ISLAMABAD: A guessing game on the replacement of army chief General Raheel Sharif is likely to end within the next 24 hours, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is all set to approve the crucial appointment after returning from his Turkmenistan trip.
Apart from filling the post of army chief, the prime minister will have to name the new chairman joint chiefs of staff committee (CJCSC) after the incumbent Gen Rashad Mahmood retires today (Saturday). Earlier, it was thought that Gen Raheel and Gen Mahmood would retire the same day. But a military official clarified that the CJCSC retires a day before the army chief since he took charge a day earlier.
The new CJCSC will take charge on Monday, just a day before the formal ceremony scheduled for the handover of the command of the army to its new chief. This means the prime minister will have to approve the new appointments not later than Sunday.
“Yes, the appointment of the new army chief and CJCSC will have to be made by Sunday,” confirmed a senior military official on condition of anonymity.
The prime minister, who is currently on a visit to Turkmenistan, will return today.
The federal government is expected to issue a formal notification for the appointment of a new army chief as well as CJCSC Sunday morning. But the possibility of the government making the formal announcement late Saturday has not been ruled out either.
Traditionally, the prime minister welcomes the new army chief and CJCSC soon after their appointment. The military official confirmed that a summary containing the names of five three-star generals were sent to the prime minister office for the appointment of army chief and CJCSC.
Earlier, it was reported that four senior most generals — Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Corps Commander Multan Gen Ishfaq Nadim Ahmed, Corps Commander Bahawalpur Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday and Inspector General Training and Evaluation Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa — were in the race for the key slots.
However, so far little known and little discussed Corps Commander Gujranwala Lt Gen Ikramul Haq has also been included in the list of potential candidates.
Theoretically, the prime minister can pick any one of these five three-star generals for the coveted slot.
Meanwhile, a special ceremony was held at Joint Staff Headquarters, Chaklala on Friday as the Armed Forces of Pakistan bid farewell to outgoing CJCSC Gen Rashad, who retires today after 41 years of commissioned service, said a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
“I am very proud to be part of Pakistan Armed Forces and am convinced that the forces are geared up to address Pakistan’s national security challenges,” Gen Rashad said while addressing the audience and expressing feelings for his association with the uniform.
He lauded the high spirit of Pakistan Armed Forces which evolved over a period of time to meet contemporary challenges. CJCSC also reposed full confidence in national strategic capability and appreciated the high standard of operational preparedness of the strategic forces.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2016.