by Mian Abrar
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is all set to pick one of the four senior-most lieutenant generals as the new army chief. A decision in this regard is likely to be announced soon.
Defence sources claim that Gen Raheel Sharif has suggested that the PM appoint two senior-most officers against the top military posts.
“The army chief has suggested that Lt Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat might be elevated as the new Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) chairman, while Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem should be appointed as the new army chief. The recent military exercise in Khairpur Tamewali was meant to impress the PM with operational skills of Gen Ishfaq,” a well-placed source in the federal government told the Pakistan Today.
PM Nawaz Sharif has quite an extensive experience of making army appointments. He has picked five out of the seven army chiefs since the departure of General Ziaul Haq. Army chiefs appointed by PM Nawaz Sharif are: Gen Asif Nawaz Janjua (1991), Gen Waheed Kakar (1993), Gen Pervez Musharraf (1998), Gen Ziauddin Butt (1999) and Gen Raheel Sharif (2013). It would be the sixth time the premier will be picking the new army chief.
Air chief likely new CJCSC
Sources claimed that the PM was considering a major break with tradition by appointing the Chief of Air Staff Sohail Aman as the new CJCSC – a decision likely to further deepen the gulf between the civilian and army leadership.
“Since Gen Zubair has already served as Director-General of Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which deals with nuclear weapons, the army has suggested his appointment as the CJCSC,” a defence official said.
“If things go as planned by the army, Gen Zubair will be the new CJCSC, Gen Ishfaq the next army chief, Gen Amir Riaz the new Chief of General Staff and General Sarfraz Sattar will be appointed the new Inter Services Intelligence director general,” the source said.
For over two decades, the CJCSC has been picked from the army.
“The prime minister now wants to rotate this position among army, navy and air force. So this time around, the slot is likely to be offered to the air chief while the next time it may be offered to the naval chief if the prime minister takes a final decision to rotate the CJCSC slot,” the official sources said.
Top contenders for army chief slot
According to the seniority list, Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Zubair Hayat is the senior-most officer, followed by Multan Corps Commander Lt General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed, Bahawalpur Corps Commander Lt General Javed Iqbal Ramday and Training and Evaluation Inspector General Lt General Qamar Javed Bajwa. All the four generals are from the 62nd MPA Long Course.
Requesting anonymity, a military official said that Gen Ishfaq Nadeem had had a ‘textbook career’. He is currently serving as the Multan corps commander. He previously served as Chief of General Staff and Director-General Military Operations (DGMO). He also leads the mechanised corps.
A federal government official said that the prime minister was seeking advice from all quarters over the appointments.
“As per his profile, Gen Ishfaq is one of the best available choices. He is reportedly very sharp, very bold and very visionary. He is the one who, in the corps commanders meeting held in September 2014, had raised a voice against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s dharna and advised the military leadership to stay away from it,” the source said.
However, another ruling party leader said that Gen Ishfaq Nadeem was “very blunt and straightforward”.
Discussing the chances of Gen Bajwa, the source said that the PM personally liked him as he had “extensive experience” of handling affairs in Kashmir and the northern areas of the country. “The PM wants to make solid progress on the Kashmir issue during his tenure,” the source said.
The source, however, said that Gen Bajwa had not participated in any major operation.
“Actually Gen Bajwa suits the premier’s views, but professionally Gen Ishfaq Nadeem is unparalleled,” the source said.
Asked about Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday, the source said that Gen Ramday had equal chances, too, and he might prove to be a “dark horse”.
“The PM has so far not shared his thoughts [about the appointment] with anybody, but the military is sure he is going to bring in Gen Bajwa. To be honest, the PM himself wants to elevate Gen Naveed Mukhtar, the Karachi corps commander, and that is why he wanted to grant a one-year extension to Gen Raheel. So that next year, Gen Naveed could be appointed as COAS,” the PML-N leader said.
Defence analyst Lt Gen (R) Amjad Shoaib said that appointing the new CJCSC from the air force would not be a good idea.
“The CJSC has a major role in coordination between the three armed forces in the event of war. An officer from the land forces will be in a better situation to do this,” he said. He said that slot should not be rotated.