Concise, clear, strong and effective, chief of the army staff (COAS) spoke like a man in charge.
In a short speech on the 6th of September, Pakistan’s defense day, COAS addressed the nation for the first time.
Okay, it was not an address per se, but it was telecast live on all channels and the nation was all ears. I got the feeling that he knew he wasn’t just addressing a gathering to celebrate the defense day, he knew he was addressing Pakistan.
This wasn’t the first time a COAS addressed the nation, may be the first without “meray azeez hum watno”, and this was a welcome deviation from past precedent.
In times like these when the country is engaged in its own war on terror and economic terrorism, and when our neighbor keeps expressing its hostile desire for misadventures, both in words and in actions, General Raheel Sharif’s address was seen as most significant.
We all listened to his words, but did we hear what he said?
For me there were some subtle messages in today’s ceremony at Rawalpindi.
- Our media dubbed the ceremony at general headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi as the main ceremony of Pakistan’s 50th defense day celebrations and it was given complete live coverage accordingly. The chief guest of this principal occasion was the COAS and not the President or Prime Minister. We did see the Chairman Senate next to the COAS, but then he is just the acting President when the President is absent or incapacitated.
- In his speech General Raheel Shareef aptly covered the matters relating to Pakistan’s defense, which he is entitled to do since he is the head of our armed forces. He bluntly replied to cross border aggression as well as India’s inciting statements. In addition he also covered the following;
A) Pakistan-Afghanistan relations – which fall under the ambit of foreign affairs,
B) the Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – relates to both foreign and economic affairs,
C) the Kashmir issue and demand for a plebiscite – again foreign affairs,
D) operation zarb e azab – which is a matter of interior and defense affairs,
E) Karachi and Balochistan law and order – a subject of interior affairs, and
F) National action plan – strictly a matter if interior affairs.
He didn’t just mention these crucial subjects, he owned them. General Raheel Sharif did not speak just as a chief of the Army staff, he also spoke as a man in charge of the state’s business. Foreign, Defense and Interior are the three most important branches of a State. COAS clearly stated the direction in which these sectors are moving and he was very commanding in his statement.
- He did not once use the words “under the leadership of”, “as per the directions of”, or even “with the cooperation of” political leadership of the country. Only once did he make any reference to the civil leadership, and that is when he used the phrase “civil-military cooperation”.
- COAS said that the ongoing operation against financiers, supporters and sympathizers of terrorists will continue at all costs, operation against economic terrorism included. This may be a message for some who are obstructing, or planning to obstruct any action that exposes their past and present misdeeds.
There were rumors that General Raheel has been in-charge after last year’s Peshawar tragedy, last night’s speech was practically an affirmation of this perception.
Could this speech be seen as a late admission of the subtlest coup ever? Is General Raheel Sharif actually in charge? Most importantly, does anyone have a problem with that?