Pro-Raheel party wants review of retirement decision

Published February 21, 2016
Featuring the photograph of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and inscribed with the demand that he review his retirement decision, posters like the ones displayed here have been put up on poles along different roads in the city by a political party. —Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star
Featuring the photograph of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and inscribed with the demand that he review his retirement decision, posters like the ones displayed here have been put up on poles along different roads in the city by a political party. —Fahim Siddiqi/ White Star

KARACHI: There is a new political party in town. And its posters are a testament to its presence in Karachi, especially if one takes the arterial Sharea Faisal. The ‘Move on Pakistan’ party calls for extension in the term of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and demands that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reconsider the general’s decision on retirement, due in November this year.

The tag line of the political party, Janay ki baatain janay do, is aimed at making the general reconsider his retirement plan and think about “not leaving the purpose for which he was made the COAS,” said Moazzam Iqbal Randhawa, spokesperson for the party.

The end of January witnessed a lot of speculation about whether or not the outgoing general will get an extension. The rumours were quashed by a military spokesperson in a tweet in which Gen Sharif was quoted as saying: “I don’t believe in extension and will retire on due date.”

Considering that there are still 10 months to go in the general’s retirement, who took over as the COAS in Nov 2013, the sudden talk about his extension and the subsequent dampening down of expectations gave rise to a certain segment that came out in his support.

The Move on Pakistan is part of this movement supporting the general and against “those taking turns to ruin the country”, according to its spokesperson.

Registered with the election commission of Pakistan for three years, the political movement was founded and headed by Mohammad Kamran, who hailed from Faisalabad, he said. “We have taken out rallies in Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Rawalpindi among other cities for the extension of General Raheel Sharif’s tenure as the COAS. After covering the south of Punjab in our last leg of the rally, we decided to move towards Sindh,” he added.

Mr Randhawa, who was on a two-day visit to Karachi, told Dawn that he would be leaving for Islamabad by Saturday evening.

He said the party planned to contest the general elections of 2018 in their “fight against nepotism and corruption”.

Asked about the reasons that compelled them to begin a movement such as this one, he said the party recently became active considering the ongoing situation. He explained, “We have reservations about the current political system in the country. Gen Sharif took a big stand to end extremism by initiating Zarb-i-Azb and yet a big issue was made out of his retirement plan. We believe there was a planned conspiracy against him to build pressure on him so that he may retire prematurely.”

Taking his point further, he said politicians “were unmasked for their affiliations with criminal gangs,” which did not go down well with them, with the result that they decided to “conspire against him.” Citing an example, he said former army chief “General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani was given an extension despite his claims of not harbouring any thoughts about it, then why the ruckus during Gen Sharif’s tenure who actually deserves it?”

He said the reason for them to begin a movement was that “good and honest people must be given a chance. Gen Raheel Sharif must be given the space to fulfil his duty and complete his job properly.” Throughout the interview, he reiterated that the movement was initiated by the people and for the people while claiming that 98 percent of the country’s population was with them. “The remaining two per cent are the politicians who are against us,” he added as an afterthought.

“We believe that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should give him the extension without any external prodding on the subject, that is, if he is not scared to do so,” he said.

Asked if there were any like-minded groups backing them, he didn’t take any names but made it clear that they were not “inviting the army to take over,” rather wanted a “progressive Pakistan, without dynastic politics, where the welfare of the people comes first”. This, he added, was possible through accountability that should be equal for everyone.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2016

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