Next 3 to 4 weeks are going to be very significant in Pakistani politics with India along the LOC,Imran Khan in Islamabad and Nawaz-led government seem to be between the devil and the deep blue sea. These might not be a bigger reason to worry for Sharif but a Sharif, the most powerful man in Pakistan. Change of guard in Pakistan has usually not been an easy and smooth exercise until the guard himself choses to say goodbye.

The 29th of this November will be a‘magical date’ when Gen Raheel Sharif‘s tenure as 15th chief of Army staff of Pakistan ends. Like his predecessor Gen (r) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani – who spent two terms in the office, extension in the service of Gen Raheel is also being debated a lot. In the Pakistani constitution, the process of the appointment of COAS has not been much specified in written; it only states its as purgative of Prime Minister, an office currently held by Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The PM office seeks a list of senior generals from the Army from the Ministry of Defence. The PM then discusses the profile of each candidate with his senior aides and also seeks the opinion of intelligence agencies for the purpose. The PM also has the privilege of seekingan opinion from the departing COAS in this regard. Although Gen Sharif has already announced that he would not seek the extension, speculations would continue to emerge until his successor is named officially by the PMO.

First of all, we need to see who is in the race forthe top slot in the Pakistani military. In the seniority list, Lt General Zubair Mahmood Hayat is on top; he is quite eligible for the slot. Currently, he is chief of general staff at the GHQ.He is scheduled to retire on 13th January, 2017. His portfolio is considered very important and is well respected in the Pakistan Army. He has served as the DG of the Strategic Plans Division which is mainly responsible for guarding the country’s nukes. He has also served as corps commander Bahawalpur. Although Gen Zubair is well fit for the COAS slot, he might be more suitable for the office of Joints Chief of Staff (JCS) because of his previous assignment at the SPD.

Lt Gen Syed Wajid Husain is next in the seniority list. He is chairman of Heavy Industries, Taxla. Gen Husain is not in the race for COAS as he has not commanded Corps, a prerequisite to holding the top slotin the army.

Lt Gen Najeebullah Khan, the DG of Joint Staff in Chaklal, is also not in the race due for the similar reasons.

Lt Gen Ashfaq Nadeem Ahmad is next in the list. He is Corps Commander Multan. He had also been Chief of General Staff. He has supervised Swat and Waziristan military operations against extremists.

Gen Nadeem is a professional soldier who deserves to be given the top office. He is scheduled to retire on August 8th 2017.

Lt Gen Javed Iqbal Ramday is the third most powerful candidate in the race. He is Corps Commander Bahawalpur. He had been GOC Swat when a military operation was carried out in the valley in 2009. Gen Ramday has also worked with US Central Command (Centcom). He is considered favourite among political circles of the ruling PML-N, but according to some analysts, his engagements with US senators is a big strength as well as a weakness for the COAS office. He, too, will retire on August 8th 2017.

Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa is the fourth and the last candidate in the list. He is IG Training and Evaluation at the GHQ; Gen Raheel was holding the same office when he was appointed COAS threeyears ago. He was CorpsCommander Rawalpindi in 2014when the PTI has staged a sit-in. According to some defence analysts Gen Bajwa is in the good books of Gen Raheel for professional reasons. But the right to choose COAS rests with Nawaz and not Sharif.

WHO can be next?

After appointing four COAS and attempting to appoint Gen Zia u din Butt as fifth army chief, Nawaz now has enough experience to choosethe right man.Having said that, it is obvious that he will give preference to those in the seniority list. According to the list, Gen Zubair will be the next JCS and Gen Ashfaq Nadeem Ahmad the COAS if Gen Raheel decides to leave the GHQ.

Will Gen Raheel get extension?

Right after banners were placed in the streets by an unidentified political party reading: “Jane ki batain jany do” and a debate had triggered in the country regarding extension in the service of COAS, Gen Raheel had categorically stated that he was not interested in the extension and that he would retire as per schedule. Following an attack in the Uri sector of IOK, tension along LOC has escalated at a time when the Indian DGMO has announced that Indian army has carried out surgical strikes in Azad Kashmir after crossing LOC. If this tense situation persists this may lead to the point when change of captain inmiddle of the war might not beconsidered a wise decision, and Gen Sharif might be asked to continue as COAS.Is there any other reason as well to make the General stay? This is what called conspiracy theory.  

Can Gen Rizwan be the next?

Lt General Rizwan Akhtar, currently serving as DG ISI, the premier intelligence agency, was promoted to lieutenant general and placed in the ISI from Karachi where he served as DG Rangers. Hehas played a crucial role in eliminating criminals and terrorists from Pakistan’s biggest city and the commercial hub; thus winning the trust of Nawaz for his role as DG Rangers and ISI. He might have been Nawaz’s first choice but in the seniority list, he is at number 11. If the appointment of COAS is delayed only for one year, he might become the first choice for COAS. If Gen Raheel is given extension for one year under whatever reason, he can be the next COAS. If the PML-N wins the next elections, Nawaz will feel comfortable to work with Gen Rizwan. If Gen Raheel is given extension, all nine top generals will retire until September next. At number seven in the list is Gen Khalid Asghar who is serving as engineer chief, at number eight is Lt Gen Mazhar Jameel, DG S&P GHQ; at number nine is Lt Gen Zahid Lateef Mirza, Commander AAD. He will retire on September 20th 2017. When the year of extension is over, Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar will be the secondmost senior officer after Lt Gen Ikramul Haq, who is Corps Commander Gujranwala. Gen Rizwan will, meanwhile, is assigned a Corps to meet prerequisite for becoming Chief of Army Staff.


Jabbar Chaudhary is s senior broadcast journalist; he has very sound knowledge of national and international affairs especiallysouth Asian region. He has very good command and grip on Pak India relations. He appears on Indian news channel and discusses Pakistan prospective and approach over conflicting issue between two rivals. He also writes his blog on national affairs.