A change of guard in Pakistan's army
After completing an extended tenure as Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has announced that he has no plans to seek an extension and that he would retire on November 29.
That would pave the way for the next in line to take over the fourth largest army in the world and the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping forces. Kayani succeeded General Pervez Musharraf, who was forced to step down and hand over power to a civilian government.
He played a crucial role, if not a pivotal, in the talks between former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and General Musharraf to pave the way for her return to Pakistan after years of self-imposed exile.
Unlike Musharraf, Kayani showed more maturity and kept calm under a variety of threats, both political as well as military. In 2009, he sent the military to drive out the Taliban in Swat Valley and then took on the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) in South Waziristan province.
Even though the military was still deployed along its eastern border with India, it had a fair amount of problems to contend with because of the Afghan war raging on the country’s Western Frontiers.
Despite the controversies surrounding him, Kayani was able to transform the military into a modern fighting force.
The troops were trained in combat operations to improve their state of readiness, as insurgencies raged in both Baluchistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.
The military's role was crucial at a time when the whole region was on the brink of a conflagration.
Despite the temptation of staging a coup d'etat like his predecessors, Kayani ensured that the military was kept away from micro-managing the political stage in the country.
Many who have served under him say that Kayani is a professional soldier whose father severed as a Corporal and as such does not carry the entrapments of the more feudal dominated class of Generals.
It is surprising to see that his emphasis has been to concentrate on the ordinary foot soldiers, something he has done and shown by his frequent visits to the frontlines to spend time with troops.
His successor will have to deal with a complex set of problems, both internal security issues as well as faced with external threats.
The military has come under attack by nationalists in Balochistan Province more recently in the earthquake-hit zone, but it continued to carry out relief work there.
The new army chief would, therefore, inherit some serious challenges.
One of them will include the smooth exit for the NATO and the US forces from Afghanistan by the end of next year, and to ensure that the military is able to control the insurgencies in the two key provinces along the Afghan border.
The decision on next army chief would be on merit and no one is willing to give a final answer as to who would be the next man to command the Pakistani Army for the next five years.
In the end, Kayani has proved his critics wrong by setting an example of calling it a day and passing the mantle of responsibly to another soldier.