The moment of truth.

THE change of guard had never been so messy. What should have been a routine matter has turned into a high-stakes political game of chicken. The new army chief is expected to be named by the end of this week. But the transition may not bring an end to the controversy; the whole process has become so deeply politicised. The new chief will take charge in a highly polarised and volatile political atmosphere.

A major challenge for the new incumbent in what is regarded as the most powerful office in the country will be to navigate through choppy waters. It is not just a matter related to the role of the security establishment in the ongoing political power game but also a question of how to restore public confidence in the institution.

The loss of credibility has fuelled unprecedented public criticism of the military leadership, a factor that has made the appointment of the new army chief controversial. Its deep involvement in political affairs have raised questions about the military's professionalism and obscured its main responsibility of ensuring the security of the nation. Unsurprisingly, the belated claim of 'neutrality' has few takers.

From the very outset, the security establishment has dominated political power - directly or indirectly - in the country. Long periods of authoritarian military rule have alternated with short and ineffective civilian dispensations. The military's political role has also undermined civilian institutions and the growth of democratic political culture in the country.

It will be challenging for the new command to deal with the multiple problems faced by the military.

As a result, the country's basic power structure has not changed over the last 75 years. Most political parties serve dynastic family interests and thus easily become pawns in the perpetuation of the security establishment's political control. Elected civilian governments have been ousted through extra-constitutional means or political manipulation. Nurtured in the military's hatchery, political leaders could be easily dispensed with once they got out of control.

Therefore, it has not been surprising that few civilian governments have been able to complete their terms. The replacement has been easily available. The game of political musical chairs has gone on ensuring the predominance of the security establishment. The rise to power of Imran Khan was also a manifestation of the same game. The former cricket hero-turned-politician was the new kid...

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