Islamabad: India is keeping its guard up because of the assessment that Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif may unleash “some cross-border action-plan” in the run-up to his November end scheduled retirement.
The Indian security establishment feels Gen Sharif, who has a strong anti-India agenda, is unlikely to go home quietly after Thursday’s “surgical strikes”. Having projected himself as a crusader against terrorism and corruption, often overruling PM Nawaz Sharif on several issues, Gen Sharif is “capable” of going in for a strong counter-move against India to redeem his legacy, say officials.
Nawaz Sharif , of course, would like to see the back of Gen Sharif, with four Lt-Generals in the reckoning to succeed him. If Nawaz actually succeeds in this endeavour, Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday, commanding the 31 Corps at Bahalwalpur, could take over the reins of the Army .
“Ramday is third in seniority among the four. But his family has political links with Nawaz’s Pakistan Muslim League (N),” an official said. The other three Lt Gens are Zubair Mahmood Hayat (chief of general staff), Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed (chief of the 2 Corps at Multan) and Qamar Javed Bajwa (I-G training and evaluation at the GHQ).
“Gen Sharif, who’s become a bit of a megalomaniac and Nawaz Sharif hate each other. This aura of invincibility and greatness that Gen Sharif built for himself received a setback with this attack (India’s surgical strikes),” said former ambassador to Pakistan G Parthasarathy .
Given Gen Sharif’s unpredictability and India hatred (his uncle was killed in the 1965 war and brother in 1971), the threat is he might do something silly. India should be prepared,” he added.
Nawaz Sharif has handpicked five Army chiefs during his stints as PM, including Gen Pervez Musharraf (1998) and Gen Sharif (2013). Musharraf went on to oust Nawaz Sharif in 1999, exiling him to Saudi Arabia.
The Pakistan Army has over the years been the prime driver behind Islamabad’s Kashmir policy to “bleed” India. But despite its history of interventions within and adventurism vis-a-vis India, it remains a motivated, force.
If there is a change in guard this November, India won’t have much to cheer about. “Pakistan Army’s professional hostility towards India will continue, though it may not be as visceral and personal as under Gen Sharif,” said Parthasarathy.