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Who will become the next army chief?

Updated September 02, 2013
Lt Gen Haroon Aslam (2nd L) has also commanded the Bahawalpur Corps and was promoted to the position of Lt General in April 2010.  — File Photo by PPI
Lt Gen Haroon Aslam (2nd L) has also commanded the Bahawalpur Corps and was promoted to the position of Lt General in April 2010. — File Photo by PPI

In the past couple of weeks, speculation has been rife over the appointment of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) and rumours say that this time around the decision-making will be extremely judicious for which the screening process is already underway.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has a daunting task ahead of him to appoint successors to Pakistan’s coveted military offices CJCSC and the COAS after Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne and Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani retire on October 6 and November 29 respectively.

With these critical decisions to be made by Prime Minister Sharif who is in office for a record third time, observers have drawn parallels to an earlier period in Pakistan’s political history where the premier faced a similar kind of dilemma.

In 1998, General Pervez Musharraf was appointed as the army chief out of turn who later ousted Sharif’s government in a bloodless coup d'état. The outcome from the appointment also explains why the prime minister recently announced that he would appoint the senior-most lieutenant general as COAS.

For this task, the premier has sought assistance from Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar and incumbent Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif. It is worth mentioning that the former was also highly instrumental during the appointment of General Musharraf in 1998.

Sharif would have to decide between two potential generals if the current stance on seniority is maintained. PML-N leaders say that the contenders tipped to succeed Gen Kayani and Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne include Lt Gen Haroon Aslam and Admiral Asif Sandilla.

Lt General Haroon Aslam currently holds the position of Chief of Logistics Staff at the Army Head Quarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi. He enjoys a credible reputation within the military ranks and a strong army career during which he commanded the Bahawalpur Corps and was later promoted to the position of Lt General in April 2010. He also participated in the 2009 Rah-i-Rast operation conducted against Taliban militants in Swat.

If the principle of seniority is upheld, then Gen Haroon Aslam will be appointed to the office of COAS while Admiral Asif Sandilla, who is the Chief of Naval Staff and the senior most official in the armed forces, will be the CJCSC.

However, if the Pak Navy chief does not get the post of the CJCSC, then Haroon Aslam is likely to take over and Lt Gen Rashad Mahmood will become the COAS.

The names would be forwarded to the Ministry of Defence, which is also headed by the prime minister himself.

There is tangible evidence to suggest that Gen Rashad Mahmood is a prospective candidate to make it to the office. Earlier this year, Mahmood was named the new Chief of General Staff (CGS), which is one of the most prestigious positions in the army. Moreover, he has served as the Corps Commander of Lahore. Another key position he previously held was of military secretary to former president Rafiq Tarar.

In a situation where Prime Minister Sharif decides to give seniority a toss, then generals who can be considered for the post may include: Inspector General Training and Evaluation at the GHQ Lt Gen Raheel Sharif, Corps Commander of Mangla Lt. Gen Tariq Khan, Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Muhammad Zaheerul Islam and Commander XXX Corps Gujranwala Lt Gen Salim Nawaz.

— Compiled and edited by Fatema Imani