Sunday, December 11, 2016

Business Recorder editorial Dec 11, 2016

Merit-based appointments The newly appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Bajwa has initiated what looks like a major reshuffle amongst the top commanders of the army. Of course it is the privilege of any incoming COAS to have his own team in place. But what is significant about the current crop of promotions/appointments is that there can hardly be a finger pointed at ignoring merit in these changes. Part of the reshuffle became necessary when four Generals were superseded while appointing General Bajwa as the new COAS. As is the tradition, all four superseded Lt-Generals have decided to retire. Seven Major Generals have been promoted as Lt-Generals. Amongst them, Lt-General Nadeem Raza, the Commandant of the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul, has been posted as Commander of the important 10th Corps, headquartered in Rawalpindi and responsible for the Line of Control sector. His predecessor, Lt-General Zafar Iqbal, has been shifted to Director General Joint Staff Headquarters, a position that fell vacant upon the retirement of superseded Lt-General Najib. Lt-General Nadeem Raza brings to his new command field experience, having served as a commanding officer on the Line of Control. Lt-General Sarfraz Sattar, promoted to a three-star General in September this year and awaiting appointment, has been posted as Commander 2nd Corps, based in Multan, in place of Lt-General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed, who has belatedly decided, along with Bahawalpur Corps Commander Lt-General Javed Iqbal Ramday, to seek early retirement on being superseded. Three star vacancies in the top military command opened up with the promotion of General Zubair Hayat as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Qamar Bajwa as COAS, and the retirement of the four superseded Generals. General Bajwa has now embarked on building the team of his choice. He has replaced the Karachi Corps Commander and the military secretary. This signals an even bigger reshuffle. Significantly, the crucial post of the Chief of General Staff is still vacant. The promotions notified so far superseded at least 24 Generals. How many amongst them may seek early retirement remains to be seen. As an aside, the unseemly, inappropriate, motivated campaign by sections of the religious lobby to paint some of the three star Generals shortlisted for elevation to COAS as Ahmedis was a typical obfuscatory effort by such elements to falsely muddy the waters and keep the dominance of reactionary ideas alive and dominant. Professional merit, not religious beliefs, has been the leit motif of the military. General Bajwa has not only adhered to and kept this tradition alive by ignoring the obscurantists, he has taken bold decisions while promoting and posting officers of the top command, based entirely on merit. Now that the military appears to have returned to its institutional principle of merit-based promotions and appointments, thereby leaving behind the deviations of the past (e.g. Generals Ziaul Haq, Pervez Musharraf and Kayani), the civilian side should learn the appropriate lessons from this turn towards unalloyed professionalism and merit and emulate this example in its own sphere as far as promotions and appointments to high office of state are concerned.

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