General Sharif is hailed as a hero of Pakistan because he stood against the challenge of terrorism and extremism at a time when the civilian government was wasting time in futile “peace talks” with local terrorist groups
The erstwhile Chief of the Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, indeed remained the most popular, trusted and loved person for a vast majority of Pakistanis till his last day in office. His dynamic, bold and courageous leadership gave hope to the people. He stood in stark contrast to both elected and unelected politicians – many of whom are tainted with allegations of corruption, misrule and even links with criminal mafias and anti-State elements. If ordinary Pakistanis had power in their hands, they would have not let the general hang up his boots at any cost.
Since his retirement on November 29, a section of the media has been trying to tarnish General Sharif’s image and in doing so, it is attacking the institution of the Armed Forces. General Sharif has been accused of “self-projection and self-centeredness.” He was even blamed for damaging the institutionalised decision-making process of the army by the same media group, which not long ago was promoting India in Pakistan, carrying out a nefarious campaign of lies and alleging that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) masterminded the attempted murder of one of its anchorpersons.
But contrary to the propaganda by a handful of journalists at the behest of the owners of their media houses, General Sharif’s popularity was not the result of any “gimmickry” of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
If propaganda alone could win hearts and minds of the people, then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family should have been the most popular personalities in Pakistan, given the fact that not only the Information Ministry and the State-run electronic media and wire-service are at their beck and call, but government funds are generously being used and abused to oblige and bribe media house owners and journalists. PM Sharif’s talented daughter leads and manages the social media front through her well-oiled, vast horde of assistants and media specialists. Yet, all the massive amount of funds and government resources could not win any respect and goodwill for the Prime Minister and his near and dear ones, who emerged as the most controversial ruling family in Pakistan’s recent history – surpassing even former president Asif Ali Zardari and his inner circle when it comes to the allegations of corruption, shady deals and poor governance.
Contrary to the propaganda by a handful of journalists at the behest of the owners of their media houses, General Sharif’s popularity was not the result of any “gimmickry” of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR)
The secret behind General Sharif’s popularity was his vision, bold decisions and their execution rather than sponsored publicity and public relations tactics. He represented the collective will, courage, commitment and wisdom of his institution, which raised its game to fill the vacuum created by the incompetence, corruption, greed, cowardice and opportunism of the civilian rulers, many of whom remain too willing to sacrifice even Pakistan’s core national interests to win trade and business favours from India.
Yes, General Sharif is hailed as a hero of Pakistan because he stood against the challenge of terrorism and extremism at a time when the civilian government was wasting time in futile “peace talks” with local terrorist groups. The Pakistan Armed Forces, under his leadership, put the terrorists on the back foot, wiping out their safe havens and sanctuaries.
He won the respect of Pakistanis by the way he nudged and directed the civilian leadership to take decisions that supported and facilitated the nation’s fight against terrorism, such as lifting the moratorium on the death penalty and the formation of the military courts, to name but a few. Even then, civilian leaders tried to blunt these agreed upon steps in the National Action Plan through delaying tactics and by creating financial, administrative and legal hurdles.
He earned the trust of Pakistanis by the way he stood against India’s hegemonic designs at a time when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was focused on trying to cultivate his personal friendship with the butcher of Gujrat, Narendra Modi and did not bother to include the Kashmir dispute in the Ufa declaration of July 2015 – the first ever such omission in any high-level Pakistan-India engagement.
General Sharif became the super star for the people, the way he articulated their rage against the nexus of crime, corruption and terrorism – that leads to the doorsteps of many of our politicians, including parliamentarians.
He represented Pakistan on the diplomatic front with acumen, foresight and grace, which were found wanting in the Prime Minister and his team. Whenever he rubbed shoulders with foreign dignitaries, diplomats and military officials, the nation remained confident that he would fight for Pakistan and its interests.
An overwhelming majority of Pakistanis never questioned or doubted General Sharif’s professionalism as the supreme officer and commander of the Army. Both soldiers and the people had faith in his leadership.
And Pakistanis loved General Raheel Sharif because he was there for them through thick and thin. He was constantly on the move – on the toughest fronts – among soldiers and officers on Eid days, at the site of terrorist attacks and scenes of natural calamities; he was at hospitals meeting victims and their families; and his shoulder was there for families and relatives of the martyrs of the Armed Forces.
General Sharif was indeed a peoples’ general. His successors will have to work beyond the call of duty to match his services and go many extra miles to surpass them. But in the golden tradition of the Pakistan Army, expanding boundaries of professionalism, dedication and courage is the name of the game. General Sharif will remain the source of inspiration and a living icon for the officers and soldiers of the Pakistan Armed Forces for decades to come.