ISLAMABAD: The government on Tuesday decided to appoint Air Marshal Tahir Raffiq Butt to succeed out-going Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman to head the Pakistan Air Force (PAF).
Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman is due to retire on March 18, after completing his three year term.
“Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has advised President of Pakistan to appoint Air Marshal Tahir Raffiq Butt, being the senior most, as the new of chief of air staff of Pakistan Air Force,” said an official announcement.
Gilani had earlier in the day held a meeting with Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. An official statement had said that the two had discussed the security situation along with professional matters pertaining to the country’s defence.
The Prime Minister then took the short trip from Prime Minister House to the Aiwan-e-Sadr where he briefed President Asif Ali Zardari on matters pertaining to current situation, by-elections, senate elections as per a press release, and as per sources, on the appointment of a new air chief.
Earlier reports indicated that five air marshals were in the race to become the next PAF chief.
However, the government has upheld the principle of seniority, like it did for the appointment of Naval Chief last year.
Under the constitution, the Prime Minister has the prerogative to appoint services chiefs. In the past, there were instances when the sitting prime ministers overlooked the principle of seniority in appointing services chiefs.
Air Chief Marshal Suleman has overseen a successful term which involved key inductions into the PAF. This includes the serial production and induction of the JF-17 fighter aircraft that Pakistan co-developed with China. This period also saw the arrival of the first of new block 52 F-16 D air crafts and the upgradation of the existing F-16 block 15, A and B fighters.
Additionally, the period saw Pakistan expand its global role, selling its indigenous aircraft, the K-8 to Bolivia to help counter-narcotics, and smuggling operations.
However, Suleman will be most remembered for famously remarking that, contrary to government claims, the PAF had the capability to shoot down US operated Predator drones, which seem to strike in Pakistan with complete impunity.
His charges also came under scrutiny after US forces managed to infiltrate Pakistani airspace, fly to Abbottabad, conduct a covert operation, and fly out without confrontation. Their capability was most recently questioned when NATO aircraft attacked the Pakistani security check post on Salala in November 2011.
Government selects senior most officer as PAF Chief successor
Butt is the senior most officer after current chief. The Government decided on the successor based on seniority.
Air Marshal Butt is currently the senior most officer of PAF. He joined the force on March 6 1977 as a GD pilot.
Butt assumed the office of Vice Chief of the Air Staff on October 5, 2010. In recognition of his meritorious and exceptionally dedicated services, he has been decorated with the awards of Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military), Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Military) and Tamgha-i-Basalat.