ISLAMABAD: With speculation rife about the next GHQ boss, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif plans to name the successor of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani weeks before the incumbent’s extended six-year term expires in November this year, sources reveal.
The move is aimed at quashing the ongoing guessing game about the next chief of army staff and ensuring a smooth transition at a time when the military is fighting militants on many fronts.
“Consultations have already begun to choose Kayani’s successor. The government will not wait until November 28. The decision will come much earlier than the cut-off date,” a close aide to the premier told The Express Tribune.
Gen Kayani, who was appointed as the army chief by former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2007, has already availed a three-year extension granted by then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in 2010. He is now expected to retire on November 28.
The revelation by one of the prime minister’s close aides corroborates an earlier statement by senior leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Raja Zafarul Haq, who recently told reporters that the government would soon complete consultations over the appointment of a new army chief.
PML-N spokesman Siddiqul Farooq, however, said that the decision would be taken at an ‘appropriate time.’
The scheduled appointment has gained wide attention given past difficulties faced by civilian governments in appointing successors to the coveted military post.
Former ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had the chance to appoint a new army chief in November 2010 but instead opted to extend the tenure of the incumbent appointed by a military ruler.
The PML-N decision to appoint the new army chief is also under the lens for the party’s close yet troubled ties with the powerful military establishment, which was twice involved in ousting Nawaz Sharif from power.
Critics argue that during the previous two appointments by Nawaz Sharif, Gen Waheed Kakar in 1993 and Gen Pervez Musharraf in 1998, the premier preferred loyalty over merit. However, recent public pronouncements by the premier reflect a growing realisation that he made a mistake in ignoring merit when he made the crucial appointment. Now, the PML-N has taken a stance that it will make its decision purely on merit and will keep seniority in mind when appointing a new army chief.
If the principle of seniority is strictly adhered to, then after the retirement of Gen Kayani on November 28, Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, currently Chief of Logistic Staff, would be the senior most general in the army followed by Lt Gen Rashid Mehmood, Chief of General Staff, and Lt Gen Raheel Sharif.
According to defense sources, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would be sent a shortlist of three generals from which he would likely pick one.
While the premier can pick any Lt. Gen to head the army, a senior PML-N leader says that given the enormity of domestic and external challenges faced by the country, the government will keep the ability to deal with a wide range of issues as a key decision point when considering the appointment.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2013.
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