By Brig Said Nazir retd
Military history lays great emphasis on the leadership principles, traits and qualities. Military history is not only the chronology of wars and battles, but the prism through which an incisive reflection is made on the leaders on both sides of the fence. Great military leaders not only learn from history but make history to be followed. Khalid Bin Walid was never defeated in the battle field where as Napoleon finally met his Waterloo, but history holds both as great military leaders. It is the material from which these leaders are cut and the professional acumen infused in them to lead at the pearl of their life and pride.
Pakistan checkered military history is also replete with the good, the bad and the ugly .The conduct of war is the greatest test of professional competence of a military commander whereas courage is the core value of a soldier in the battle field. It is a deadly combination for the enemy and a good omen for the nation. If we dispassionately analyze the military chapter of our history, one will find more than half of it checkered with self granted and self grandiose military rule and extension in their respective command tenure. Extension in service itself is not a bad phenomenon; provided got or granted on the basis of performance and unparallel professional competence. However, the general perception is negative and considered counterproductive in upholding the system. This perception has mainly been created and strengthened by the ones who got it and used it for personal gains.
There is a debate across the media and in the social circles regarding the extension in service tenure of Gen Raheel Sharif, who will be stepping in the last year of his command on Nov 29, this year. The popular view is for an instant, yes; so that the message is conveyed to the enemy, that the fight is till the logical end and conclusion. Their logic is based on continuity of policy, consistency in efforts, focus on the aims and objectives of war and above all the deterrence value he radiates with his presence at the hot spots. This logic gets value added currency once analyzed in the perspective of the odd fact that individuals are stronger than the institutions and U-turns are taken in the so-called national interests or a course change approach adopted with the change of command. That is why the predators are cunning enough to say, “you were and will be were again”, and yet another with the clinching teethes, “you are for two years and we are here to stay”.
There is also an element of emotional com motivational attachment to the personality; both within the civil cadre and military mid-tier and budding leadership. They idealize him on many counts but the foremost being the trust and confidence he has infused in the rank and file. He is a unique icon and Pakistan army is relishing it, after a long wait.
The second school of thought is advocating the constellation of five stars on his colors com shoulders. The award of the fifth star will make him the field marshal with a baton to command. They give him the credit and merit him above all; in winning the war against militancy in all forms and manifestations. However, there are some diehard professionals who expect him to say nay, to the extension or 5th star, in order to remain above the board as an idol in the military history of Pakistan. The zealots quip, if the non- deserving have got it on one pretext or the other, why should not a deserving one be given a role longer than life?
There is yet another premise suggesting promotion rather than extension in a way that his promotion is coupled with the promotion of the institution; he will command. They are of the view that the higher defence organization be revisited to make it more potent and effective. The present slot of Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC) though, senior most in the protocol, but not in direct command and control of the three services. This appointment could be made more coveted by vesting more powers in it, besides making it a five star commander of the armed forces. The authority to; to chair the promotion and postings of all three stars, control and distribute the defense budget amongst the three services, authority to move forces and recommend the dossiers for making the respective services chief, will make a difference in tangible terms. It will amounts to strengthening the system and reinforcing the institution irrespective of who holds the baton. More so, the time lines are enough to deliberate and develop on this premise and crystallize it for implementation once the change of command is due during Nov 2016.
Since, the change in higher defense organization will be structural in nature, therefore added dividends be accrued in the field of policy making and strategy formulation. The synergy in efforts and unity of command are the very essential elements of today’s fast changing strategic scenarios and fluid battle field conditions. There is also a need to make fundamental changes in the basic organizational structure of the army, as it is based on the British model of triangular shape pyramid. The enemy has based all its offensive/ defensive hypothesis and contingencies planning on our existing battle grouping. The basic premise of their cold start strategy is to create eight battle groups out of their three strike corps; poised against Pakistan and make sudden stabbing attacks and run over our linier border defenses there by, humbling Pakistan army within the confines of nuclear thresholds. The answer to the threat is Nasar, missile with tactical nuclear tip and deployment of troops in depth with two layers of defenses by changing our battalions, brigades, divisions and corps to square (box) shape organization on the US model.
This defensive/offensive arrangement will accrue us depth, flexibility and potent command structure at all field units and formations. Its grouping and placement on ground; require time for war gaming and real time field exercises. It is cost effective as the number of commands and staff will shrink by one third. Its strategic implications will put the adversary and specially the spin doctors of cold start strategy, on the tail spin. The resultant savings in treasure and men will be used for creating a sub-conventional corps which will relieve pressure on the over- stretched deployment of army on the sub-conventional front and augment our capacity in protecting the strategic assets; for which certain skeptics are always worried.
The options discussed have merits and demerits. The essence of the matter is to make the institution strong, effective and potent enough to bring about positive changes in the three services. The present system was put in place during seventies in the realm of conventional environments, whereas conventional, unconventional; sub-conventional besides digital and cyber warfare are the new dimensions of threat. To meet the added challenges the top leadership is not well coherent and co-opted in a wholesome manner. The lessons of 1965 War and Kargil episode are there to learn from.
Since, the system is outdated and change is overdue; but reluctance to change and ceding/sharing of the authority is a difficult proposition, therefore the responsibility to make this daunting task a reality; be vested in Gen Raheel Sharif. Though, as I know him; his chemistry is not in sync with the extension, but has the genes to keep the national and service interests above his personal gains. It will be a great strategic contemplation, if he dedicates his energies and use his leverage to make the sister services and his own deputies agree to the change on merit with consensus. He has to move against the grain of the ground. The deliberation, consultation, coordination and war gaming amongst the three services will take the sum total of his final stint as COAS to crystallize and actualize the higher defence organization. This viable option with no skipping over effects on the ladder of promotion be adopted, sequel to the end of his tenure as COAS, in Nov 2016.His promotion to the highest rank as CJCSC with the additional star and command authority/ responsibilities; will be by implication rather than by design. He will be well entrenched to implement and fine tune the new system while holding the citadel of joint services headquarters. This arrangement will put to rest rumors, clear many doubts and strengthen the system to be followed by all in the line of promotion.
In the final analysis; Pakistan has to win this un- time- lined war by ensuring the safety of CPEC and denying our internal vulnerability to India via proxy’s war. It is the political govt to take due cognizance of the ground realities and make prudent decisions to bring about a timely and well articulated change in the higher defense organization by taking all stakeholders on board.
Any extension in tenure without promoting the institution, will equate him with the ones who were but ambitious.
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