Resurgent Pakistani army cuts Nawaz Sharif to size

The army had somewhat lost its sway after the lawyers’ movement ousted Pervez Musharraf from power in 2008 and Osama bin Laden’s killing in its backyard

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Sameer Arshad Khatlani

Nov 28, 2015

Pakistan army chief Gen Raheel Sharif spent a day with Strategic Plans Division commandos, guarding the country’s nukes, before flying to the US for a five-day trip on November 15.

The optics reaffirmed — if at all there was any doubt — who really matters in Pakistan by addressing the key nuclear security concerns.

Gen Sharif‘s visit followed that of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s US trip a month earlier during which nuke safety was among the points stressed in a joint statement.

The army had stamped its authority days before PM Sharif’s visit with Lt Gen Naseer Khan Janjua’s elevation as the national security advisor in place of his loyalist, Sartaj Aziz.

Gen Sharif had riled PM Sharif four days before his US by reminding him about the need for good governance after a corps commander meeting.

The army chief’s muscle-flexing underlines his rising stock since he brushed aside PM Sharif’s reluctance and launched an all-out operation against the Taliban in June 2014.

The operation showed immediate results with civilian casualties going down to 159 in 2014 against 1,116 when the Taliban insurgency peaked in 2008.

The casualties have gone down further substantially in 2015 and created a sense of euphoria that prompted The New York Times to call Gen Sharif “the most popular man in public office”.

Gen Sharif’s popularity, underlined by the use of his pictures in electioneering, has legitimised the army’s stranglehold over foreign, security affairs and altered PM Sharif’s zealously conciliatory India policy.

The army had somewhat lost its sway after the lawyers’ movement ousted Pervez Musharraf from power in 2008 and Osama bin Laden’s killing in its backyard.

The resurgence has forced PM Sharif to accept his diminished stature, which he had earlier fought valiantly and lost power twice over it. His capitulation has been described as a silent coup without the risks of an overt takeover.

Gen Sharif’s family history, too, adds to his popularity, which offers consolation to many Pakistanis in the otherwise disastrous history of wars with India.

His uncle, Major Aziz Bhatti, enjoys a legendary status among war heroes, whose heroics are taught in schools. Bhatti was killed preventing Indian soldiers advance after they crossed the Wagah border in 1965 and had the Lahore cantonment within the range of their tanks.

Gen Sharif’s brother, Major Shabbir Sharif, followed his warrior Rajput family tradition by receiving highest military gallantry award posthumously like Bhatti after the 1971 war.

His battlefield heroics are part of the country’s folklore. More so, as they were a rare ray of success in a war in which Pakistan was routed, demoralised and dismembered.
Shabbir was killed in Punjab’s Fazilka sector after legendary hand-to-hand combat with Major Narain Singh. The two wrestled with each other while other soldiers were ordered against intervening. According to the Pakistani version, Shabbir killed Singh in the fight after he charged on their positions, lobbed a grenade and prevented Indian soldiers from firing. An Indian T-54 tank shot hit Shabbir and killed him the next day.
The Indian account refutes the version saying Singh did not die in the hand-to-hand combat. He died while being taken to a medical room after a hail of bullets wounded him as he charged at Pakistani positions.


Courtesy: The Times of India

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