On Wednesday PTI chief Imran Khan swore by Allah, maintaining that he never planned to bring in an army chief of his choice. He claimed instead that it was decided by his government to appoint the next COAS on merit when the time came. When a leader says something on oath, it exposes an uneasy feeling in him that people are otherwise not likely to believe him. But what constitutes merit in promotion to key Army posts?
Merit, according to Imran Khan, is not an officer’s record of professional excellence, his leadership qualities or his strategic vision. Being apolitical is in fact the biggest disqualification for a higher Army post in Mr Khan’s eyes. According to the PTI chief, those who decide to become neutral degenerate into animals who possess neither cognitive powers nor a moral sense. Mr Khan wanted the Army leadership to stand by him to foil the opposition-sponsored no- confidence move. As the Army decided not to become a party, an angry Mr Khan continued to disparage the current Army leadership by calling them neutrals. While in democratic societies, professional excellence and political neutrality are treated as merit, fascist states insist on the army leadership’s Ioyalty to the head of the ruling party. The PTI’s social media posts leave no doubt about those considered loyal and thus fit for promotion.
Mr Khan conceives of military leaders as watchmen whose principal job was to defend his government against threats from any quarter, particularly from his political opponents. He believes that the present Army leadership failed to perform their duty. As he puts it, there was a burglary in the house as the watchman remained neutral.
Mr Khan’s penchant for personal loyalty led him to create hurdles in the transfer of the previous ISI chief. The act amounted to throwing a wrench into the works as it hindered the otherwise smooth working of the Army and the appointments and transfers of a number of military commanders were withheld for over a month. The action gave birth to widespread conjectures about Mr Khan’s desire to have an Army leadership of his choice. The perception cannot be removed through oaths when at the same time the denunciation of neutrals continues.