rapport with a diverse group thus decreasing the chances of friction.  If he shows signs of indecisiveness or weaknesses then an unhealthy cycle is inevitable where he comes under intense pressure from his inner core group and in return, he starts to remove and shuffle senior brass more rapidly than expected.  First few months are crucial as he is first among the equals and need to tread carefully. 
–          He should not start any unilateral military measures (either launching a large scale operation or removing troops from forward positions) in tribal areas.  He should brief civilian leaders about military position and try his best to coordinate the war against militancy with civilian leaders.  He should adopt a proactive approach in keeping a lid on current situation and use covert intelligence operations against militants to prevent them from entrenching in the interim and continue training maneuvers to keep army ready for the day of reckoning.  If civilians decide to give a year or so to negotiations, he should sit tight in current position.  In case negotiations fail and another large scale military operation becomes inevitable, army will be able to jump start from current positions.  Any slack at this stage will come back to haunt him later.  
–          He has a very narrow window of opportunity in case of Baluchistan.  His predecessor General Kayani missed it with disastrous results and Raheel should be proactive in this regard.  He should immediately put a stop to kill and dump policy of army’s intelligence agencies.  He should send a message to Baluch leadership that he is determined to change the policy. His previous boss retired Lieutenant General Abdul Qadir Baluch can be a contact with Baluch leadership.  This first step is essential to provide room for negotiations in future to tackle Baluch grievances.  He should put military aspect in a holding pattern and allow federal and provincial government to take lead while he conveys his guarantees through his emissary.  
–          Once his new team is in place, preferably in the next six to twelve months, he should allow some internal debate about review of current nuclear policy.  National security policy is not woven in a vacuum and depends on the prevailing situation and trends.  In current circumstances, continued development and potential deployment of tactical nuclear weapons is isolating Pakistan on all fronts.   In view of significant militancy inside its own borders that has international repercussions and dare devil attacks of militants on highly secure defense installations is making even Pakistan’s good friends jittery.  Militants from Central Asia, Arab and western countries and even Chinese Uighur dissidents from Pakistan’s all weather friend China have been captured and killed in Pakistani territory and this is a reality and not fiction. In this strategic environment, continued development and potential deployment of tactical nuclear weapons is a guaranteed way of rallying of all countries to address this issue putting Pakistan in a very tight corner.  
–          On army’s public image front if he can do two simple things that will go a long way.  It is pathetic to see that while country is at war, three stars rank officers are showing up with their battalion size security detail for waving their Chief off to a visit to a banana republic or opening academic block of a military college.  Corps Commanders are openly ridiculed as property dealers due to their involvement with Defence Housing Authority (DHA) schemes.  Two simple orders that no one higher than the rank of station commander should waste time and resources to receive or say goodbye to COAS and a retired officer should be in-charge of DHA.  Serving Corps Commanders should be removed immediately from this odious task. These two simple orders can put an end to this non-sense that is making Pakistan army a laughing stock among professional soldiers.   
–          Next year elections in India may increase tensions with Pakistan as right wing Indian political parties may want to gain some political mileage.  In that case, he will need a lot of cool aid as well as an assertive role to keep his uniformed colleagues on a tight leash.   
–          He should allow civilian leaders to build capacity and not be afraid of allowing them to take some charge of foreign policy especially Afghan policy and relations with India.  He can continue to give military’s input and even assert himself but he should try his best not to put IEDs in their path. 
–          Civilian and military leaders will have some differences over policy matters.  Raheel will convey his own views as well as institutional will but it is not likely that he will confront civilian leadership.  The only possibility of a conflict is if Nawaz Sharif asks for promotion or transfer of certain senior officers.  If he obliges the Prime Minister, he will loose further ground in his own organization and if he refuses, it will create friction with Nawaz Sharif.  The real challenge for civilian and military leaders is to work hard to stay in their own lane.  
“War is won outside the borders of the state, but the general’s merit is established within it”.     Tai Kung’s advice to King Wu, 11th century B.C. quoted in Ralph Sawyer’s The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China
Hamid Hussain
November 27, 2013

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