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ISLAMABAD: After it became clear that four officers superseded during the appointment of Chief of the Army Staff last month had decided to step down, the army kicked off a major reshuffle of the top brass, promoting seven major generals to the rank of lieutenant general to fill vacant slots.

The general officers promoted on Friday include Lt Gen Nadeem Raza, Lt Gen Humayun Aziz, Lt Gen Naeem Ashraf, Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, Lt Gen Sher Afgun, Lt Gen Qazi Ikram and Lt Gen Bilal Akbar.

Lt Gen Raza was posted as commander of the Rawalpindi- based 10 Corps in place of Lt Gen Zafar Iqbal, who will take over as Director General at the Joint Staff Headquarters. The Joint Staff Headquarters position had fallen vacant due to the retirement of Lt Gen Najib on being superseded during the appointment of the army chief.

Rawalpindi, Multan corps commanders appointed

Before his promotion, Lt Gen Raza was posted as commandant of the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul. He is from the Sindh Regiment and has commanded a division in South Waziristan. He worked as a brigadier in the Military Operations Directorate. From 2001 to 2002, he remained a commanding officer on the Line of Control (LoC).

Meanwhile, Lt Gen Sarfraz Sattar, who was promoted in September, has been posted as Multan corps commander in place of Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed.

Lt Gen Ishfaq was believed to be a front runner for the appointment of Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) but was superseded by Gen Qamar Bajwa.

Following the precedent of general officers retiring on being superseded, Gen Ishfaq and Bahawalpur Corps Commander Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday belatedly decided to quit.

Among the other officers who were promoted, Lt Gen Humayun Aziz is a gunner. He has commanded a division in the Khyber Agency and was posted as DG Welfare and Rehabilitation (DG W&R) at the AG Branch. He is yet to get a three-star appointment.

Lt Gen Naeem Ashraf is from the armoured corps. He is currently at the National Defence University as chief instructor. Gen Ashraf has commanded a mechanised division in Malir, 3 Independent Armoured Brigade Group and 24 Infantry Brigade in Operation Al-Mizan in South Waziristan.

Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal is from the Engineers corps. He was serving as Director General Frontier Works Organisation before his promotion.

Lt Gen Sher Afgun is from the Azad Kashmir Regiment of Infantry. He is currently Inspector General Frontier Corps in Balochistan, where he was posted following the disclosure of a corruption scandal in the FC. He commanded a division on the LoC when Gen Bajwa was commander of the 10 Corps. Gen Afgun has also led a brigade in North Waziristan and remained at Military Operations Directorate as director.

Arguably the most well-known name among the batch of promoted officers is Lt Gen Bilal Akbar, who is from artillery. He came into the limelight after he was appointed Director General Rangers in Sindh, where he led the operation in Karachi. Lt Gen Akbar has commanded a division in Lahore and a brigade in Swat.

Lt Gen Qazi Ikram is the other officer from artillery to be promoted. He was director general personnel services at the GHQ.

The three star vacancies were created due to the elevation of Gen Zubair Hayat as chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen Qamar Bajwa as army chief; and retirement of the four superseded officers, which are now being filled by the newly promoted officers.

Gen Bajwa, who took over as army chief on Nov 29, is now in the process of building his team. He began doing so by replacing the corps commander of Karachi and the military secretary earlier this week. The promotions have set the stage for a bigger reshuffle both at the two star and three star level.

One of the most crucial positions that is presently lying vacant is that of Chief of General Staff, who happens to be the operations and intelligence leader within the army.

The army chief, while deciding the promotion of major generals, took a few bold decisions. At least 24 general officers have been superseded in the process.

“This may upset some of the senior officers,” a defence analyst said, adding that at the same time it showed that Gen Bajwa “did not fall for the temptation of following the easier and cautious path”.

The army chief is said to have held extensive deliberations before taking probably one of the most critical decisions since assuming charge.

Key figures among those superseded are: Chief of Staff Central Command Maj Gen Muhammad Shafiq, Vice Chief of General Staff Maj Gen Samrez Salik, General Officer Commanding Okara Maj Gen Abid Mumtaz, General Officer Commanding Malir Maj Gen Shahzad Naeem Khan, General Officer Commanding Quetta Maj Gen Syed Shafqat Asghar, and Maj Gen Syed Hasnat Amir, DG Doctrine and Evaluation at IGT&E Branch GHQ.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2016