The creators of the banner that has appeared almost overnight in several cities across the country, clearly wear their heart on their sleeve. Their message: Gen Raheel Sharif should seize power in Pakistan.
The banners are the latest iteration of increasingly urgent entreaties addressed to the army chief by a little known Punjab-based party called Move On Pakistan — rather ironically named, considering it seeks to take Pakistan back to what, in lucid moments, are considered some of the darkest chapters in its history.
An earlier poster by this group that emerged in February asked him to reconsider his retirement, due in November, and “help in eradicating terrorism and corruption”.
Not surprisingly, the new banner has set off fevered speculation in a country where, for historical reasons, the doffing of the chief’s uniform has always provided fertile ground for conjecture.
Those behind the current campaign told this newspaper there is no need for a political government and that their goal is to have Gen Sharif lead a technocrat government after he imposes martial law.
Given that the general has already — emphatically and unequivocally — stated in January that he does not believe in extensions and will retire as scheduled on Nov 30, there should be no speculation on this score.
Granted, if he does hang up his uniform on the due date, he will be the first army chief to have done so in two decades.
However, Gen Sharif — who has rightly earned praise for leading Operation Zarb-i-Azb so ably — has on more than one occasion shown that he is a man of his word.
To suggest any wavering on his part would be to cast aspersions on his character. Indeed, the institution he heads should be incensed at this naked attempt to drag it into politics when it already has its hands full with defending the country from enemies within and without.
For its part, the government must investigate the hidden hand behind these blatant efforts to invite the dismantling of a representative democracy that, however flawed, is the only long-term solution in the oft-mentioned ‘national interest’.
There is also a strong case for Move On Pakistan’s credentials to be reviewed by the ECP.
Surely, there is no rationale for a party calling for an unaccountable system like martial law to be registered with the body overseeing the electoral process. Meanwhile, we hold the general to his word.