Director General Military Operations, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence, Acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Chief of the Army Staff, there isn’t a military post the spymaster has not held. Completing nine years at the latter two posts, the ‘71 war veteran has been the center of attention for American interests in the region, a reserved, unwitting partner in an international game of espionage, geo-political debacles, and contentious regional politics.
Less than two months into his tenure as COAS, he passed a directive that instructed military officers to withdraw from the civil sector, and not maintain working ties with politicians, a move much hailed by his predecessor’s critics. This commitment to the democratic process was dually reinforced in the 2008 and the 2013 general elections. Notoriously tight-lipped, with a deliberately and carefully maintained low-profile, any public statement made by the COAS was hungrily gobbled up by a media that was too used to constant and consistent military intervention in the evolution of Pakistan.
Perhaps the most significant of these statements was one he made on April 30, 2013 at the Yome-e-Shuhada (Martyr’s Day) ceremony. He reaffirmed the armed forces’ commitment to free and fair elections, and most significantly put to rest the political debate about whether the ‘war on terror’ was really Pakistan’s war, and the militants were enemies of the state. “ There is no room for doubts,” he said, “when it comes to dealing with rebellion against the state.” Just as quietly as he had stepped into the limelight, he slinked back out on November 29, 2013.