Thankfully the soothsayers in 2011 were wrong. Democracy smiles in Pakistan as the country's Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said on Sunday that he would retire at the end of his tenure on Nov. 29.
In response to rumours and speculations about his future, Gen. Kayani in a statement released by the Inter Services Public Relations said: "It is time for others to carry forward the mission of making Pakistan a truly democratic, prosperous and peaceful country." With a history of having been ruled by the military for half its history, it is rather unprecedented in Pakistan's chequered history that a commander should make such a statement.
With Pakistan's political elite capable of intense squabbling, Gen. Kayani is, possibly the best thing to happen for Pakistan's fledgling democracy. He was appointed the army chief by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in late 2007 and given an unprecedented three-year extension by then Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2010.
In a country, where the army is often accused of being a "state within a state," and mocked at for their lack of accountability, Gen Kayani led the force at one of its most tumultuous times.
The ignominy of having Osama bin Laden in its backyard was too heavy for the Pakistan Army to bear, but General Kayani surfed through. Unlike his predecessors, he withstood temptations to mingle with politics and sought the constitutional role that an army is destined to play.
2011 might have been the worst year for Gen. Kayani and Pakistan. Soon after the U.S. killed Bin Laden in a covert operation, rumours were rife that the country was on the verge of another military takeover. Fuelling speculation, the then Prime Minister Mr Gilani warned of conspiracies against his government.
Rumours came to fore following an op-ed in the Financial Times written by Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani -American businessman who claimed that after the killing of Bin Laden, he was asked by a Pakistani diplomat Husain Haqqani, the former envoy to the United States, to hand over a memo to Adm. Mike Mullen the then chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff.
The purported memo sought help of the U.S. forces to help prevent a possible coup in Pakistan. In return the alleged memo is said to have offered to party dismantle Pakistan's notorious spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Further evidence began pouring out as the British newspaper The Independent published a post quoting Mr Ijaz that American intelligence sources has revealed that, following the killing of Bin Laden, ISI Chief and Gen. Kayani confidant, Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha had visited countries in the Middle-East in an effort to garner support for a possible coup in Pakistan.
In hindsight, it is to Gen. Kayani's credit that the military made no overt or covert attempt to ouster the Pakistan's civilian government, despite prevalent perceptions otherwise.
During his tenure, Gen Kayani remained committed to democracy, but evidently, did not allow the political establishment to sideline the army's significance.
But, to the soothsayers; Nov. 29 is still a far-way-away in Pakistan.
To contact the editor, e-mail: