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Pakistan Today Editorial – 10th February 2016

Pressures on Gen Raheel Sharif to stay on

How professional armies function

Gen Raheel Sharif will be remembered as a professional soldier, a talented strategist and a courageous military leader. Most of all he will be admired as a general who had no political ambitions. Possessing all these qualities he stands head and shoulders above most of his predecessors. His refusal to accept an extension in service beyond the normal tenure is indicative of his confidence in the army as an institution being capable of continuing his legacy. As he made the announcement which was quite unusual, cynics predicted that it was meant to evoke a sympathy wave that could be used as a justification to revise the position he had taken. Keeping in view his past record the allegation was preposterous.

Banners have reappeared in Islamabad, Lahore and a number of other cities calling on the COAS to revise his decision. A hitherto unknown entity with the name of “Move on Pakistan” claims to have put up the banners. These are either misguided friends or tools in the hands of vested interest. We are confident that the general would react to the call with the disdain that it deserves. Gen Raheel Sharif comes from a family of true soldiers motivated by patriotism who have made supreme sacrifices for the country. The general has himself emerged as an iconic figure during his tenure as COAS. An extension for a year or two would be no feather in his cap.

Pakistan army is a highly professional institution as long as it remains untainted with politics. Its senior commanders attain their position after passing through a rigorous system of selection. Retirement of prestigious and charismatic military figures, sometime in the midst of wars, is a matter of routine in professional armies. There should be no doubt that the present COAS will be replaced by a capable successor and the operation against terrorists and the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) will continue with the same commitment.

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World Bank endorsement

Micro economic stability?

Perhaps World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s meetings with private sector representatives will be more enlightening than his sit-down with the prime minister regarding just what degree of ‘micro economic stability has been achieved due to the policies of the present government’. They not only remain hamstrung by the continuing power and gas crisis, but have also long been crowded out of the money market. And the so-called tax reforms that Kim appreciated have, on the contrary, caused quite a stir at home; coming as they do after the PML-N was simply unable to enhance revenue through conventional taxation.

For some time now international financial institutions, particularly the Fund and the Bank, have been blatantly political in their outlook. They are willing to reschedule, even write off, loans when states are compliant with Washington and Brussels; and not wary of a degree of visible arm-twisting on other occasions. Islamabad knows well by now just what sort of political climate draws which particular kind of response – like the isolation of the ‘90s, then the largesse after 9/11, and a degree of elbow room now, when there is a need to show that the west will not disengage from Pakistan like before especially so long as we facilitate Afghan peace.

That is why IMF bosses gladly agreed to downward revision of particularly all important indicators in all meetings of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF). And that is most likely why the World Bank is all praise and eager to participate in the takeoff that will presumably make Pakistan an Asian Tiger, etc. But since the Bank engages in development projects only, it is unlikely to help circumvent procedural and practical bottlenecks that have dried up private investment. As things stand the economy will hold so long as the external environment is conducive – like cheap oil, CPEC, etc – but little, if anything, has been done to stimulate exports or investment. That means policy-driven micro as well as macro economic stability is yet to be achieved.

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