Who will lead Pak army after General Kayani?

It would be a difficult decision for Nawaz Sharif to choose the next army general, for a nation which is long plagued by military coups.

Names of top Pakistan Generals are being talked about in the political circles to succeed the influential army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, whose term is coming to an end in November.

The anointment of the new Pakistan army chief has gained ample attention in the neighbouring countries in the wake of problems faced by the national governments in appointing heads to the popular military post.

Reportedly, Lt Gen Haroon Aslam, who is currently the Chief of Logistics Staff, is leading in the list of names which are doing rounds in the political circle. He will be the senior most General after Kayani steps down.

Lt Gen Aslam has also served as the Director Military Operations, commanded Elite Force Division (Special Services Group) and had been Corps Commander of Bahawalpur. He led the triumphant anti-militancy operation in the Swat valley in 2009 and is due to retire in April, 2014.

The others in the list as per the position are Lt Gen Rashid Mehmood, Chief of General Staff and Lt Gen Raheel Sharif. Following the two are Lieutenant General Tariq Khan, Commander of 1 Strike Corps at Mangla and the ISI chief Lt Gen Zaheer-ul Islam.

Kayani, 61, was appointed to the post by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2007. He was given an exceptional three-year extension by then head of state Yousuf Raza Gilani in 2010.

The selection of new Army chief is coming at a time when Pakistan is in the midst of a huge national security crisis and on top of that the NATO troop withdrawal is in process in Afghanistan.

The Nawaz Sharif government is also at the early stages of holding peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups.

According to agency inputs, a senior Pakistani journalist Talat Hussain said, “The rule of the thumb is seniority. Once the Prime Minister gets the names based on seniority, he can select anyone. Tenure differences of a few months don’t matter.”

However, cricket-hero-turned-politician Imran Khan said that Kayani should not be given another extension, citing the reason that national institutions needed to be fortified and not the individuals.

In an interview to a news channel, Imran Khan said “In order to curtail crime, national institutions needed to be strengthened, as opposed to individuals and therefore General Kayani’s tenure should not be extended.”

Just days after being elected as the head of state, Nawaz Sharif, while refusing to play second swindle to the military, had said he will be the Army chief’s ‘boss’. He added “I don’t think Kayani will ask any further extension or he will be interested in any further extension. I will go by the book; I will go by the merit. Who so ever is the senior most, will have to occupy this…the next one, the next in line.”

For him, choosing the new Army chief would be a glabrate move in a nation which is long plagued by military coups. Sharif appointed Abdul Waheed Kakar as the Army chief in 1993 but the General later deceived him and played a major role in Sharif’s resignation.

In 1998, Kakar selected Pervez Musharraf to head the Army and he too surpassed at least two Generals. Musharraf conspired Kargil war, which became the major obstacle in Sharif’s India-Pakistan peace dialogue and then he concocted a coup against the prime minister. Sharif had chosen Ziauddin Butt in October 1999 for the army chief position but he could not take charge due to the coup by Musharraf.

It would be a difficult decision for Sharif to choose the next army general as he himself was ousted in a military coup.  The army has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history since independence in 1947 and even during the civilian rule; it is the army who has formulated the security and foreign policy.

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