COAS on a mission


When symbolism is too loud

Apparently it is not just the existential war against terrorism that has kept Gen Raheel so busy this past year – and brought him no small manner of appreciation, from home and abroad. There’s no doubt now that he was the main force behind Zarb-e-Azb. Gen Kayani had no appetite for an operation in NW because of ‘legacy’ reasons. And the polity avoided for ‘spine’ reasons; some say also for ideology, considering how closely the ruling party’s majority’s extreme right leanings match with the collective outlook of our so many lashkars and jaishes.

But the general also boasts impressive ‘diplomatic’ miles since he took office, especially since the operation took off. He naturally spearheads the contact, and more, with Kabul. And he was quite clearly the first Pakistani not to be told to “do more” in Washington for quite a while. Perhaps the outsiders – at least the stakeholders in this war – figured that there was really nothing to write home about till he come to the scene; and ended the old policy of talks, good Taliban, etc, once and for all. That would explain, partially, others’ faith in him.

The war, meanwhile, is now about to enter a markedly different, far more subtle phase. From the mountains and valleys of Fata it must now come to urban centres and large cities across the country, particularly PML-N’s stronghold of Punjab. The military will, therefore, shift from highland militants to the more sectarian, long fed and pampered, outfits of interior Punjab and Sindh. That is precisely why Gen Raheel should avoid juggling too many balls at present and instead concentrate squarely on the insurgency. News that he is holding meetings with leading Italian politicians, especially the foreign minister, is strange in terms of processing. It is best if politicians are left to handle the politics – even though Pakistan is still without a foreign minister. Hopefully Gen Raheel will limit his attention to things that demand it most – the war, NAP, Nacta, India, and now, the floods again.