The RS Formula

Spearhead Analysis – 18.02.2015

raheel- ghaniOver the last six plus decades we have had many dispensations, both political and military, and each has been given some sort of a label to distinguish it from the others. Today we have what can be called the ‘RS Formula’—RS being the initials of the current Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif. While all the previous models had a basic similarity and led to drastic changes, the RS Formula is different on all counts. For starters there has never been any reference or even mention of previous actions, predecessors or colleagues. This is refreshing in an environment where the norm is to dig up the past and heap blame on others before blowing one’s own trumpet. Also there is no attempt to hog the media and make a pitch for fame and popularity—whatever needs to be said is conveyed either through actions or through the institutionalized channel for such interaction. And finally the strategic direction is clear, unambiguous and sets the tone for all the other institutions by exercising leadership in a most comprehensive manner. Here it might be pertinent to note that leaders are not made by appointments or electoral processes—leaders are those who have mastered the art of leadership and practice it diligently—often at personal risk.

In all past political situations the military has stayed within its sphere till it usurped the system and intervened. The idea perhaps was that a political government could only be fully and overtly supported if it attained credibility through governance and competence. This time the military is in full support of the elected government in spite of the fact that the government faces many issues. More than a year and a half into its five year tenure its legitimacy is being questioned by an opposition that was out on the streets till recently. The independent and aggressive media misses no opportunity to highlight incompetence, misgovernance or absence of governance and even corruption. The petrol crisis, the energy crisis and a host of other issues have led to much criticism of the entire governance structure and even the political institution. The military finally launched Operation Zarb e Azb and subsequently Operation Khyber against the insurgents who threatened state security but it did so when the dialogue option had failed and on political direction. This operation has across the board, media and public support and even those who find it difficult to ever commend or appreciate anything the military does cannot find fault with it.

The attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar and the killing of children was a game changer. It galvanized the political leadership into action and the military wasted no time in making it crystal clear that they would be in all out support of the government with no reservations. The military was there in all the discussions that led to the National Action Plan and is in the forefront for its implementation. The Army Chief visited Kabul immediately and has followed that up with two more visits to seize and push the opportunity offered by President Ghani’s initiative to cooperate with Pakistan. The military commanders and intelligence chiefs have met several times. There is convergence and progress. The military has made it clear that there will be no ambiguities and no one at any tier will be allowed to undermine the new relationship. The Afghan President has taken a political risk by reaching out to Pakistan and he seeks reciprocity to silence the opposition and to make sure that both the US and China are on board. The makings of a broad regional initiative are there and it is up to India to join the grouping without preconditions. In fact Prime Minister Modi has reached out and a resumption of dialogue may be in the offing. Pakistan’s centrality and its policy are fully understood.

Pakistan’s departure from past policies and its total commitment to across the board counter terror operations and support of the government is a development that has registered globally. All visitors to Islamabad now visit General Headquarters to meet the Army Chief. On his visits abroad the Army Chief is received by the political leadership at the highest level. Within the country the military has moved to create ‘apex committees’ at the provincial level to ensure civil-military interface. There is no doubt that the driving seat in Pakistan has been significantly reinforced. The Army Chief is doing and saying exactly what needs to be done and said and his words and deeds are finding resonance notwithstanding the chronic doomsday pessimists. There is a push to get the police and bureaucracy out of political control so that they can function and develop capacity. There will inevitably an urge to create competent advisory capacity for internal security, for the economy, for an energy policy and for foreign policy. The government will have to act to forge consensus for the elimination of extremism, intolerance and militancy within the country just as the military has done for its actions in FATA and beyond. The military courts will dispense justice till the judiciary develops full capacity. All of these developments are in the national interest and there should be a sense of urgency at all levels. Failure is not an option.

(Spearhead analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)